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This is such a great time to be out in the garden, there’s so much happening; birds nesting, bumblebees buzzing in the sunshine and new growth erupting. Spring gives us a unique opportunity to lay the foundations for a great year in the garden. Here’s how to put your best foot forward this weekend.
The jobs list – pick two or three and you’ll make a big impression this weekend
Look after hellebores
Hellebores have been giving us so much colour since February and they’re easy to grow from seed. Put a thin layer of compost or leaf mould around the base of the plant, this will help any fallen seeds to germinate. When seedlings are large enough, they can be moved to other parts of your garden or given to friends.
Prune that wisteria
You can still get away with pruning wisteria if you haven’t had a chance yet. Reduce those long, whippy stems back to a couple of buds from last year’s growth. Be sure to tie in any branches that you want to keep for future framework.
Keep mint happy
A happy mint plant is always on the move, sending out underground stems from spring to autumn. To keep the plant young and fresh, divide the clump and repot a fist-sized piece each year for lots of fresh growth. Mints are best grown in pots, otherwise they spread everywhere.
There is still time to plant trees, ideally before they grow all of their leaves to give them a good start while there is some moisture in the soil, but be sure to water them well for their first summer. Follow the easy step-by-step guide on rhs.org.uk – search “How to plant a tree”.
Plan the autumn harvest
Without wishing away the summer, I want you to start planning for your autumn harvest. Autumn cabbage and kale is delicious and needs to be started from seed now so that they have plenty of time to grow big and tasty for autumn soups and stews. ‘Red Jewel’ is a small, tightly formed red cabbage. These often go a long way, so I find the smaller types ideal.
Beans, beans, good for the..
Fresh broad beans are hard to beat and deliver flavour on another level compared with those from the supermarket. I sow them in batches every 4 to 5 weeks to make sure that I get tender, young beans all summer.
Give asparagus a chance
If you don’t like the idea of sowing lots of seeds but love fresh veg then why not try asparagus? It’s a perennial, so you plant it once and it crops every year. Plant the spider-like roots in March or April in a sunny, fertile spot and let it establish for two years without picking. After that, bon appétit! The variety ‘Gijnlim’ is a cracker.
If you grow strawberries, the plants are probably looking a bit weather beaten. Remove old foliage and put down a sprinkling of Growmore to give them a boost.
Feed your rhubarb
A healthy, well-fed clump of rhubarb will be very productive. Feed yours with a good layer of organic mulch to retain moisture and to give it sustenance through spring, summer and autumn. Newly planted crowns should be left alone to establish for a year or two before you start picking.
Cut back raspberries
If you haven’t already, cut back your autumn-fruiting (August/September) raspberries to the ground. If they are summer-fruiting (June/July) then wait until they’ve fruited before you cut those canes back, leaving the new canes in place to give you fruit for the following year.
Keep an eye out for potatoes
Garden centres and supermarkets are still selling seed potatoes. Plant first earlies now, second earlies in mid-April and maincrops at the end of April for a summer and autumn full of fresh spuds.
I wait until now to sow my tomatoes because I don’t want to have to nurse them through the cold and wet months which they hate. Sow them at the end of March when the light levels are stronger and it’s just that little bit warmer.
I love to grow ‘Black Cherry’ as you can eat them like sweets when they’re ripe. Keep tying them in and they’ll keep fruiting until the cooler nights set in. You can start basil seeds off now, too.
Clean out seed trays
Clean your seed trays with warm soapy water before sowing. This removes any pests and reduces the chances of your seedlings falling foul of fungus and bacteria.
This week’s project: who doesn’t love dahlias?
They are easy to grow from seed and there are loads to choose from. Sow seeds into a tray of peat-free compost, lightly cover with more compost and place on a sunny windowsill.
‘Bishop’s Children’ (above) is great for cutting as the stems are a good length. ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ is a fun and colourful mix with a distinctive collar – good for pots or the front of a border.
A quick guide
To keep a blackcurrant bush (above) healthy and productive, remove a few older stems at the base each year to keep young stems coming through and retain lots of those two to three-year-old stems, too, as they’re the most productive.
Sally Nex takes us thorough the whole operation beautifully in a few minutes on the Crocus.co.uk channel on YouTube (search for ‘How to prune blackcurrants’).
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