Winter is a good time to work on getting your soil right. The old thought was to dig over any new border, or double dig if you are really old school.
The new ideas coming through are of 'no dig' where it is now thought it is better to not disturb the soil structure. When creating new border the advice is to cover the area in cardboard, which will break down and decompose and then cover this in compost. The card smothers the grass and any weeds and the lack of digging means soil stored seeds do not get the chance to come to the surface.
In my opinion they is a time and place for both. In creating my garden I have removed turf, rotavated and dug the soil, mainly to remove stones, brick and any other rubbish in the soil, then covering in compost and old horse manure. This has meant subsequent planting of trees, shrubs and bulbs has been easy and the soil is easy to work in.
I am trialling the no dig approach in my new cutting garden beds and at the moment I have areas covered in card, waiting for its compost covering. This will be great for seedlings as the can grow in the top layer of compost while the card decomposes. I am not sure yet how it would work for the initial growth of larger plants. I will keep you updated.
January Jobs in the garden
January is a time in the garden where you have to look closely for flowers, but they are there if you look. Iris reticulata start to appear, along with the snowdrops towards the end of the month, but witch hazel and Viburnums are looking lovely at this time of year and the Christmas box is smelling divine.
January is a good time to get on top on the garden maintenance, as the winter is the one time of year you can move faster than the garden and there is no lawn mowing or much watering to be done.
Last years beds have had a good tidy up and old growth put onto the compost heap, the lawn had been re edged, pots have had one water to get them through the winter months, some shrubs have been pruned, the last of the leaves had been collected to make leaf mold, some new beds are now underway, trialling the no dig method as advocated by Charles Dowding, the last of the tulip bulbs have gone in and ranunculus and sweet peas have been planted and sown.
There is still loads to do, but that is always the way in gardening and the next month brings a list of new jobs, but there are always seed catalogues to browse on gloomy, cold days to dream about what the summer will bring.
February Jobs in the Garden
February is a funny month in the garden, you really want to be out there doing some real gardening, but the changeable weather makes it a real 'stop and start' process.
The things that I have been up to in February are mainly to do with tidying up last year’s growth and carrying on making more new beds to fill.
On milder days I pruned the Roses, Buddleia and some of the shrubs that I want decorative new growth from, like Dogwoods.
Buying seeds and bulbs for cut flowers
February is a great month to sit and plan your summer patch and what, if anything, you want to grow specifically for cutting.
I can’t resist Dahlias and have been easily lost for hours looking through Sarah Raven’s catalogue. If you are looking to grow cut flowers, her website is a great place to get inspiration for buying seeds and tubers. Higgledy Garden is also another great website to browse through and buy cut flower seeds, just try not to spend too much!
Things that are looking good in the February garden are Snowdrops, Hazel Catkins, Garrya Elliptica, Cyclamen, Iris Reticulatas and Hellebores.
March Jobs in the Garden
March is probably the last month of the early season where you can move faster than the garden - nature is just about to push the growth accelerator so it pays to get ready. Although this season we are a good 2 to 3 weeks behind where we were in the garden last year, the inclement weather we’ve had has certainly slowed things down so if like me you’re a bit behind, you’ve still time to catch up.
Despite of my good intentions I am always a bit behind in March - I’m currently gardening without a greenhouse or a polytunnel and so I am very dependent on weather.
Give your borders a boost
March is a good time to get on top of the borders before they really start growing and do as much weeding and mulching as possible.
I am lucky to have a friend with a good supply of well-rotted horse poo which really helps give my borders nutrients ready for planting later in the season. If you can get hold of some I’d absolutely recommend it, think of it as a vitamin boost for your garden.
Lift and divide Snowdrops
Any snowdrops that have finished flowering can now be lifted and divided to help build up the supply in the garden. Just replant to the same depth for more flowers next season.
Sow some seeds
Hardy annuals can now be started from seed. Without a greenhouse, I sow into pots and then store them in large plastic storage containers. I keep the lids on the sweet pea seed box as mice absolutely love sweet peas seeds and will happily munch the lot. I have also sown Italian Ranunculus claws in pots, again to stop the mice eating them.
As the weather has been so cold this spring, I have also taken the step of ordering hardy annual plug plants. These need to be potted up as soon as they arrive through the post, but they are a good way to get things going in the cutting garden.
March is also the time to divide any perennial plants. This year I have divided some very large Delphinium plants I inherited a few years ago and planted them in their new homes.
What’s in bloom in March?
March is definitely the month of the Daffodils in all their forms - bestowing their bursts of brightness throughout the garden.
Camellias are also spectacular this month while other March favourites are Lily of the Valley and a plant that always flowers on my birthday, the Forsythia.
April Jobs in the Garden
Sow your seeds
The biggest job in April for me has to be sowing seeds, pricking out and potting on. I love to grow and always over order seeds (an occupational hazard for the flower grow like me) I then struggle where to get them going and where they will then be planted in the garden.
I sow some seeds in trays and pots and have them stored in large plastic boxes that I can put the lids on if required, but I do a lot of direct sowing in April as, in theory, the soil should be warming up. This simply means sowing seeds into the garden, rather than in seed trays - handy if you are lacking in space like me.
Test your soil
However, as I write this at the beginning on April, we are still inside with the fire on as outside is still bitterly cold. A good way is to either place your hand on the soil and feel its temperature or weed growth is a good indication of how the soil is warming up. One of the old methods I have had suggested to me is to sit on the soil and bottom test the warmth! I’ve never been quite brave enough to try it though.
Mix up the Annuals
I love growing annuals from seed and a mixture of flowers and grasses, I also grow half hardy annuals and some perennials. The things I am drawn to are usually of the paler palette and things that can be cut, stored and dried.
Pot up Dahlia Tubers
April for me is also the time to get the stored Dahlia tubers going and I will be potting them up into compost soon. This year I will also be taking the knife to the larger tubers and dividing them.
There are always general jobs to be done in the garden and tidying up is always one of them. April is also the month that cutting the grass on a regular basis starts and if it ever stops raining, watering will commence.
What blooms in April?
My favourite in the April garden have to be firstly the stunning array of Tulips in all their forms and colours; the delicate Snakehead Fritillaries; the Flowering currents (which have scented memories of childhood for me) and all the beautiful blossoms.