MARCH 1st 2021 –SPRING GARDENER
This season can be one of the most exciting of the year, allowing us at last to get back into the garden . Clocks go forward in UK end of March 29th ! hoorah .
Make a list of the many things you need to do and in what order! Maintenance of tools and mowing 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 in to the soil boosting strength and flowering.
May I suggest a bit of time spent having a good look around with a pen and notebook as your garden may give you much needed input and ideas for the season ahead. Possibly some new plants or a 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 in books and garden magazines and decide where and what you want your plants to do for you! Pen a rough diagram indicating sunny, shady and difficult areas and enjoy looking for plants you fancy in terms of maintenance, length of flowering, foliage, fragrance, climbing, ground-cover. Its worth spending the time especially in early spring before the garden goes in to top gear !.
Its easy to forget your all important soil out of site out of mind . A tidy up after winter is the obvious place to start. Soil requires considerable TLC such as aerating for root respiration and movement making a huge impact on plant growth. A light raking over is best, not deep digging. Add plentiful organic mulch in April to maintain vital moisture and important suppress weeds that can’t wait to annoy us. It works especially if we have another severely hot summer that causes hardening of the soil as it dries out. Mulching can be vital to protect the soil in these conditions ..Grass may be burnt above 30 deg but will eventually recover with watering.
A mixture of topsoil and compost is best to obtain that ideal crumbly loam especially if sandy . If growing vegetables adding manure and lime 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 this heavy winter and spring rains to come will have leached out nutrients very easily. Soil is used up every year and needs to be replenished . Seaweed will especially help boost plant hormone systems that can make a very great improvement to performance seaweeds are different but its agreed they contain a wide range of micronutrients in very differing proportions .
Shrubs will need some pruning, but take care cutting into old non flowering wood, it may not be necessary and it can cut off the vascular system of xylem and phloem and kill the plant eg Lavender one example . Usually cutting lateral stems to two or three buds will suffice on last years flowering stems . Vertical stems will depend mainly on how much height is required.
Woody clematis if flowering before July can be lightly and carefully pruned to preferred size but late post July flowering clematis relies on new annual growth which being straggly now can now be cut hard back to ground level.
Most vigorous climbers such as Lonicera –honeysuckle can be cut back hard to choice 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. Thick conifers and hedges are also an ideal choice for birds.
Next month April we and the garden should be in full swing so let’s hope the Spring weather comes on side.Get searching for some uplifting colourful plants from local garden centres it will cheer us all up ,we need it I think after depressing lockdowns hopefully ending soon this summer in the UK
Enjoy the start of the early Spring, we all deserve that garden break.
Tony Arnold MCIHort. Author Science for the Gardener
Copies of my signed book Science for the Gardener are available from the internet -all good book shops world wide or direct free delivery for a signed copy from www.scienceforthegardener.com .
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