I don’t think anyone isn’t glad to see the back of February this year. When we weren’t getting soaked to the skin and then getting soaked again, we were buffeted by a succession of storms that had us diving outside to move exposed pots to sheltered spots and check that ancient trees weren’t likely to blow-over.
Wild weather doesn’t stop the hardy perennials of our horticulture and landscaping crews though. Barely batting an eyelid, though perhaps appreciating a proffered hot tea even more than usual, our trusty team have sculpting landscapes into shape, pruning and preparing plants to burst back into fresh verdancy and planting bare-root booty to add screening, structure and texture to gardens.
But we’re not lulled into thinking we only have the long, hazy days of summer ahead of us now. One can never be truly certain where weather is concerned, especially in these topsy-turvy days, and March can still come in like a lion, bringing late-season snowstorms and near-freezing temperatures.
What does this mean for the garden and upcoming garden tasks? Are doing anything differently than we normally would at this time of year, given the recently tempestuous climatic conditions?
We thought we’d share the wealth of our garden maintenance team’s knowledge and experience on the matter, by giving you a sneak-peak into the garden tasks they’re tackling in gardens now:
Now’s a great time to apply composts and mulches.
As warmer weather begins to bring shrubs, roses, fruit trees and some herbaceous perennials into bud and new growth is pushing forth, helping them along with a good fertiliser is like breaking your garden’s fast after it’s long winter sleep. Offering beds and containers a good compost will provide a nutrient boost over the longer term too.
The downside to all this goodness is that weeds are also starting to push up, so there’s work to do clearing the unwanteds. Top-dressing with a layer of mulch can help to suppress them, after clearing and composting. Mulching will also help retain moisture which you may be grateful for, should the weather swing the other way and the mercury rapidly rise. This will also help to protect less hardy plants from the worst of any spring chills, if it continues to be chilly.
Lawns too are springing into action and will also benefit from a spring feed (it’s worth noting here that lawns require slightly different formulas of feed in spring and autumn, so it’s best practice to use one specifically formulated for the spring season).
Lawns are sodden at the moment, but given a hiatus in the rain and the chance to drain, the lawn care specialists are making the most of conditions, removing moss and weeds, feeding and giving lawns their first regular trim of the year.
In a few of weeks time, they’ll be ready for any patch repairs and over-seeding, leaving lawns looking verdant and healthy; fully-primed for family kickabouts, eating al-fresco with friends or simply as an invitingly luxuriant expanse for lazing in the sun.
Pruning & Training
One of the most satisfying tasks to carry out now is, to our minds, pruning. A good pruning not only tidies and shapes a plant, but also rejuvenates it, encouraging an abundance of blooms or fruits later.
Starting with roses, because whilst traditional wisdom says roses can be pruned anytime between Christmas and March, and many rose varieties are beginning to send forth growth, so pruning them sooner rather than later will help to concentrate the plant’s efforts on the new growth rather than putting its energies into old wood, which is going to be cut-off if you prune later anyway.
Next, we move on to hardy evergreens and climbers, then winter-flowering shrubs, which should be pruned once flowering has finished. Though not strictly pruning, as we go along we’ll be cutting back any old stems of herbaceous perennials that are leftover from last year.
Another perk of pruning is that it makes tying-in and training much easier as we’ll have a clearer sight and better access to the shoots that want tying-in. For similar reasons, it’s a good time to check that plant supports are sturdy and well-placed before they disappear into masses of new growth.
Planning and preparing kitchen garden beds now will reap its own rewards. Covering the ground or beds with cloches or simply polytunnels will warm the ground, ready for sowing early crops like lettuce, radish, peas and broad beans.
Now’s also the moment to install neat new raised beds, herb garden potagers and botanically beneficial borders ready for harvesting armfuls of vitalising victuals as the sun makes it’s steady progress through light side of the year.
And there’s still time to plant bare-root stock like fruit trees, roses and raspberry canes, but this is best done sooner rather than later. It’s conventional to plant bare-root in autumn/winter, but we think they can sometimes get off to a better start at the end of winter/early spring. When planted in autumn it’s possible they can be left in cold, wet soil for months, which may not entice the plant to put out its roots.
We hope that our shared knowledge has given you a steer, but if you’d prefer the help of our horticulturalists on a regular basis or have a vision for your garden’s vista, then please tell us about your garden here.