This week we are all about prepping our gardens for the razzmatazz of spring and summer ahead! Come on, no more shilly-shallying – we need to get OUT THERE. These are the jobs we are determined to tackle right now, and we think you should too………
It’s me, the proper gardener, up first this week. I have three magic words for you – mulching, dividing and pruning (I expect Caroline’s heart is already beating faster):
- Mulching. Putting a good three or four inches of …..something over the top of your garden soil is HUGELY beneficial:
- it keeps the moisture round the roots of plants, and keeps the soil warm
- it massively reduces the amount of time you have to spend weeding
- it can protect the plants from marauding molluscs
- it looks nice
- it will gradually be taken down by worms to improve the earth beneath – a miracle treatment for your garden!
Compost (make your own to save money!), rotted manure, cocoa shell, gravel, bark chippings, leaf mould – all great for forking around your garden plants. Chipped pine bark is best for beds of acid-lovers like azaleas or pieris. Annual mulching is at the very heart of the No-Dig Gardening style championed by Charles Dowding. Don’t put mulch on seedlings because it will smother them, and try not to tuck it closely round the stems of shrubs which may rot as a result. Otherwise, get spreading!
2. Dividing. No rocket science here. After a few years, most perennial flowering plants go a bit dead and woody in the middle, producing fewer productive shoots. So I shall be going round the garden this spring, digging up any that look glum in the centre, chucking the middle bits on the compost heap and replanting the vigorous outer bits. I might give them a liquid feed if I’m feeling generous, and tuck some mulch around them (see above).
3. Pruning. Shrubs that flower later in the year – Buddleia, Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Spiraea, Caryopteris, Perovskia – will have been dormant through the winter with their goodies safely stored away in the roots. I shall be going round them now as they start into growth, and cutting the stems back to a couple of buds of their woody framework. Feed, mulch, on to the next.
I wonder if my sisters have anything useful to add?
Well those sound dull old jobs don’t they? Stick with my spring schedule and you could be slashing, hacking, fast-tracking and slug bashing .. sounds much more fun doesn’t it!
4. Slashing – it’s time to get brutal with all those lovely deciduous grasses we’ve enjoyed all winter, and an afternoon wielding a cordless hedge trimmer through their lower regions is a very satisfactory spring task. I’ve made a little video of the technique with a link at the end of the blog.
5. Hacking – well crown-lifting to be more exact. Rather than pruning from the top down, in Elaine’s conventional manner you can make your garden much more intriguing by stripping the lower branches of a shrub that’s getting too big for its space. You let the light in whilst keeping the natural shape and elegance of the species in question. A pruning saw is perfect for this job, and we have some in our shop at the moment.
6. Fast-tracking If you weren’t organised enough to get sweet peas going in the autumn (rather irritatingly you can bet your bottom dollar that Elaine did ?) you can fast-track them know by chitting them on damp paper towels in a sealed Tupperware tub in a warm kitchen. They’ll sprout in about a week and you can drop the young seedlings into pots to grow on.
7. Slug bashing – the spring activity of ‘peering into your flower beds’ is a necessary pre-cursor to slug bashing and as soon as you spot the young shoots of clematis, delphinium or phlox pushing through the ground you need to spring into action. My preference is ‘Slug Gone’, pellets made from sheep’s wool (and smelling deliciously of lambing shed) that the little critters don’t like crawling over. After all, we don’t really want to kill them ourselves as they will be welcome food for the frogs and thrushes in the garden so we just need to steer them away from our little treasures and into the jaws of the garden food chain.
My sisters are of course older than me (newsletter recipients, please consult the video in our garden press event report – I still know how to have fun! – the link is at the bottom), but I often show the most effective leadership.
Growing sweet peas, fussing around slugs, this is pinprick surgery during a critically short period when the weather has improved but the plants haven’t noticed…so
8. Big project time: weed suppressing membrane, pegs and yes….. spray paints. Heavens, if football refs can use them so can we! If you want to transform part of your garden (as I do from sloping lawn to intriguing shrub-lined paths) now is the time. Release your inner graffiti artist and spray guidelines on the ground first. Down goes the membrane, on go the woodchips (thank-you Storm Arwen) and in go the shrubs. I’ll need a glass of wine after this but there won’t be time because next up is:
9. Bare root frenzy. Argh… rush to your garden centres and see if the last knockings of bare root hedging or roses (so much cheaper than pot-grown plants) have been marked down. These are the last days when anything will be available bare-rooted and nothing is as endearing in a plant as a ‘reduced to clear’ label.
10. Strimmer and mower maintenance. Are yours lying in the shed, neglected and wrecked from last summer’s abuse? Uh-hu. Being the sister with the worst habits, I briefly had a plan to buy new ones and avoid dealing with the carnage. If you’re thinking the same I’m afraid this year’s price lists may send you quickly back to unclogging the cutting blades and sorting the strimmer spools. Time to get the allen keys and tool oil out – yes I know, Elaine told us in her gardening tips to do this six months ago!
NB Louise’s plant of the moment is a beautiful but reliable little spring herald, but the problem is that her new puppy likes it too! Click on the box below to find out more.
MORE NB Mothers’ Day next weekend! We have the PERFECT gifts to make your mum smile in our online shop – click below:
MORE NB Here is Laura’s masterclass in shearing off deciduous grasses
YET MORE NB Here is Laura’s (somewhat light-hearted!) report on our day out at the Garden Press Event in London.
EVEN MORE NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new free post every Saturday morning.