Ooh, things in the garden are really starting to put a wiggle on, aren’t they! The soil is starting to warm up properly, and the jobs can pile up quickly unless you keep on top of them. Here are some suggestions for the next couple of weeks:
DIVIDE AND RULE
It might seem a little late, but I have always found that this is a really good time to divide clumps of perennials like geraniums, astrantias, epimediums etc. which have just started into vigorous growth, and will recover really quickly from being split to make new plants, if you keep them well-watered. You may want to increase the group- size of that particular plant, create a repeated effect down your border, or make new plants to give away. I never have much time to be gentle about this, I’m afraid, and usually just slice them through with a spade or a trowel into the number of pieces I want, but these sorts of plants are very resilient and will soon shown that they have forgiven you by making new growth in their enthusiasm for the coming summer.
KEEPING IT COSY
It’s been so wet for so long! But the balance of weather being what it is, we are probably going to get some extremely dry weeks coming up soon, and then you might be very glad that you sealed the damp into your borders with a mulch. I usually use garden compost as much as I can, and saw last week that the lovely gardens at the Bishops Palace in Wells, had gone down the same route, but there are a wide range of other materials you could use -chipped bark, leaf mound, crushed shells, even gravel or grit for alpines . This ‘carpet’ will protect your soil from drying out in the summer, lessening the need for watering, as well as cutting down massively on the weeding. Don’t be stingy with it – 2 to 3 inches is the recommended depth – but try not to pile it up closely round the stems or trunks of shrubs and trees, which can lead to fungal diseases creeping in. It’s not something you can do with annual borders, but it looks great on practically anything else…..neat, health-giving and labour-saving, what more could you want?!
MOVING THEM ON
You have germinated all sorts of seeds and they are sitting in their pots and trays, all crowded together, and jostling for light and space. Once they have developed their first set of ‘true’ leaves (I don’t mean the very first flat seed-leaves that emerge – the fancy word is ‘cotyledons’), it’s time to give them their head before the competition makes them weak and starved. Prepare a tray of modules, filled with multi-purpose compost, then very gently loosen the soil around the seedlings with a small dibber (or pencil, or chopstick, or any small ‘pokey’ thing, actually). Grasp a seedling by a leaf, not its stem which can easily be damaged by contact, and gently untangle its roots from others, before easing it into a module. If a seedling is weak, you MUST be tough and ditch it, as it is unlikely to grow into a strong plant, but I confess that I find this bit very hard, and sometimes have to chuck the discarded baby plants behind me, so that I can’t see them any more! Water the completed tray of plantlings carefully, and place it in good light and ventilation ready for the next stage of their journey.
* If you have enough space, do think about sowing more seeds of your favourite flowers and veg right through the spring. This successional sowing, as it is called, will ensure that you are enjoying the results for a far longer period through the summer and autumn and even early winter.
* You can cut back all sorts of summer-flowering ‘woody’ plants like Phygelius, Lavatera, Hardy Fuchsias etc. now – they will flower on the shoots they make this year, and your pruning will make them more compact and less top-heavy.
* The primroses have revelled in this damp spring – now is the time to divide up the big clumps and increase the coverage of these delightful spring beauties – just dig up the clump and pull it apart with your hands into little groups of leaves and roots; then re-plant them quickly before they dry out. Water well.