Get Your Garden In Shape
With winter over, it’s time to get your garden in shape for the year ahead. Whatever time you have to spare. Encouragement – that’s what we need at this time of year.
Not only the encouragement to get out there but the feeling that by doing so, we are making a difference – improving the view and giving our plants the impetus to do better than ever.
Winter is an unforgiving season, but we would not have the chance to start again without it.
Gardening in the tropics might be a warmer exercise, but it lacks the variety created by a cool, temperate climate.
The prospect of an unchanging outlook in which spring played no part would fill me with dread.
It’s time to stop finding excuses for staying indoors. Get out into the fresh air instead and start making a difference.
Start your action plan.
But what should you do now to give your garden the shot in the arm it needs to lift
your spirits and spur your plants into giving their best?
For a start, you can scrutinize your beds and borders to see what has made it through the winter and what has failed.
Haul out the failures and mark any gaps with canes, and (if you really want to be organized) make a list of the plants you fancy to fill them. Please keep an eye open, too, for any plants that have outgrown their situation.
Move them to a different spot now just before growth starts, and not only will they grow away with less check than if the job was left until later, but you’ll also have time to replace them with something more suitable before the season gets properly underway.
If your ground is frozen or soggy, then, yes, you’ll have a good reason to delay, but the quicker you act when it comes to replacing and moving your plants then the quicker they will establish themselves and the longer you will have to enjoy them in their new home.
And don’t worry if you’re pushed for time – I’ve got tasks for even the busiest gardeners.
An afternoon to spare
- Prune clematis, cutting the plants back to where the new, silky shoots are emerging.
Ensure they have supports to cling to – obelisks or trellis, or even large shrubs – and give them a good feed.
- Move shrubs that have outgrown their space, digging them up with as much root as
possible and replanting them in earth enriched with compost or manure. Reduce the top growth by about a third unless doing so would ruin their shape.
- Prick over beds and borders with a fork, working in a good sprinkling of blood, fish, and bone meal. This past winter was very wet, and much nutrition will have been washed away – the fertilizer will replenish it.
- Mulch beds and borders with chipped or composted bark seal in moisture and help keep down weeds throughout the growing season.
Alternatively, use well-rotted garden compost. A feed followed by a mulch will power up your borders.
- Provide supports for border perennials. They may not need them yet, but if twiggy pea sticks or wire hoops are put into place now around peonies and suchlike, the stems will grow through and mask them as well as preventing the plants from flopping over.
- Prune rose bushes by cutting hybrid teas to around knee height (leave floribundas a little higher). Cut back the shoot tips and remove a few older stems from shrub roses.
An hour to spare
- Sow seeds in a greenhouse, on a windowsill, or, when the ground permits, outdoors where they are to grow. Hardy annuals such as pot marigolds (calendula) and nasturtiums are tough little plants that give color in summer for minimal effort and expense.
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as galtonias, the smaller varieties of gladioli, and
lilies. Position them in gaps between border perennials.
- Mow the lawn – it’s amazing what a difference this makes to the garden. Suddenly, that woolly appearance is gone, and the whole thing looks loved again. If your lawn is small, you can probably get it edged within the hour, too. If you re-cut your lawn edges just once a year, now is the time to do it.
- Deadhead daffodils – it may seem like a bit of a fiddle, but it saves them from producing unwanted seeds, and it makes a clump of daffs or narcissi look so much fresher than when the faded flowers are left to go crisp and brown.
- Pressure-wash the patio – not only will it look so much better, but it will also be less slippery. Anyone who has ever come a cropper on a flagstone terrace knows that there is a no more certain way of breaking a hip – whatever your age!
- Cut back dogwood and shrubby willows now. Prune these back hard to within a
few centimeters of the ground. Mulched with compost or manure, they will grow fresh
stems to provide good bark color when winter arrives.
A whole day to spare
- Dig up and divide perennials – there comes the point when an entire bed or border needs to be cleared and a new planting scheme established. Don’t keep putting it off by just replacing this or that. Have a total clear-out every three years, then divide and replant everything. You’ll be astonished at how virtuous you feel and how fresh your garden looks.
- Overhaul the lawn – you can scarify it with a wire tooth rake to remove thatch and moss, then mow and edge it. A dressing of blood, fish, and bone meal can be applied with a wheeled distributor during a mild spell.
- Prepare a greenhouse site – if you’ve always wanted one and kept putting it off, make it happen in 2021! Site it in a sunny spot and buy as large a greenhouse as you can afford and accommodate. One thing is certain – however huge it may seem, you will fill it.
- Make a gravel garden, perhaps to replace a block-paved front yard. Two paving strips are necessary to park a car, and low-growing carpenters
such as thyme, chamomile, rock roses, and similar hummock forming plants can be established on either side. You’ll enjoy the view so much more, the likelihood of flash flooding will be reduced, and you’ll be doing your bit for wildlife and the environment.
- Start making a garden pond – it is great for wildlife. Site it in an open spot, not underneath a tree, and make it as large as possible and 45-60cm deep. Line the hole with sand and add a butyl liner, making the edges with large stones or logs.
- Make a new lawn from the turf. Now is a great time to do so, but check the turf’s quality before you buy and make sure you can lay it within a couple of days of its arrival. Otherwise, it will start to turn yellow.
Now You know how to Get Your Garden In Shape, get out and start now!