Let’s get 2019 off to a flying start by looking at some garden projects we can all get stuck into between now and Easter. Christmas can be tiring and New Year’s Eve can get a bit messy (particularly for my two sisters if the rumours are to be believed…) but we all know that gardening can rejuvenate our spirits, recalibrate our mental equilibrium and give us a green workout as well.
So here goes, whether you’ve got a garden for the first time; only got pots on a doorstep or, like us, you’re creaking slightly at the hinges, here are 10 suggestions for projects you can get your teeth into.
1. Get your sweet pea campaign going. You can germinate these now in sealed plastic containers (Chinese takeaway by-products in our house) lined with a bit of damp tissue or vermiculite, in your kitchen. Once they’ve sprouted, plant them into small but deep biodegradable pots (loo roll centres) and move to somewhere light and about 15 degrees. Pinch out the growing tips to keep the plants bushy. I love the scent of the old fashioned varieties and am this year trying ‘Cupani’, the oldest recorded sweet pea 1699, and ‘Painted Lady’ 1730.
2. Visit Winter Gardens. Now is the time to steal some ideas to try in your own garden. These don’t have to be huge to be effective, you can just have a cameo of a couple of good shrubs, a hellebore or two and some bulbs. The best planting combinations I have ever seen are in the compact winter garden at Cambridge University Botanical Gardens or if you’re further North, try to visit Cambo Gardens in Fife which has a fabulous winter garden area created by Eliot Forsyth.
Louise also has a fabulous and under appreciated winter flowering tree as her plant of the month.
3. Get mulching. Whatever your choice of material, wood bark, mushroom compost, or my favourite, farmyard manure… if you can get this on your beds before Easter it will give you a summer free of weeding.
4. Create a new garden feature. My personal project is a stumpery. All Caroline’s fault really as she sent us off to investigate the intriguing Larch Cottage Nursery last summer and we came away armed with some ferns and a desire to create something mysterious and gothic – and saw an opportunity behind the garage …..(see our feature pic).
If the prospect of Laura’s manure and stumps have failed to excite….
5. You can get ahead of the game before Easter by putting in supports for your perennials before they start growing. Every year, by August, I wish I had done that in the early spring. Elaine uses what look like scaffolding poles from a builders’ merchants; Laura uses hopelessly inadequate hazel twigs. I think you and I could just purchase normal plant supports from a normal garden centre.
6. Do you want to try taking some root cuttings? Apparently we can have a go with things like papavers and acanthus (Bear’s Breeches) in February. If you do, I will. Elaine told us what to do here – how hard can it be?
7. Besides an espresso martini, potatoes are just about my favourite food. Please, please wherever you are, get some potatoes going at Easter. a/ buy seed potatoes, b/ if you don’t have a garden per se, put the potatoes in a stout black bin bag with a few drainage holes punched in the bottom and c/ cover with soil – it’s that difficult. You get all the thrill of the school bran tub when you harvest them plus the wonderful taste of your own organic tatties.
Don’t know about you, but I’ve always rather liked the moment when our home gets ‘de-Chrissy-fied’ again – tree, ivy, tinsel, lights all cleared away and the decks scrubbed clean….
8. So give in to your inner ‘Mary Poppins in the Playroom’ and do the same to the garden. Sweep the paths, cut out the dead wood from the shrubs, clear the leaves from the bulb areas..Spit Spot. Don’t worry, the feeling probably won’t last, and Nature will render the garden corners ‘woolly’ again within a month or two, but I am keen to give it all a spruce-up before the hectic spring season begins.
9. How about making this the season when you do more than just talk about helping the wildlife in your garden. So, more bird-feeders, water-bowls, bat-boxes and of course hedges are now recognised as brilliant habitat. A wildlife garden is a healthy garden. Mind you, I’ve always been a bit sceptical about deliberately-constructed log-piles and the like. Such dark, damp nooks easily develop in most gardens without your help – see point 8 above….
10. A Confession – I can’t bear chucking away plant seeds, whatever their provenance, and no matter how old, non-viable or inappropriate they are. All that potential wasted ! (Much like the sort of thing that the teachers used to write in Caroline’s school reports). I have serried ranks of them in shoeboxes, and I bet I’m not the only person to have rows of unnamed saucerfuls of seeds along the windowsill. I, and you, MUST sort through them, nay, scythe through them, and bin the useless ones. Grow Them or Throw Them!
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