Springing into your garden
Good housekeeping now ensures your garden is blooming from the first glimpses of spring.
As the weather becomes milder it’s time to get back out into the garden and start preparing for the season to come. Weed and clean borders, then apply a general-purpose fertilizer before adding mulches of compost or well rotted manure. If you have any lime hating (ericaceous) plants such as camellias, rhododendrons and azalea, make sure you use an ericaceous fertilizer as they require extra trace elements.
Dead head bulbs – particularly daffodils, leaving the green foliage on to send nutrients back to the bulb. Remember to dead head spring flowering bedding plants to encourage more flowers. If it’s been damp mild pansies and violas can develop black leaf spot at this time of year – remove the worst affected leaves and dispose of them, then spray a fungicide to discourage spread. Spring is the ideal time to split snowdrops into smaller clumps.
In readiness for summer
Many summer flowering bulbs and tubers can be planted outside as the weather warms up – lilies, canna, pineapple flower and summer snowflakes – always plant lily bulbs on their side so that water doesn’t lie in the scales and cause them to rot. The newer tree lilies benefit from being started off in pots and planted outside once growing strongly. They don’t reach their full height potential for a couple of years but are well worth the wait. Dahlias can be started off in pots inside, then planted out once the danger of frosts has receded. To increase plants numbers try taking cuttings from tubers when the growth is around 10cm long – they root very easily. Begonias should be pressed gently into potting compost, curved side down – water and keep on a light sunny windowsill or in a heated greenhouse.
Remove any old growth from perennials and divide if required. Put in stakes, canes and plant supports before they get too tall and flop over. Slugs and snails love young herbaceous shoots, especially in damp conditions. Use a deterrent to prevent the wholesale slaughter of your plants.
Rose pruning should be finished now; once the new growth has several sets of complete leaves open start spraying them fortnightly against black spot, mildew and aphids.
As the weather becomes increasingly mild, thoughts start turning to the lawn. If your lawn is anything like mine it’s sure to have plenty of moss in it. We recommend that you use MO Bacter to help combat the problem. This is a slow release organic fertiliser for lawns. It feeds the lawn over a 12-week period and contains bacteria naturally found in the soil and which, when added to fertiliser, will consume material like thatch and moss – saving the need to rake or scarify after treatment. If you want to use a more traditional way to remove moss in your lawn, use a mixture of iron sulphate and sulphate of ammonia at a rate of 1 part of Iron to 3 parts of sulphate of ammonia mixed with 10-20 parts of silver sand and applied at a rate of 140gm/m². Once the moss has died and gone black it can be raked out. Remember the golden rule with lawns: never rake moss out while it’s still alive, you’ll just spread it everywhere. Aerate the lawn with a fork or spikes on shoes. Any bare patches can then be reseeded.
Herbs and vegetables
Annual herbs can be sown now – fennel, parsley and dill need replenishing every year. Perennial herb varieties can also be planted, remember to water and feed regularly so you can keep cropping throughout the year. Softer varieties should as basil and coriander can be grown on the kitchen windowsill – handy for using when cooking.
Watch out for late frosts if you’ve got potatoes in tubs with plenty of leaf growth and always protect at night. Sow your first and second early potatoes followed by maincrops, again watching out for late frosts once the foliage appears.
Carrots, celery, beetroot, leeks, onions, broad beans and lettuce can all be sown or planted outside during April. Sow at regular intervals to give a steady supply of vegetables.
Plug plants are now appearing in garden centres, pot them up into larger pots and keep them warm and in a sunny position. Don’t be tempted to leave them outside at the moment – just wait until May.
This issue’s tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealans Garden Centre, Shipley