Help! There’s suddenly so much to do in the garden and not enough hours in the day to do them all! The trick is just to get started on something somewhere – one job at a time, that’s the secret. Here are a few to consider:
PLANTING OUT THE SWEETPEAS
If you have germinated sweetpea seeds and they have grown on well in root-trainers or modules while you have gradually accustomed them to outside temperatures, now is the time to put them in their planting positions next to the wigwam of poles or trellis etc. you have prepared for them.
Try not to disturb the roots too much as you plant them, but if you haven’t already done so, pinch out the top growing tip (if you’d like the Latin, and who wouldn’t, it’s the ‘apical bud’) between your thumb and forefinger – it encourages the side shoots which will carry many more flowers later on.
Once each little plant is in the ground, put some slug and snail protection. My preferred method is to use copper rings which we cut from copper piping, though they can be bought bespoke. Slugs and snails hate crossing copper so these protect the stems while they are young and vulnerable.
GETTING TIED UP
I don’t want to seem impertinent, but do you know how to tie plants up? Your plants are growing strongly and it’s important to keep on top of tying in the shoots, so that they will show flowers or fruit to their best advantage this summer, and not be damaged or flattened by winds or rain. Please don’t put wire around plant-stems – it always damages them sooner or later. By all means, use wires in the background for rigidity but secure plants to them using flexi-tie or soft twine. When you’re tying something, run the twine in a complete circle round the cane once before tying it loosely round the stem, which will allow some movement without the twine slipping down. Do the same thing round canes you use to make a network over a clump-forming plant. It will look like you’re playing a very exotic game of garden cat’s cradle, but that’s okay because your gorgeous flowers will soon obscure them.
PRUNING THE EARLIES
We have enjoyed the early-flowering shrubs – forsythia, kerria, flowering currant, coronilla etc., and once the flowers have faded, it’s time to cut them back. Take out the oldest flowered wood, and any thin wispy stems. I love my Coronilla glauca which flowers for weeks in March and April but it becomes very lax and leggy without a good annual prune, and that is basically a short back-and-sides – I cut back all the shoots at this time, and let the stems grow back through the summer that will bear all the pretty pale yellow flowers next spring.
* Do keep going with the weeding. What do they say? ‘The best compost is the gardener’s shadow’, or to paraphrase Winston Churchill ‘Keep pottering on’, so every time you walk along the garden path, pull up any weeds while they are still small and before they represent competition for nutrition and space to your plants
* Train shoots on climbing roses horizontally, if you can – you’ll get more flowers
* Remember not to plant anything straight outside that has been growing inside – the temperature shock will be too much. For about a week, set them outside during the day and bring them in at night, before you plant them out for real.