Gardening Thoughts – Spring 2012

 Spring is here and there’s a lot to do in the garden.

Have you finished pruning and feeding your roses? If you’re going to spray them with a pesticide/fungicide, try to do it very early in the morning or later in the evening, when the good insects are in bed!

It’s not too late to lift and split herbaceous plants. Large, old established clumps can be split, keeping the outer, new growth and discarding the woody centre.

Having forked over and weeded your borders, now is the time for top dressing with Growmore, compost, or manure. As it appears that we are heading into a dry period, mulching with compost, lawn cuttings or wood chips is a good idea, to conserve what moisture there is in the ground.

Also, it’s time to cut back buddleia, ornamental elder and fuchsias, as these flower on new wood, and pruning controls the size of the bush. You can be pretty brutal without ill effects!

Forsythia and flowering currants should be cut back after flowering, and mock orange should be as well, although this will be a little later. The growth these shrubs will then produce will have flowers next year.

Dead head the flowers of daffodils, but don’t tie up or cut back the leaves, as they’re needed as a food source for the bulbs.

Seeds for summer annuals can be sown in trays now and placed on a warm windowsill or in the greenhouse – but don’t let them get too dry or too wet. There is a tremendous range of summer annuals, and as it’s Diamond Jubilee year, why not try a red, white and blue theme?

Plants that have been grown in pots or tubs will now need feeding, and they’ll probably benefit from new compost too, if they’ve been in the pots for a few years – compost in pots with annuals will only last a few years before it needs renewing. We mix one large (65 litres) bag of compost (preferably not peat based) with one 25 litre bag of John Innes No. 2 and one bag of Perlite to give a balanced mix. The danger with just using the proprietary compost alone is that if it dries out it is almost impossible to get it wet again, but the addition of the John Innes and the Perlite makes this easier.

All the plants that you’ve split and replanted, or just transplanted, should be well watered-in, and put a sprinkle of blood, fish and bone meal into the planting hole as a slow release feed. Any plants that you buy in pots should be well soaked in a bucket of water before planting. If they look poorly check for vine weevil grubs in and around the roots (these are creamy white in colour, with a ginger brown head). There might be lots of these grubs, in which case wash the roots clear of them and replant or re-pot (and kill the grubs!).

You should try to water your pots, tubs and plants early in the morning before the heat of the day – but don’t allow the pots to become waterlogged – there is an old saying that plants can die through, “an insufficiency of neglect”!

In the vegetable garden this is one of the busiest times of the year, with the planting of shallots and onion setts, and the sowing of peas and broad beans. Short rows of peas and broad beans sown every three weeks will give a succession of cropping, rather than one big harvest. Potatoes need to be planted in well manured ground, or, if no muck is available, give them a good top dressing of Growmore (I apologise to you organic growers and gardeners for my references to Growmore and pesticide sprays, but sometimes it’s the only way).

Happy gardening. Walk round your garden every day and enjoy it – if the plants are in the right place, you and they will be content!

Jeremy Burden

April 2012 (Spring issue)