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GINGER GAIRDNER: There’s a spring in my step with the change of seasons

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I don’t know about you but my excitement levels are almost reaching fever pitch now.

There’s light at 6.30am when I’m out walking the dog in the morning, the birdsong is getting louder and I’m feeling a bit of heat in the sun, on the days when it’s out.

All this is just making me want to get outdoors and in the garden.

If you take a trip down to your local garden centre, you can see I’m not the only one feeling like this.

Activity levels are cranking up. Staging benches are packed with pots of tete-a-tete dwarf daffodils and colourful primroses, and there’s plenty of seed packets alongside fully-stocked compost bays.

Planning in winter

For me, the new gardening year always starts at the beginning of January. That is the time to start pruning shrubs, creating new beds and putting in seed orders.

All these jobs are part of getting ourselves ready for the growing season ahead.

After months of preparation and planning, it’s now time for the best bit – putting it all into practice.

Without the pressures of knowing the grass must be cut or I need to get the glasshouse or outside tubs and containers watered before I do anything else, I’m just enjoying being out in the garden and simply pottering.

Time to potter around

One minute I’m tidying up dead foliage from last year’s flowers around my wildlife pond, the next, if I fancy it, I’ll get the shears out and do a bit of edging.

I also can’t forget the less glamorous jobs like the bit of weeding I need to do to claim back an area I neglected last year.

Like I said, there’s no stress. I’m just enjoying spending a relaxed afternoon in the garden with the customary stops for cups of tea and a biscuit.

I’m fortunate to have a good-sized garden at home with space at the front and a larger area to the side of our house, which, if I’m honest, would be more than enough on its own to keep.

Over the years as my children have been growing up, this has usually been a play area with swings and trampolines, but mostly a fitba’ pitch.

Low maintenance garden

To save myself a bit of work so I could spend more time with my kids, I opted for a lower maintenance regime in the front garden and pretty much stopped cutting my grass.

Not completely – I simply reduced cutting it to every three weeks to let nature flourish in here without ever getting to that abandoned-looking state.

With the late winter sun now hitting the lawn, I’ve been enjoying the crocuses I planted in here a couple of autumns ago.

I opted for a three-colour scheme to mirror those images in the bulb catalogues but it’s been fascinating watching them come out individually – first yellow then joined by white and finally purple.

Pollination

I’ve been growing them not only for my enjoyment, but also because these early flowers will also be a vital food source for the early pollinators emerging while there’s not much else around for them.

One spot where I do hope they find their way to are the peaches I have been growing in the glasshouses in the walled garden at my workplace, Scone Palace.

I have three varieties growing in there with all of them being in flower since the start of the month.

It’s crucial these flowers are pollinated if I am to achieve a bountiful crop of juicy peaches this summer, so to be assured of this – I will be in here a couple of times a week with a small paintbrush to gently brush each bloom to transfer the pollen.

Protecting the plants

Growing peaches under glass is one way of protecting these early flowers from being damaged by frost, which could ruin the chances of having a good crop.

Like all plants growing under glass at this time of year, we do need to pay particular attention to their watering requirements.

It’s starting to get quite warm in the glasshouses on those bright and sunny days, so the soil at the bottom of the walls can dry out pretty quickly.

These warm, sunny days can also mean cold, frosty nights, which adds an extra degree of thought when it comes to watering plants growing in containers over the winter months.

Careful watering

A sodden pot, after having been watered late in the day, could see the compost freezing which may even kill your plant.

I like to find that sweet spot usually in the late morning after the frost of the night before has fully cleared and the plant has enough time for any excess water to drain away before the temperature starts to drop again.

Finally, I think today’s task will be to take advantage of my wee glasshouse at home to start off my vegetable crops early, sowing into module trays that will give me nice-sized plants ready for planting out in a few weeks’ time, which will give me a good head start.

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