It’s official, from now on the sun is rising earlier and setting later which means that summer’s on its way. That’s not to say however, that you can’t enjoy your garden now. Springtime gardens are a tremendously uplifting sight, especially after the winter gloom. Here are some top tips to getting a springtime garden right and preparing for summer.
First things first, tidy up the remains of the winter garden to stop it looking shabby. Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished and cut back deciduous grasses left to billow in the wind during the winter. Spring is also a great time to prune Wisteria, hardy evergreen hedges, conservatory climbers and roses (only cut back to the first outward-facing bud though). Any seed heads you left for winter interest can be removed and put in the compost along with any fallen leaves and dead stems from perennials. If the frost doesn’t hamper your progress, dig well-rotted manure or the fruits of last year’s compost into the top layer of the soil. The nutrients will help both spring and summer flowering plants to thrive.
If you have a greenhouse, now is the time for a spring clean. Sweep the floor and benches and treat everything to a hot solution of garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid. That includes pots, seed trays and the greenhouse glass; over-wintering pests and disease can survive in nooks and crannies. Then ventilate it to ensure it dries thoroughly. The same is true for tools; clean and sharpen them to ensure greater longevity and no bacteria or fungi are passed on to this year’s plants.
If this all seems to be dull, preparatory work so far, fear not, now the fun sowing and planting begins. Identify the first batch of vegetables you’d like to start growing and sow them in seed trays in a protected area. Chit potato tubers by putting them, most eyes upright, in a light but cool place where they won’t suffer the ravages of frost – it helps them to start sprouting earlier and crop better. Sow the seeds for plants that have a longer growing season such as Geranium, Begonias, Snap Dragons, peppers and aubergines, and keep the seed trays somewhere warm. Summer-flowering bulbs such as Lilies, Gladiolus and Ranunculis can be planted in early spring too.
It is wise to protect any fruit and vegetables already planted outside with nets to keep the birds away and protect the blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches to ensure a steady crop. As horrible a job as it is, seek out and remove those pesky pests likely to be hibernating in the crowns of perennials and last year’s summer bedding plants. Slugs, snails and aphid colonies can be treated with parasitic nematodes, chemical drenches or just by squishing underfoot. If you are repotting any plants, check for vine weevil larvae at the same time and treat the same way.
Finally, if you spent last summer wishing a large shrub was in a different position, now is the time to move it. While dormant, deciduous shrubs are generally forgiving of the upheaval, provided to take a good amount of the root ball and water them well in their new position. Some early spring bulbs such as snowdrops can also be divided and repositioned now that they have finished flowering. If yours is a wildlife-friendly garden, clean out old bird boxes ready for the new generation (birds are very polite and won’t nest in a box if they think another bird has claimed it first) and don’t forget to fill up your bird feeders. Then sit back and enjoy the springtime bliss.