March Garden Tips

Garden notes for March

March is the time when your garden will really start motoring, providing we have seasonal weather. So it is a busy time preparing for the coming months. Be warned though, don’t get too far ahead or your plants will pay the penalty.

Many vegetable crops can be sown this month. It is a good idea, if you can, to warm the ground up by using garden fleece or cloches. Other, more tender plants like tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, aubergines, and globe artichokes may be sown in a frost-free greenhouse. In addition all the useful herbs like parsley, chives, fennel and marjoram can be sown outdoors.

Early spring is the ideal time to plant and/or to divide herbaceous plants. In so doing you will help the older plant to rejuvenate itself and to give you a much better plant for the summer, as well as pleasing friends and neighbours with the spare plants you don’t want.

Start to water house plants, but only sparingly until they come into growth. Then start them with a weak soluble fertiliser.

Make sure you have had your garden machinery serviced and ready for use. When the weather is appropriate, start to mow the lawn. Set the blades on ‘high’ for the first few cuts. There will probably be excess moss in the lawn, so it is beneficial to get rid of it by using a scarifier as it will allow the grass to grow more vigorously.

Start leeks under glass for pricking out and transplanting at the end of the month
Salad crops such as lettuce can be started for transplanting once they have established themselves. Put them into the soil that you have warmed up under cloches or fleece.

Pansies and violas can be sown now for a show later in the summer.

You should get your seed potatoes ‘chitted’, by putting them in egg trays in a frost free place and exposing them to light to get the first shoots greened up. If you are daring, plant early varieties of potato but be sure to keep an eye out for frost warnings and cover any leaf shoots before the frost comes down.

February Garden Tips

Garden Notes for February.

 

If you have the time, it is worth warming the soil early in the season using horticultural fleece as a protective and warming barrier.  In this way any seedbeds that have been protected under cloches or garden fleece can be started to be sown with hardy vegetables such as parsnips.  You can also start to consider sowing some early cabbage and Brussels sprouts.  Divide and replant chives towards the end of the month.

 

Remember to keep your garden furniture in good shape for the coming season.  If you can bring them inside to dry off, and then lightly sand down items made from natural sources.  Then apply a mix of equal parts turpentine and linseed oil (raw, not the cooked type).  Apply at least two good coats of this mixture.

 

Towards the end of the month dogwoods that have the lovely wood stems in brilliant reds and yellows should be coppiced, to encourage new growth for the next winter show.  Usually I am cautious and only cut about one-third to one half, but if you are brave, have a go and do the whole bush.

 

As the buds on the gooseberry bushes begin to swell, they will become ever more attractive to bullfinches and other birds, so give them some protection.  Ideally, they should be protected by a fruit cage.  Alternatively use the old trick of straining black cotton thread from branch to branch over the bushes.

 

If you sow sweet peas in mid-February (in a greenhouse) they will produce plants to flower later in the summer.  It is worth the money to have ‘Root trainers’ (or the equivalent) with a good depth so that the roots can develop strongly before planting out later.

 

Purple Buddleia davidii should be pruned towards the end of the month.  You will be well rewarded provided you prune quite severely, but always leave at least 3 or 4 buds for the fresh growth, in case there are late frosts.

 

Keep an eye out for slug and snail damage on emerging plants, as this will cause severe damage. Use appropriate control measures.

 

Early onion seedlings raised under glass should be pricked off into boxes, 5cm apart each way to give them the best opportunity to develop before being planted out.  Towards the end of the month it is a good idea to divide and replant chives.

 

Restrain yourselves from watering pots and plants that you have overwintered, especially at the start of February.  Overwatering is a plant killer.  Towards the back end of February, when the plants start to show a little bit of growth, gradually start watering.  It is better to let the plants decide on how much, so if you can, put the water in a drip tray.  Avoid water from the top.

December Garden Tips

Garden work for December 2018

Flower garden

Monty Don who fronts the BBC2 ‘Gardener’s World’ programme has made many references to the benefits of having leaf-mould and the importance of gathering up the falling leaves from the lawn and borders. For those of us without an acre or two of garden the problem of storing leaves so that they can rot down over a period of anything up to three years is gaily passed over. One tip I have learnt is that leaves can be stored in the huge bags that builder’s merchants deliver sand, aggregate and other bulky material. They can be found all over the place since the container is non-returnable. These bags can hold a large volume and if left to their own devices provide a good storage place.

Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted in December, during mild weather. Make sure that the soil round the roots is firmed to prevent winter gales rocking them before they have had a chance to establish themselves.

If you are given a flowering bulb such as hyacinths, daffodils or tulips at Christmas, they will probably have been forced to flower early. They will last well if they are kept in a room that is not too hot, and the soil is kept moist. Plant the bulbs out in the garden when the flowers have died. I have done this with hyacinths and get a lovely spring display, although it can take a couple of seasons for the bulbs to adjust to their new location and may not flower again until the following year, so be patient.

Protect hosta crowns from slug and snail damage, using your preferred method, whether it is by barrier (grit), natural pathogen control (biological control) or by more traditional methods. It is when the shoots are in their infancy that the slugs can do the most damage, so it is worthwhile to take preventative measures.

 

Vegetables

When picking Brussels sprouts keep the tops, and only use the best when all the sprouts have been harvested. Some of the winter broccoli may be starting to form their curds. Turn in the leaves to protect the curd from frost, and cut regularly as once they have reached their full development the curds soon begin to open and will spoil.

If you have root crops in the ground (such as carrots or parsnips), put some straw down before the frosts take too strong a hold. This will help stop the ground freezing and allow them to be lifted whatever the weather. Keep up good hygiene. You should try to clear crops that are past their best and start digging the ground, so long as it is workable.

It does help to know the soil pH in your garden. There are simple test kits available from garden centres. If the patch you are testing proves to be acidic (a pH that is lower than 7.0), then use lime where you intend to plant any of the brassica crops such as cabbages, cauliflower, or Brussel sprouts, this will reduce the chance of infection from club-root. It is recommended that you should take an average of three readings.