Springtime is finally here, and with it the annual rush to get the garden in order. Now’s the time to get stuck in to make sure your garden’s a blooming beautiful place to sit sipping Pimms, enjoying lunch al-fresco and listening to the sweet summer sounds of birdsong.
First things first
After the woes of winter, there are a few bits and bobs to tackle first and foremost. This will help you to get reacquainted with your garden and ensure you’re attending to any areas that are in need of some key maintenance!
Survey your land
You may have barely been in the garden all winter so it’s always good to take a little time just checking in with where everything’s at. Take a good look around to assess any damage, check trees for overgrown branches that may need removing, see how your flower beds are doing and give fences and pathways a once over.
This is when you can also start to get your creative juices flowing. If you feel there are areas that seem bare start thinking about plants to fill those gaps. Perennials, tress and shrubs are all just a nursery-trip away!
Tune up your tools
A quick inventory check in the tool box is a must. If some bits haven’t been stored properly, they’ll likely need a sharpen or a good clean. Having an arsenal of quality instruments is essential for your garden dreams to come true.
For some top tips on caring for your tool, check out the BBC guide.
If you’re lucky enough to have a lawn, now’s the time to get ready for action. Send the mower and leaf blower for servicing, or if you have the right tools, sharpen the mower blades yourself and give it a top up of oil.
Prepare New Beds
It’s entirely possible to create a new planting bed where one has not previously existed. What’s most important is to dig the soil, adding oxygen and relieving compaction, and then adding amendments—like compost—that will jumpstart the creation of a rich, living soil. Clear the planting area as soon as soil can be worked, removing sod or weeds and debris. Spread a 4-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure and any amendments over soil, and cultivate it to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spading fork. Rake it smooth before planting.
For your flowers and shrubs
Here’s your list of spring to-dos that’ll get you that showstopping bloom filled with a variety of colourful vibrant flowers and shrubs.
Test your Soil
Grabbing a home kit for testing soil from a local garden centre is an easy task that makes a HUGE difference for the success of your planting.
Make sure to take samples from all over the garden. This will help you figure out what to plant and where, or how to feed the soil to make it suitable for the plants you want.
It’s not always about where you planted last year, but also where the best place to plant is right now.
Sometimes the pH changes and what was barren last year could be great soil for planting this year. You can alter the pH of the soil using dolomitic lime to raise pH (i.e. make it less acidic) and elemental sulphur to lower it (i.e. make it more acidic).
Once you’ve got the pH pretty much perfect it’s time to get planting!
This time of year, it’s all about planting perennials, bare rooted trees and shrubs – all of which need to get in the ground early in the season.
If you can, plant your garden on cloudier days that are cooler rather than hotter, sowing cool season flowers into the Earth such as poppies, calendula and sweet peas as well as lettuce, spinach and parsley.
How low do you go?
Placing bulbs at their exact recommended depth is very important. As a general rule, the bottom of the bulb should rest at 2.5 times depth compared to the bulb’s diameter – top tip!
If your soil is dry or sandy, pop the bulbs one or two inches deeper to keep the rodents from snacking on your garden.
Garden in Spades
Your flowers will look better in groups so use a spade, not a bulb planter. Spades make it easy to plant in groups digging wide, curving trenches and placing the bulbs at the bottom.
Work in Pairs
You can put different bulb types in the same hole for companion bloomings or even to create successions of bloomings.
A great combination that uses this strategy is putting Dutch hyacinths in a six inch hole, covering them lightly with soil and then placing grape hyacinths at the five inch depth.
Come springtime, the two flowers will bloom together for a gorgeous “skirting” effect as the grape hyacinths soften the huge Dutches.
Then, as autumn rolls around, the leaves of the grape bulbs appear and stick with you all winter, giving you a perfect marker for dormant Dutch bulbs so you don’t accidentally dig them up next season.
For the veg patch
Sow seed outdoors for beetroot, carrots, Swiss chard, summer cauliflower, kohl rabi, lettuce, leeks, radish, turnip, spring and pickling onions, peas and perpetual spinach in well-prepared soil.
If you’re keen to try growing something a little bit different, try sowing unusual vegetables such as salsify, Hamburg parsley, or scorzonera.
Indoors, you can sow your marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and squash. As well as sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, celery, celeriac, salads and globe artichokes- yum!
Your garden has just woken up but unfortunately so have gardener’s nemeses. In spring keep your eyes particularly peeled for aphids, apple sucker, pear sucker, pear midge, caterpillars and red spider mite.
All these little blighters will be after your fruit and veggies. If you’ve not been formally introduced to your adversaries, here’s a handy guide to identifying pests you’ll be trying to out-smart this season: RHS Pest Identification Guide.