Dare I say it, compared to last year the weather over the last few months has been quite bearable for most of us, but let’s face it if the climate was hot all year it would be very boring and gardening would be much more of a challenge.
If you are a meteorologist then spring starts on the 1st March, whilst astrologists consider the date of the spring equinox to be the start of spring, which this year will be 20th March. Whichever you choose this month heralds the start of spring and should give us a spring in our step and a joy in our hearts as the plants in our gardens renew their friendships with us by bursting into growth.
In our efforts to complete the tidying up of our gardens the lawn is often neglected, but a little time spent attending to the lawn this month will help it through the seasons ahead. If parts or indeed all of your lawn is looking decidedly sparse then it might be a good idea to re-turf, and now is a good time to complete that. First of all it’s important to establish why the lawn looks shabby and deal with issues of poor drainage, low, overhanging branches of shrubs or trees and check the ph as most grass species struggle if the soil is very acid. Unless the soil is very compacted there is no need to dig to a full spade depth, I prefer to work it with a fork breaking the surface and soil to a depth of about 10 – 15 cm (4 to 6 inches), if you grew tomatoes in grow-bags or pots last year then the remaining contents of rooty compost can be used as a great soil conditioner, rub it through your hands and spread over the area where you intend to lay the lawn, sprinkle a light dressing general fertiliser over the site and rake in. It is important to firm the soil before turfing as this will ensure that the resulting surface is flat and even. Laying the turf is fairly straight forward providing you have a flat even area to work on. If you can get hold of a scaffolding plank or two, these will make the job much easier, lay the first row of turf and put the plank on the turf, this will help firm the turf evenly and avoid big footprint depressions. as you lay a row move the plank forward. Try to lay the turf in a bonded pattern, much like the bricks on a house wall, this will help the lawn knit together better.
There should be enough moisture in the soil to avoid the need for watering but if the turf is dry or we have a very dry spell then it’s a good idea to water the lawn. Trim the edges where the lawn meets the border, you can put any trimmings on the compost heap, they will rot down and mix with your garden compost.
There is much written about planting bulbs for spring display but often in our enthusiasm to scrutinise emerging plants, plan our summer bedding and annual displays we overlook the opportunity to add to the displays with summer flowering bulbs such as Gladioli, Lilies, Begonias, Pineapple lily (Eucomis), Foxtail lily (Eremurus), to name but a few. Some may require early protection or benefit form starting off in pots, but all will provide a striking addition to your garden or container displays. Most nurseries and garden centres are at this time of year brimming with pre-packed flowering bulbs, corms and tubers but if you can, check through the packaging to make sure the bulbs are firm and showing no signs of rot.
They will be on the dry side and benefit from watering just after planting, or in the case of rooty tubers (Dahlias, Foxtail Lily and the like) it’s a good idea to soak them in a bucket for an hour before planting.
As an apprentice, one of my old head gardeners told me that although it is desirable to remove weeds, roots and all, it is more important to stop them flowering, so if you are short of time try to remove the flower heads, until you have time to deal with them properly. There is a gardener’s anecdote that says ‘One season’s seeds will bring seven years of weeds’, such is the volume of seed many produce. They can also survive in the soil much longer than ornamental plant seed, some for many years, only emerging when you turn over the soil.
Next Month, sowing hardy annuals outdoors, feeding soft fruit, salad containers.