We’re well and truly into the busiest month of the gardening calendar now, but just hold on a little longer folks as all this effort we’re putting in now will be worth it in the end.
I can still hear the words of my first head gardener explaining to me that getting on top of the garden in spring is so important for a successful summer.
There are plenty of jobs to be done early spring such as lawn care, new plantings and glasshouse works but don’t forget to slip in to your maintenance routines early, getting on top of the weeds so to avoid ending up chasing your tails.
Over the years as I have come to manage gardens myself, I’ve learnt what good advice this was.
Getting your young plants ready
All the packets of seeds we’ve sown over the last few weeks and months have germinated, been pricked out and have now grown into fine young plants, ready and waiting to be planted out.
Like me I bet you can barely move in your glasshouses with your cold frames and windowsills crammed, as we now go through the process of hardening them off, that is the process of acclimatising them in a sheltered spot outdoors and putting them back undercover at nights, before they are ready to stay outdoors permanently.
And that’s not been easy this year with the spring we’ve had, daily frosts, hail and snow in May is certainly not anything I’ve had to deal with before.
I’m glad I made up that cloche back in early April to protect my early lettuce plants, it’s been a great success allowing us at home to pick our own leaves from the cut and come again crop.
I was grateful when the overnight temperatures finally started to hit around 7 degrees giving me the confidence to take the cover off and finally get the peas, spinach and rainbow chard I had been growing undercover in to the ground. Now’s there’s room, I can get my brassica plants- that is the likes of kale, cabbages and cauliflowers- out into the cold frame so I can now get THEM ready for planting out.
The endless merry-go-round of moving plants from benches in warmer houses to those in cooler, trying to make room for something else always makes me chuckle but as I said earlier, it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Making space for annuals
I’ve left it right to wire on some jobs whilst disappointingly not got around to others. I usually make room for a wee display of hardy annuals, these are plants that will grow and flower over the summer before being killed off with the first frosts of late summer/ early autumn.
I usually start them off in a cold greenhouse the start of April, growing them on ready for planting out mid-May once I’ve lifted the tulips that give the spring display.
It was early May before I finally got around to sowing the packets of seeds for this but all being well the worst that will happen is that the Nigella, Cerinthe, Calendula plants and others will flower a little later in the season than I would have preferred.
If you have a little gap in your border that’s needing filled then there’s still just enough time left to sow annual seeds direct to the soil. There are two ways in which this can be carried out.
Broadcast sowing where you scatter the seeds over an area cleared of weeds, always check on the back of the packet the size of area that can be covered.
This sounds the simpler method but it can often be tricky to keep weed free, if instead you were to sow in drills or rows it’s a lot easier to notice a line of germinating seedlings and in some cases if there is room and you are careful, very careful, you’ll be able to run the hoe in between the rows.
Despite the weather we are well and truly into spring now with lots of colourful bulbs and early season perennials bringing life back into our gardens.
There is one more act I eagerly wait for at this time of year that signals winters finale, my beech hedge coming in to leaf.
The reddy-brown leaves that have held their place over the darker months are slowly being pushed off as the new leaves emerge from the cigar shaped buds.
Although the hedge that goes around my garden is over 50m/ yards in length, it doesn’t all turn green at the same time in uniform Instead every day I look at it noticing little patches slowly changing colour until finally over a week the whole hedge is clothed in beautiful and fresh green foliage.
At this point there’s no more of winter left to see and the beds in the veg plot are filling up, that’s when I can finally say we are well and truly off.
It’s not long before I’m brought back to reality though, snapping myself out of my poetic moment as I quickly realise all those leaves are going to need tidied up and yet another job added to the hectic May list!