I wouldn’t say that the Winter has been particularly bad, looking back on my gardening diary we had 7ft snow drifts in 2014 in South Derbyshire but I do think it has been a long one. For the first time in 20 years we had snow early in December so after stop – start with the Gardening we are now getting some clearer, warmer days. This month sees the start of the “grow your own” season, again with many new varieties of vegetables. I can’t wait to start on my own allotment and I’ve already planted my potatoes and onion sets – but I also had great success with carrots so I’m going to try the heritage varieties.
I sprayed less insecticide last year because of the companion planting I used (blackpepper mint and basil) to keep away greenfly and whitefly. Also another tip, using white alyssum (the summer bedding plant) planted in containers near plants or vegetables, thrips are attracted to the alyssum and not your plants or veg. Once the alyssum are swamped with thrips simply dispose of them in the green waste wheely bin.Look out for the N.G.S Open Garden booklets.
The reason I love the open garden scheme is because these are “real” gardens that easily relate to our own gardens. So pick up a yellow booklet for dates and locations from any good plant nursery or garden centre and also look out for the yellow posters – the open gardens are a great source of inspiration.
Allotment or Vegetable Patch:
- Still a good time to sow green manure
- Buy vegetable plug plants (approx Easter weekend onwards)
- Fertilise spring cabbage with a high nitrogen feed
- Plant new asparagus “crowns”
- Potatoes, shallots and onion sets should still be available to buy
- Feed fruit trees and bushes with sulphate of potash
- Crops to sow directly outside or under cloches are peas, mange tout, mixed salad leaves, radish, cauliflower, turnip, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, Brussels, broad beans, leeks, rocket, Swiss chard and spinach.
- Also sow in your vegetable plot tagetes and poached egg plant to attract beneficial insects.
In the Greenhouse:
- Protect any seedling from cold
- Water any seedling trays or pots with copper fungicide to help prevent damping off disease.
- Remember to increase ventilation on warm days
- If too hot, put up shading to protect plants
- Buy plug plants to grow on for pots, bedding displays and baskets.
- Sow French and runner beans in pots.
- Sow melons, cucumbers, marrows and courgettes in a heated propagator
- Check plants regularly for signs of pests or disease
- Plant tomatoes in grow bags or large pots.
General Garden Maintenance:
- Repair or sow new lawns with grass seed.
- Apply moss killer to lawns – or sulphate of iron which is the active ingredient in moss killers.
- Rake out any dead grass from lawns.
- Start to feed the lawn with a suitable lawn fertiliser.
- Prune out any green shoots (reversion) off any variegated shrubs.
- Check that stakes are not rubbing against trees or tree ties are not too tight.
- Cut away any “suckers” growing around the base of trees and shrubs.
- Last month’s top shrubs forsythia and ribes (flowering currants) prune back after flowers have finished.
- Sprinkle a handful of sulphate of potash around tulips to improve flowering
- Sow sweet peas outside around the base of cane supports, obelisks or even try a hanging basket for them to trail down.
- Give camelias, rhododendrons, azaleas and pieris a good handful of ericaceous (acidic) fertiliser.
- Now is the ideal time to start to spray roses as a preventive for mildew, rust and blackspot.
- Keep topiary in check by giving a light clip now.
Look out for new varieties of trees and shrubs this month but here are some that are old favourites.
Japanese Maples: My most favourite of all shrubs, these stunning shrubs / trees are ideal in containers and make a great feature plant in the garden. The choice of varieties is vast, with red or green, finely cut or palmate leaf. Pick a variety like Acer Palmatum Sango Kaku and you also get colourful stems in winter. Acers like a moist but well drained, neutral to acid soil in a non exposed windy position. Despite what you read in some books, Acers with sensible care are easy to grow. My personal favourites are … Acer Palmatum `Sango Kaku` (coloured stems) , Acer Palmatum `Bloodgood` (the best upright red leaf maple) Acer Palmatum Dissectum `Greenlace` (very finely cut, green leaf maple), Acer Palmatum Dissectum `Garnet` (very finely cut, red leaf maple) and Acer Shirasawanum `Aureum` (bright yellow leafed maple).
Spiraea x cinerea `Grefsheim`: or “bridal wreath” currently mine at home is full of flower bud so this will look fantastic at this time of year, long flower racemes of pure white hang down almost weeping. Very easy to grow it likes most soils in full sun to part shade. I wouldn’t recommend this for a pot but planted in a border or a informal hedge makes a good feature. The R.H.S has given this plant the Award of Garden Merit.
Cercis chinensis `Avondale`: Might be a bit hard to find this one but worth hunting it out. This is a beautiful species which is native to China, Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ has bare stems which are studded with pretty, rich purple-pink flowers in late April or early May before the foliage emerges. This variety is grown mainly for it’s striking flowers but there is also Cercis canadensis `Forest Pansy`which has beautiful deep plum red leaves and new this year Cercis canadensis `Hearts of Gold` which has large bright yellow leaves.