May your garden grow
Take the time to look after your garden now and reap the rewards later in the year.
Despite a wet start to the year and a mild March, we still need to watch out for those late sharp frosts of April and May that can spoil fruit blossoms and kill tender plants put outside too soon.
Grow your own
There’s plenty to do in the vegetable plot and it’s a good idea to plant smaller quantities little and often to keep a steady supply of veg for the kitchen. There’s no need for vegetable or salad shortages when you can grow them yourself.
If your ground is still on the wet side, start plants off in pots and plant into the ground a few weeks later. Wet ground will stay colder for longer, so to encourage ground to warm up quicker, cover cultivated areas with cloches and on a sunny day it will soon warm up.
Sow seeds under the cloches, once germinated remove the covers during the day so that too much heat doesn’t build up and scorch young plants. Remember don’t plant out tomato plants or cucumbers until it’s warmer at night – they soon go blue if there’re cold! You can start growing them inside but they need night temperatures of approximately 15[Symbol] C. Runner beans shouldn’t be put out till the end of May either.
Spray fruit bushes before buds burst and after the fruit has set – never when flowers are fully open. Spray first thing in the morning or in the evening to avoid scorch from the sun and pollinating insects.
Tubs and baskets
Start making up hanging baskets and tubs, but don’t leave them outside at night until the beginning of June, a late frost will spoil them. Use a good multipurpose or tub and basket compost that has added moisture control and slow release fertilizer.
There are many types of baskets and liners available and for a mixed basket you need one good sized plant to put in the centre - geraniums or upright fuchsias are ideal for this. Then add a mixture of trailing geraniums, trailing fuchsias and any of the large range of hanging basket plants. Once planted they can be stood outside on a warm day, but brought back in at night. Don’t be tempted to put them in a dark garage or shed, they need good light levels to get established.
A popular theme at the moment is to plant up your basket with just one type of plant – million bells, Trailing petunias, and verbenas are ideal to do this with.
Water them regularly, every day when the sun starts shining and feed weekly with a plant food such as Miracle Grow All Purpose or Phostrogen. Don’t forget to dead head often and your plants will give colour right through to the autumn.
Top dress or liquid feed borders regularly, as many of the nutrients in your soil are likely to have been leached away with the rain from earlier on.
Continue to look out for slug damage on young herbaceous plants and summer bedding such as marigolds. Use slug pellets or one of the natural controls that are available.
Summer bedding can be planted outside from the end of May onwards, so long as we aren’t getting any late frosts. Antirrhinums, asters and lobelia first, leaving marigolds, begonias, impatiens and geraniums until the beginning of June if necessary. Water well to get established, feed fortnightly and dead head regularly.
Hoe borders frequently, preferably on a sunny day and any weeds will wilt and die off quickly; regular hoeing will also allow air into the top layer of soil and encourage root growth. There’s still time to put a mulch around plants; apply a top dressing of general purpose fertilizer before.
Prune spring flowering shrubs once flowering has finished – forsythia, spiraea and flowering currants - this will produce nice long growths for next spring’s flowers. Once clematis montana has finished flowering, prune back to encourage new compact growth.
Spray roses fortnightly throughout the growing season against black spot and mildew using Roseclear Ultra or Multirose.
As the weather improves the grass will start growing and need cutting. Do a light cut first, gradually reducing the mower height over several cuts.
Weeds and moss can be treated with products such as Scotts ‘Evergreen Complete’ which will fertilize the lawn as well as killing weeds and moss. Never be tempted to rake out moss before killing it, you’ll just make the problem worse. A new product from the makers of MO Bacter is Bio-Press which is an organic spot treatment for patches of heavily moss infected lawns, it’s child and pet friendly and works within days.