MQ and the Royal Horticultural Society
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Britain's gardening charity, offers a wealth of advice to its members, as well as access to numerous gardens and shows throughout the country. It is giving everyone who joins through MQ, a free copy of the RHA Good Plant Guide worth £9.99. If joining by direct debit, MQ readers will also receive a £5 RHS gift voucher. Membership details are available on 0845 130 4646, quoting code MQ.
Spring is also the time to scour local garden centres for interesting plants, and to plant spring-flowering ones, which need less light than their summer counterparts. March is a good time for hardy plants, which even if there is still some frost around, will not perish. Wait until April or May, when the weather is likely to be warmer, before planting more tender plants. It is also important not to put them into the soil lower than their depth when bought. Keeping them watered is essential. Although it might rain, a light sprinkling will not be sufficient to keep the root ball moist, and plants will dry out and die. At the same time, it is equally important not to be over-zealous and drown the plant.
This is also the time to plant summer-flowering bulbs. If you buy bulbs before you are ready to plant them, it is advisable to spread them out in a cool, dry and airy place. A common mistake is to plant them too deep. A rule of thumb, for most bulbs, is two and a half to three times the height of the bulb. When introducing bulbs into a spot already planted with bulbs, you may have trouble locating the exact position of an earlier planting. This can be overcome by planting groups of new bulbs in large pots, burying them up to their rims in spare bit of ground. When the established bulbs begin to show, lift out the pots, carefully tap out the soil and bulbs, and fill the gaps.
Early spring is the time to prune shrubs that have been grown for their winter colour, such as willows and dogwoods, and certainly no later than March for roses. It is also the time to cut back lavender and grey-leaf shrubs to promote new growth. Cutting back should be done just above the new growth. Trim hedges in April and continue doing so as often as required. Cut off dead foliage on ferns and grasses. Spring-flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and ornamental currants, need to be pruned after they have finished flowering. From the middle of spring to early summer, plant annuals. However, before moving them, water the containers and allow the plants to absorb the moisture.
Spring is also the time when your lawn will start needing attention. If there are any bare spots, it is worth digging over the area, as it is quite possible that the reason it is barren is because of builder's rubble or old tree roots. If the soil is poor - that is, it has too many stones or old roots in it or appears boggy - add a layer, about 3 inches (7.5cm), of topsoil, mixed if possible with peat-free, soil-enriching compost. Rake over and level the site. This can be done by treading the area with your feet. Rake again, leaving a crumbly surface. The area is then ready to seed. Follow the instructions on the seed box, as these tend to be very precise. Try to select a mild, windless, dry day, preferably with rain forecast for later! Lawns do best in full light or partial shade, although there are also mixtures available for shady areas. Once sown, keep off the area until it has visibly greened over to a height of at least 2 inches (5cm). If seed-eaters, such as sparrows, are common where you live, protect the area until the seed has germinated, by covering it with horticultural fleece.
For the first cut of your lawn set the mower's blades at I inch (2.5cm), lowering the blades as the season advances. Apply moss killer, if necessary, and subsequently rack out any dead moss. Mid-spring, apply a general-purpose fertiliser for your lawn's first feed of the season.
Things to do
- Feed and mulch plants
- Sow seeds outside
- Trim hedges
- Look for flowering tender plants to put in your garden
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs
- Put fertiliser on lawn
- Plant annuals
- Prune Spring flowering shrubs after flowering
- Stake unruly plants
- Lightly prune early flowering climbers to prevent tangles
- Plant out bedding plants
- Plant out sunflowers, cosmos and nasturtiums. Ideal for filling gaps and replacing early flowering plants
- Mow lawns at least once a week
- Stake your perenniels
- Prune shrubs that have already flowered