The importance of your garden when selling

Gardens have become increasingly important when selling property. An area that provides a relaxing and attractive feature will make your home more appealing.

1 Tidy Up

Whatever the time of year your front garden and back patio area must be tidy. This means sweeping up leaves and debris on a regular basis, keeping flower beds weeded, lawns mown and hedges clipped. Front gardens are a real pain, as rubbish will often get blown in from the street and undermine any ‘kerb appeal’ your property may have. Be extra vigilant before potential purchasers arrive.

2 Do Some DIY

If you have a gate make sure it works properly (oil that squeaky hinge) and has been painted or treated recently. If you have wooden fencing, this should also be treated.

3 Declutter Outbuildings

Clear out any outhouses, garages, sheds and greenhouses. These are often neglected areas of our homes and become dumping grounds for the clutter removed from living spaces. Now is the time for a thorough sorting out and several trips to the recycling centre/tip. Keep bits and pieces in storage boxes and banish the cobwebs. Wooden sheds should be treated as for fencing; greenhouse glass should be cleaned.

4 Tidy Away Toys

Children’s toys and bicycles should be tidied away as much as possible. Rubbish bins should be kept in a bin tidy or, at the very least, somewhere unobtrusive.

5 Clean Your Garden

Clean patios, terraces, decking, steps and garden furniture with a suitable cleaner. Lichens and mosses can be slippery, as well as looking unsightly. Furniture should be clean, even in winter.

Step away from the compost heap

A goldfinch on teasel seedheads

Watching a goldfinch extract seeds from a teasel is much more fun than popping everything on the compost heap, says Kate Bradbury. Photograph: Alamy

About this time last year I watched a tiny caterpillar sneak itself into a sunflower seedhead. It wriggled between the tightly packed seeds until I could no longer see it and, I presume, settled down for winter.

As overwintering habitats go, I thought a sunflower seedhead was a pretty bad choice for a caterpillar. Sure enough, just a few weeks later the plant had been decapitated – all that remained was a ragged stalk and a tell-tale pile of seed husks. While something else – a wood mouse I think – had a much-needed burst of winter fuel, the outcome for the caterpillar was unlikely to have been as good.

Leaving seedheads standing over winter is fantastic for wildlife. You don’t have to leave everything standing, but the more you leave the greater the variety of food and shelter you provide. Perhaps keep one border intact and clear another, or choose seedheads that complement the design of your garden – alliums, teasels and umbellifers look particularly beautiful with a gentle dusting of frost.

While some overwintering insects are eaten by birds and small mammals, others live to breed in spring. It’s not just the wildlife that benefits – we gardeners have a good supply of predators on hand to make short work of aphids and caterpillars, and we may also get to witness large flocks of hungry birds feasting on what we’ve left behind.

Thanks to the appalling spring weather, my attempts at growing sunflowers failed this year. But the spent flowers of teasel, fennel, hollyhock and honesty are already providing food and overwintering habitats for wildlife. Just last week I watched a goldfinch extract seeds from a teasel seedhead – much more fun than popping everything on the compost heap.

Butt ugly: are looks important when you’re buying a water butt?

I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to water butt design, but I came across two products this week that proved me wrong.

The Rock water buttThe Rock water buttFirst was the Rock water butt. I have no idea why anyone living outside, say, Yosemite would want a water butt that looks like a reject from the set of an early Star Trek episode, but I’d love to know if you have one of these in your garden. Then came the Lily Ecoseat butt – yes, it’s a water butt you can sit on. Theoretically it’s a bit more useful, but really, who wants to sit under a drainpipe?

Back in the day water butts were made of green plastic or a rustic wooden barrel if you were posh. Now you can buy butts that look like tree trunks, Greek amphoras, gothic buildings, Roman columns and even water features.

The Lily Ecoseat water buttThe Lily EcoseatBut assuming that you’re happy enough to have a water butt that looks like a water butt, there are some other considerations. In small gardens, butts can take up a lot of space: I have two of these wall-mounted water butts which work well, although their capacity isn’t enormous.

If you want to save money and the environment, you can convert a wheelie bin into a water butt, and heavy-duty blue industrial food barrels are a popular choice as make-do-and-mend butts on allotment sites.

What are you looking for when you buy a water butt? Large storage capacity, good looks or value for money? Share your water butt wisdom below.