As the daffodils put on a show, the gentle awakening of our garden plants starts to reveal fresh green foliage. One of my favourite spring treats is watching the beech trees start into growth, their fresh seemingly delicate, green foliage dancing gently in the breeze is surprisingly one of the most persistent, often staying on the trees and hedges well into spring. This can be somewhat frustrating for the tidy gardener who will nip out every day or so to pick up half a dozen leaves and shaking the hedge to dislodge those that remain. Beech leaves take quite a while to decompose sometimes as long as two to three years, but it makes fantastic leaf mould envied by many alpine growers as it is an essential part of their compost recipe.
I know many gardeners who pride themselves in keeping a weed free immaculately manicured lawn, a task that is no mean feat and one that can take hours of painstaking effort often on hands and knees with a ‘daisy grubber’ prising out weeds. I do admire their persistence but find myself distracted by the demands of my other garden plants. A lawn can be many things and is in effect the living room carpet in the garden, so why aren’t we a little more adventurous where we have the space. Adopting a slightly more relaxed maintenance approach can enhance what may otherwise appear as a boring green mat. I have seen lawns chocked full of flower from creeping speedwell to thyme and chamomile, flower scent and less mowing must be an attractive thought?
For those keen to provide a play or relaxing space and prefer a neatly mown lawn there are a few essential tasks that need to be undertaken this month. Set the mower to a higher setting for the first month then reduce the height every two weeks until you have the desired height. A lawn doesn’t have to be scalped and in fact can stand dry periods better if it is a little longer. Apply a spring feed, either granular or liquid, these feeds are high in nitrogen and promote strong growth. There are products that combine feed, weed and moss-killer, which are fine if you don’t have much time but remember that any grass clippings from the following five or six cuts can still contain chemical and if placed on the compost heap can end up on beds and borders and damage other garden plants.
If you have bare or sunken patches in the lawn try mixing some John Innes compost with grass seed, one handful of seed to six hand fulls of compost, leave it in a frost free place in a bucket for about seven days mixing it every couple of days with your hand. The seed should start to germinate and you will see a very small root emerging. Scratch the surface of the patch and apply a thin layer of the compost/seed mix, lightly water and watch it grow. Pre-germinating the seed in this way deters birds from eating freshly sown seed.
Growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in a greenhouse requires heat early in the season especially if you are sowing from seed. I prefer to buy plants later in the season, and this month is the perfect time to nip along to your local garden centre or nursery and pick up a few plants.
If you are planning a trip to the Harrogate Spring Flower Show than there will be lots of plants including greenhouse vegetables for sale. It’s a good idea to empty the greenhouse and wash it down with a garden disinfectant a few days before you bring home your new plants. I know tomatoes are cheap in the shops at the time you are harvesting them yourself but the taste is no where near as good as home grown.
As the blooms of spring flowering bulbs fade, don’t forget that in order to build up reserves for next year they need a feed, First remove the faded flowers, you only need to pinch of the faded bloom, leave the stem and don’t be tempted to tie them up in a knot. All green parts of the plant produce energy for the bulb and bunching them up reduces their ability to produce energy. Apply a general fertiliser such as Blood, Fish and Bone or use up your liquid tomato feed, watering them every couple of weeks until the foliage fades.
Next Month, Check your hedge, Vegetables to sow now and Keeping on top of weeds.