APRIL SPRING GARDENER
Spring – what a wonderful time of the year with every plant deciding winter is over. Suddenly we are caught unawares with a spurt in plant growth and warmer weather – but where to start in the garden?
Lets hope this evil virus Covid 19 doesnt like fresh air and gardens but lets keep our distance from it !! Good luck to us all in this difficult time .
Tidy up all that winter detritus and do essential maintenance of tools – sharpening, cleaning, clearing and airing – sorry to be boring but maintenance should always come first! green house pathogens ( bacteria and viruses strangely hate washing up liquids .Perhaps if we sprayed the atmosphere with a a mist or spray of washing up liquid maybe we could do more damage to this terrible covid virus menace .There’s a thought for government authorities fighting the pandemic.??
Next soil – every garden whatever its size requires healthy soil. Soil is so often taken for granted as everlasting and not requiring maintenance or replenishing . It is not – soil needs nurturing and replacing .
May I strongly recommend an inexpensive pH multi task meter. Simply stick the probes into moistened soil for an instant guide. These meters give a pH, fertilty and moisture readings at a manual click of the settings. They work easily with a simple to read clear screen. It gives you a rough idea of how your soil is doing with regard to nutrients and water content and of course the need to know pH.
Check your soil has not become too compacted with heavy winter rain or muddy boots as some of mine has. Lightly rake to introduce much needed oxygen – remember plants breathe (respiration) through their roots and roots require movement to access nutrients and available water.
Top up the soil with a dressing of fresh loam (clay/sand/silt mixture) and then lightly dig in the organic –plant –animal compost and manure mulch that contain the living microbes producing the all important nitrogen microbes for proteins for cell growth .A scattering of organic fish blood and bone will add the valued phosphorus vital for cell wall strength .It takes time to dissolve so best added during spring rains with the remaining winter moisture still in the soil .A really surprising thank you from your garden plants will result – just enjoy the rewards as the season progresses.
Soil is often so often forgotten, not understood, and therefore neglected but it is soil that contains the vital nutrients that plants depend on. Nitrogen (N) for green growth proteins, phosphorus (P) for strength and potassium (K) for flowering. Look for NPK on your inorganic fertiliser and decide from your soil and plants what you require for ornamental flowers or growing vegetables. Vegetables generally prefer alkaline soil and additional liming with a calcium product that may be required to avoid dreaded club root that can sometimes appear if the pH is below 7.
If you have Ericaceous plants such as Azaleas ,Rhododendrons ,Chamelias do not use ordinary clay loam, use branded ericaceous soils that do not contain calcium, but require additional iron and manganese mixed in with grit, bark and some organic (compost). I also favour a generous ericaceous liquid feed this time of the year and especially when flowering occurs from now onwards.
Now for planting – but where to start in the garden?
May I suggest simply list the plants you would like to see in your garden, but then stop, think, and consider, will they be happy where you intend to plant them. Sun or shade, dry or moist – these conditions are very important to the planting.
What is on your list? A small tree or shrub, summer bulbs, perennials, many flowering annuals some colourful climbers such as Black Eyed Susie –Thunbergia ,that can easily be grown from seed ,add long-lasting summer colour at an affordable price.
I advise visiting garden centres and quality websites but don’t forget to factor in delivery charges, and that plants are seldom as well advanced as those beautiful on screen specimens are illustrated.Check the size of the plant that they will send you .Good websites will show u a picture that’s really useful especially buying young shrubs and trees .!!.
I spend many happy hours ‘just looking’, but you must decide what is going to actually grow ,fit and work best in your garden and follow your garden plan as I mentioned in earlier editorials in Jan and Feb.
Now April is commencing, take your time to plan what you really want to see but above all enjoy the wonderful start to spring.
Tony Arnold MCIHort
Author Science for the Gardener Book
Secondary Science Resource to RHS Schools Gardening