Spring Gardener


Spring Ranunculus family

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.

Azaleas at Forde Abbey South Somerset UK

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.

Spring Chamelia banishes Winter (Editors Garden )

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.

Spring blossom in a built up area looks so wonderful after winter

Tony Arnold MCIHort


Editor at Montecute National Trust Somerset uk

Author   Science for the Gardener Book

Secondary Science Resource to RHS Schools Gardening

Sad announcement from Tony Arnold

It is with great sorrow i announce the loss of my wife Pam to cancer on the 4th February .She worked tirelessly to help me build up Science for The Gardener project including Editing and Checking and Secretarial Work of every description .

I shall miss her dreadfully as her illness was very sudden and unexpected .

Your prayers will be appreciated .

Tony Arnold

Preparing for Spring


February  LINK Gardener

Gardening, weather conditions and preparing for Spring 

Nature as we all know does what it wants to do and it might be worth our while looking at the potential consequences of the recent very wet and unseasonably warm weather arriving in the UK in  strong southerly winds emerging from the north west of the African continent.

Botanically we have all experienced unusual or unexpected flowering which may be late second flowering  or too early Spring flowering which is all very confusing for plants, gardeners and wildlife.  We have seen Daffodils (Narcissus) bulbs flowering in December, also  Anemonies and Primulas (Ranunculus family) and many more jumping the gun and flowering a month early in December/January.  This is not a worry unless woody shrubs and herbaceous perennials flower in the severe frost that may well follow mild conditions with resulting damage to the flower heads and buds.  Even very hardy woody shrub buds such as those found on the Camellia can be badly damaged on a very frosty   sunny winter morning with sudden melting of the frosted buds.  We can try protecting them with garden fleece or bubble wrap if we are well prepared in time.

We may not like frosts, but many plants do and nature comes to the rescue with plant Vernalisation, the name given to a sustained period of severe cold.  Most vegetable biennials e.g. brassicas (cabbages, sprouts etc.), hardy herbaceous plants and many woody shrubs/trees should have this frozen period which used to be regarded as normal in Winter in the UK. Also many standard flowering plants e.g. Campanula – Bell Flower (Campanula family), Chrysanthemums (Aster – Daisy family) and especially the fruit tree (Rose  family) require  this vernalisation. The consequences of not may be very delayed flowering and fruiting till late Summer or even Autumn.  This delay can also be disastrous for loss of Spring ornamental flowering.  Vernalisation is also important for early vegetable harvesting, ornamental and fruit growing farms, e.g. Plums, Cherries, Pears, Apples all need that vital frosty start to the season.

Ground – soil condition this month

Soggy soil will soon harden but  clay based loam water will lie trapped until better drainage/evaporation starts in the warmer weather in April/May some time after the long thaw takes place. Add as much organic matter as you can e.g. compost, manure, leaf mould and if soil is holding water add inorganic matter e.g. grit, spare gravel, even a small soakaway for large amounts of trapped water. On a positive note again we will need a good reserve storage of water in the soil for those hot months we yearn for, remembering how quickly the ground dries up under grass lawns for example.


Our beloved gardeners’ friends, slugs and snails bless them, will now be so ecstatically happy and in March/April they will start reproducing big time from earlier perfect soggy conditions.  So be warned and try with tough gloves to remove them yourself at night or early morning (horrible job but better than slug pellets that kill hedgehogs and other animals and pets!)   We will have fewer of our wonderful hedgehog friends, blackbirds, thrushes and other ground feeders sadly unless we all pull together and provide appropriate conditions for them.

So while we don’t all appreciate bitter cold weather ,or excessive wet weather, horticulture needs it in moderate balance and aquatic-moisture plants adore it, so have a look around for some selections in the garden centres.

Have you prepared your garden plan for this year for what you want to see for Spring Summer and Autumn  onwards.

Enjoy preparing now for spring  next month!

Tony Arnold MCIHort

Author Science for te Gardener


Gardeners World Wide Happy New Year for 2020 and the new decade to all gardeners world wide. Lets do our bit to try and assist climate change in whatever way we can .

Lets all contribute to greener organic growing ,more tree shrub planting more composting and mulching with less chemicals less digging. Assist our wildlife to thrive .Our best wishes to Australia too at this very tough time in a severe drought with temperatures in 50 deg and little sign of rain until Autumn -Winter season !

Tough times for Aussie picture in better times February taken by Editor
Animals are suffering as well in Australia !Editor pic
Australian treasure the beloved Koala eyeing up Eucalyptus leaves under threat from wild fires .

Science for the Gardener Book available on top right of this page -click on drop down menu to select best latest price -free delivery from i net providers .

Marine animals sense climate change( N Zealand native Dolphin Maui -9 different species
Pic taken by Editor in Rotarua N Island NZ