spring gardening tips
Head Gardener at Loftus Garden Village, Frances Hope, lets you know what you can be doing in your garden this spring.
- March is a very busy time in the green house, as many flower and vegetable seeds will need sowing now and those that were sown last month will need pricking out and potting on. Most seed packets will give precise instructions of what to do, so if you’re a bit unsure, just give it a go. Remember to ventilate your greenhouse by opening a window on warm days and shut everything up tight at night. Maybe even consider a heater for frosty nights.
- On the rare occasion it stops raining long enough to dry up your lawn, grab the opportunity to get your first mow of the year done. Set the blades higher than usual for the first cut and take the height down gradually over the next few cuts.
- March is usually the month to carry out other lawn maintenance, such as scarifying, spiking and over seeding bare patches; but this work can only be done when the ground is dry enough, so don’t worry if you have to wait till next month to carry out these tasks.
- Tidy up your herbaceous borders. Cut back dead stems, tidy away leaves and cut tall grasses back to a few inches from the ground. If the grasses have fluffy seed heads, bundle them together somewhere in the corner of your garden, fluffy side up for the birds to use as nesting material. Stalks with hollow stems can also be bundled together and put in out of the way corners of the garden to give habitat to insects. Compost all other herbaceous material you cut back.
- If you are an avid composter you should have a nice pile of well rotted homemade compost from last year that is ready for use . Spreading this over your garden, lightly forked in, will keep the top few inches of soil crumbly and easy to weed as well as nourishing your garden with nutrients and essential microlife.
- When the ground is dry enough, dig up and move shrubs and plants into new positions in the garden. Put into practice all those plans you made from your armchair on those cold dark winter evenings when you were longing for spring. Dig up and split perennials and if you feel you just haven’t got enough room for everything you want to grow, make your borders bigger by shrinking the lawn. This is a good time to acquire new plants by swapping your spare clumps for something new your neighbour is dividing up.
- Put up new bird boxes and clean out existing ones. Continue to feed the birds nuts, seeds and fat balls as it is important not to stop once you have started, they come to rely on you. Don’t forget fresh water for drinking and if you can also provide a bird bath, even better.
- Certain shrubs will require hard pruning this time of year such as Buddleias and Cornus, but be careful, it’s easy to get carried away with a pair of secateurs and ruin a shrubs flower display. Consult a good book if unsure, but a general rule of thumb is to prune a shrub straight after it has flowered.
- Warm up the soil on your vegetable plot by spreading out a black plastic sheet over the ground, weigh it down with stones on it’s edges. This will help kill off weeds as well as warm the soil up for planting out the vegetable plants you have grown in the greenhouse and for direct sowing of seed into the soil.
- As the weather gets better, remember to start watering the plants you have in outside pots, it’s easy to forget as this job hasn’t been needed for the last 4 months. If you have winter flowering displays in pots, feed and dead head as you would summer containers.
- Bulbs will be looking good this month, but as they go over they are sadly not such a pretty sight. Don’t be tempted to cut off the foliage until they are brown and crispy as you will not get any flowers next year if you do. When Snow Drops are going over it is a good time to increase their numbers by digging them up while still green, dividing them into smaller clumps and replanting them spaced out. In a few years you will have a much bigger patch.
There is so much to do this month but much of it is weather permitting. Get out in the garden as much as you can, but don’t be tempted to work the soil before it is ready. Keep off your beds until the soil is dry enough to fork over easily, walking on it unnecessarily when wet will cause compaction and ruin the soils structure. Good horticultural practice will reward you with healthy happy plants with a higher resistance to pests and diseases.