As the last frosts begin to thaw out and the days start to get a little longer, we know that spring is on its way. For gardeners, it’s a time for clearing, pruning, planting and preparing. Not to mention getting to enjoy the first signs of life as small buds appear from forgotten bulbs in unexpected places. But as always, it’s good to have an idea of what needs doing when, so as to get the most from your garden. Here are a few simple pointers to help you get on track.
Once the ground starts to soften, you can start mulching beds and borders and remove any deadheads from other plants. Newly planted trees and shrubs will appreciate a top dressing of compost or manure, and weeds should be removed before they take hold.
Almost anything that survived the winter will need a little TLC to help bring it back into bloom so grab your secateurs and get pruning. Follow the ‘Three Ds’ by removing anything dead, diseased or damaged. It’s also a good idea to remove any crossing branches so they don’t cause damage by rubbing up against each other. Removing water sprouts (upward growing shoots on trunks or side branches) and suckers (vigorous shoots that develop near to or from below the ground) will minimise weak wood and provide more food and water for the main plant or tree.
Fruit trees such as apple and pear will need to be pruned into a goblet shape with an open centre, whilst any summer blooming plants and shrubs will need to be well pruned before they push out new growth.
Summer flowering plants such as gladioli and acidantheras should be planted around April along with evergreen coniferous trees and shrubs. If frost still seems likely then nets can be used to protect buds and flowers on top fruit and soft fruit trees, plants and bushes, which are vulnerable to harsher weather.
Early spring is a good time to sow hardy annuals that can tolerate light frosts, such as pot marigolds, annual chrysanthemum, baby’s breath and sunflowers. If you want to encourage wildlife into your garden then plant flowers with attractive seed-heads, such as Nigella and poppies, which also double up as a food source for birds. In later spring, when the threat of any more frost has passed, you can sow half-hardy annuals.
It is worth noting that annuals tend to prefer light soils that are not too fertile and will warm up earlier in the spring. That said, native cornfield annuals such as Corn Chamomile, Cornflower, Corn Marigold and Common Poppy do well in richer soil and provide a good alternative to wildflower meadows where the soil is too fertile. You can buy seed mixes of either (whichever best suits your soil) to create your very own meadow. Not only is it beautiful to look at but also great for bees and butterflies.
When it comes to growing your own edibles, there is plenty of spring veg to choose from too. Now is a good time to sow your lettuce, radish, peas, beans and carrots. If you have a greenhouse then consider sowing some outdoor tomatoes and courgettes, or hold off a little longer until the weather warms up and plant them straight into your veg plot.