By Maureen Catlin – Milton Ernest Garden Centre
It’s spring — so if you haven’t already lets LET’S GET STARTED.
Last summer was very dry followed by an unusually wet autumn and winter so although the weather has been mild the soil has been cold and wet for a long time.
Although the grass started to grow early the very wet conditions have produced a lot of moss growth. It is time to treat the lawn with a good feed weed and moss killer and re seed where bare patches appear. AFTERCUT by Westland will build a strong lawn and kill both weeds and moss. You can mow the lawn just 4 days after treatment. After 7 days the grass looks greener, the moss turns black, dies and can be raked out and the weeds grow rapidly, distort and shrivel. Any bare patches can then be reseeded using SMART LAWN SEED again by Westland which germinates at cooler temperatures, establishes quickly and outgrows any moss and weed regrowth. (No I do not have shares in this company but these 2 products are good).
Work on the Veg Patch should only be undertaken if the soil does not compact when you walk on it or stick to the fork or spade when you attempt to dig. Most soils locally have been too wet to dig in late autumn. Once the soil temperature reaches 8 centigrade rake it to a fine tilth and start sowing carrot and beetroot seeds thinly and parsnips about 3 seeds 15cms apart. I still sow in rows 60cms apart which makes hoeing, watering and mulching easy. Towards the middle of March plant onion, shallot and garlic sets and vegetable plants like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce that are available from the Garden Centre. If you have a greenhouse you could sow these as seed to plant out later. It is generally not energy efficient to heat a greenhouse nowadays but you could consider a heated propagator. It is then possible to sow tomato seed, sweet peppers and rocket around 20th of March and grow these on in the greenhouse protecting with fleece if a frost is forecast. It is too early to plant most other veg varieties so be patient but you could check that the seed potatoes are chitting nicely.
Fruit trees and bushes can be planted now. Dig in plenty of compost to open the soil to encourage quick fibrous root growth. The quicker the plants establish the sooner you will have luscious fruits to enjoy. Some interesting varieties are Sweetheart Strawberries which are very sweet and juicy, Blueberry Hort Blue Petite the first blueberry to give 2 crops per year in July and September and an old French pink currant Gloire de Sablon which has heavy crops of fragrant, sweet juicy berries. Starline Apples are new column apple trees that grow 2m tall and can be grown in pots. They are disease resistant, require no pruning and produce heavy crops from top to bottom. Garden Fountain has good flavoured green yellow apples in September, Firedance has yellow orange fruit with a crisp juicy texture in October and Blue Moon has amazing purple blue crispy well flavoured apples in August.
March is also the ideal month to plant all hardy plants in the borders incorporating lots of fibrous compost and slow release feed to produce strong roots and healthy growth.
Ornamental grasses and evergreen ferns should be cut back to 15cms before the new growth and fronds appear. All herbaceous plants can be trimmed and those encroaching into places unintended can be removed with a spade.
Start slug and snail control now using Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer Ferrous Phosphate which is not toxic. The slugs are attracted to these pellets consume them and bury themselves so there are no slimy corpses they turn into fertilizer.
As the spring bulbs finish flowering feed with Bonemeal to initiate the flower buds for next year. Do not cut back the bulb foliage but leave to die back naturally to build up the food stores in the bulbs.
As the shoots on Clematis, Honeysuckles and Climbing Roses start to grow tie onto the support using raffia or soft string. Apply a good compost mulch and feed with a high potash feed like Rose Food to produce lots of flowers.
This is a gentle introduction to the busy season ahead remember it’s now a proven fact GARDENING IS GOOD FOR YOU.