At this time of year especially, it’s easy to spend your time daydreaming of warmer days. You may be ready for lounging in the sunshine on a sun lounger with a Pimms and lemonade or eating a delicious barbeque on your lovely new outdoor rattan furniture…but is your garden ready to be appreciated? Read on to find out how to get the most out of your plant growth this spring and make 2020 your garden’s year!
First thing’s first – get rid of weeds
Weeds compete with other plants for the essentials like light, nutrition, and water, so you will need to clear them before you start growing. If you have a large area, don’t fret too much about this as weeding a big garden is a strain.
Not only will it cause back issues, but you may also be blessed with the depressing sight of weeds returning. If you fall into this box, divide your plot in half. Dig one half and then feed the soil with a thick organic mulch to exclude light.
To do this, cut down the larger weed foliage to just above soil level using a satisfying slash technique (you can use much of the foliage on your new compost heap, as long as there are no seeds). Cover the area with a mulch that will exclude light.
You can use several materials to do this – a layer of compost or well-rotted manure is ideal, topped with cardboard (weighed down by bricks or another thin layer of compost so it doesn’t blow away), or a black plastic membrane, also pinned down.
Do not use carpet – many of the dyes have toxic chemicals that can leach into your precious soil. Leaving this for 6-12 months means you don’t have to do a thing, as the weeds will weaken in the dark and earthworms will enrich the soil for you.
What flowers can be planted in spring?
Popular summer-flowering bulbs include dahlias, cannas and lilies – lilies should be planted in early spring before the bulbs dry out. With tender bulbs like dahlias, cannas and begonias, start them off in pots indoors in the spring and don’t put them out until any danger of frost has passed. Most bulbs prefer a sunny position or will do well in light shade.
Spring is also a great time to plant colourful primulas, heathers and hybrid primroses to brighten up your patio pots. If you have the space to take pots under cover at night, you can plant up summer containers and hanging baskets in late spring. It’s also a perfect time for planting lupins, delphiniums, foxgloves and peonies but ensure you keep them well watered and wait for the summer colour to arrive.
Check with your local garden centre if you would like to know the best plants to go with for the time of year and for your area.
The effect of climate change
Climate change, unfortunately, influences plant growth, and springtime growth now begins earlier each year. Scientists originally believed this process led to more carbon being absorbed from the atmosphere for photosynthesis and more biomass production, thus slowing climate change.
However, as evaluations of satellite data have now shown, this is not the case. Early spring actually tends to lead to less growth.
Choose Spring Vegetables
A great suggestion as to what to plant in spring is herbs and vegetable. You can then enjoy the fruits of your labour in time for the summer barbeque season. Choose vegetables that you can seed directly into the ground or into containers, such as peas, beans, radishes, carrots, lettuce, and swiss chard.
All grow very well and require minimal maintenance. When it comes to tomatoes, you may be better off buying starters from a reliable supplier instead of seeding your own.
The great thing about some plants, such as asparagus and rhubarb, and herbs, such as mint, oregano, and parsley, just keep growing every year. Look for varieties that will overwinter, meaning you don’t have to replant each season.
Some of the not-so-easy choices include roses, grapes, cane berries, raspberries, and blackberries, which all require pruning to fruit well the following season.
Some dwarf shrubs can reach up to six-foot-tall, although it can take a long time to grow to this height. They are generally easier to maintain because they don’t tend to get tall enough to make pruning and maintenance difficult. There are many types to choose from, including hollies, boxwoods, rhododendrons, and an aspidistra, with more new dwarf varieties being released each season. Euonymus is a good choice.
Keep container pots in the best condition
With pot-grown plants being confined they rely totally on us for food. Most compost only supplies ‘starter’ nutrients that are soon used, so make sure you start feeding plants growing in pots six weeks after potting or repotting.
Growing conditions, speed of growth and size means that the amount of feed each plant needs varies. Some people tend to underfeed whilst others overdo it! Applying a strong dose of feed all in one go results in a strong solution of salts that can actually draw moisture out of the plant by a process known as reverse osmosis. In short, over-feeding does more harm than good.
Generally, you can start feeding in spring but ensure to follow the feed supplier’s advice. When it comes to frequency, we’d suggest once every two weeks, but weekly when plants are growing vigorously, and the weather is warmer. You should then rise to twice weekly for heavy feeders or fast-growing plants in large containers.
Use liquid feeds for plants in pots and containers; with solid feeds, it can be too easy to overdose, which can scorch plant roots when applied to the surface. However, you can incorporate slow-release fertiliser into your planting medium when potting up plants.
Apply high-nitrogen liquid feeds to leafy plants and liquid tomato feed (diluted to half or quarter strength) to flowering plants, to stimulate the production of buds.
Large infrequent doses during the growing season can damage plants. Think little and often and put a halt to feeding at the end of summer. With liquid feeds, following the maker’s directions when it comes to diluting and apply as much of the liquid as you’d use to water the plant.
Don’t be tempted to add more as it may damage the plants. If a plant is under stress from root damage or drought, don’t feed it. you can tell if a plant is under stress from drought if it’s wilting.