MARCH –SPRING GARDENER 2019 .
USA CANADA AND EU VIEWERS WELCOME FROM SEVERE WINTER !
This month can be one of the most exciting of the year, allowing us at last to get back into the garden. I recommend looking at the small, easy to use, RHS books U K covering the seasons: “Gardening Month by Month” and “What Plant Where, What Plant When” as invaluable reminders of the many things to do.
Make a list of the many things you need to do and in what order! Maintenance of tools and equipment, shed and greenhouse clearance. Stock up on plant feeds, especially liquid ericaceous required NOW for budding Magnolias, Heathers, Camellias, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Pieris and Enkianthus which will soon be flowering raising a spring smile on our wintry faces. Later flowering plants will appreciate some slow release granules as the climate warms towards late Spring. This will release valued NPK nutrients boosting strength and flowering.
Just a bit of time spent having a god look around may give you much needed input and ideas for the season ahead. Possibly a new flower or raised bed, additional containers (excellent for a herb collection), hanging baskets or just boldly removing any old tired plants. Choose some fresh exciting shrubs, perennials or annuals – plant hardy annual seeds now in small pots . Look at some summer garden pictures and decide where and what you want your plants to do for you! Pen a rough diagram marking sunny and shady areas and enjoy looking for plants you fancy in terms of maintenance, length of flowering, foliage, fragrance, climbing, ground-cover.
Its easy to forget your all important soil. A tidy up after winter is the obvious place to start. Soil requires quite a bit of TLC such as aerating for root respiration, making a huge impact on plant growth. A light raking over is best, not digging. Add a mulch in April to maintain moisture and important suppress weeds that can’t wait to annoy us. It works .
A mixture of topsoil and compost is best to obtain that ideal crumbly loam. If growing vegetables adding manure is important except for the leguminous (pea family) that has built in nitrogen nodules in the roots. Adding organic fertilisers, fish blood and bone, or pelleted chicken manure is important now as heavy winter and spring rains can leach out nutrients very easily. Soil is used up every year and needs to be replenished gradually. Seaweed will especially help boost plant hormone systems that can make a very great improvement to performance.
Shrubs will need some pruning, but take care cutting into old wood, it may not be necessary and it can cut off the vascular system and kill the plant! Usually cutting lateral stems to two or three buds will suffice. Vertical stems will depend mainly on how much height is required.
Woody climbers such as clematis ,if flowering before July can be lightly and carefully pruned to preferred size but late flowering climbers rely on new annual growth which being straggly now can be cut hard back to ground level.
Most vigorous climbers can be cut back hard and will respond with vigorous growth!
Prune Rose bushes 2/3 inches below last year’s growth. Shrub roses can just be trimmed of last year’s hips, and large shrub roses can get congested so to allow air circulation lightly cut back two or three older stems to the base and thin out surplus central stems. Climbing roses will require more moderate pruning to suit the situation.
Wildlife will require additional feeding support. Don’t forget ground feeding birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and robins they like bits of fruit as well. Building nests will be a top priority so are we which can cause severe problems. Thick conifers and hedges are also an ideal choice for birds.
Next month April we should be in full swing so let’s hope the weather comes on side.
Enjoy the start of the early Spring, you deserve a garden break.
Tony Arnold MCIHort.
Author Science for the Gardener
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