Most of us need to do less. Many people seem to have too much going on. We work more in order to play more and often give in to peer pressure urging us to join in with a greater number of things. This lifestyle suits a wide range of people, but very rarely is it perfect for gardening folk. This glorious season of plenty is the very best time to make space for gardening. It cannot be rushed! Gardening is a healing, nurturing activity where mental health is soothed and the soul is fed with contentment.
Joyful Tasks for Spring…
• Prioritise the lawn, if you have one, because it will provide a visual feature during the months to come. Cut and reshape the edges, it’s amazing what a difference this makes. Mow carefully and don’t be tempted to take it too low, leaving longer patches for wildlife, where possible.
• Early-spring flowering shrubs often benefit from being pruned back to healthy buds, but take time to check the most effective method for each species. In the case of forsythia, for example, best results are achieved by taking out some of the older stems, right down to the ground. This thins the shrub whilst still allowing it to adopt its natural form. What you don’t want is a ‘mechanical massacre’ whereby everything is rounded into a blob. Take a walk around your local modern housing estate to see it! Abelia, choisya, helichrysum and chaenomeles can also be pruned now.
• Climbers such as clematis need you to be wise. Some of them can have a light clip at this time of year, but not those that are about to flower! The easy-to- remember advice “if it flowers before June, don’t prune” will tell you what type of pruning group your clematis falls into.
• Celebrate the season by planting out your annuals towards the end of the month, when all danger of frost has passed. Hanging baskets and bedding will provide vibrant colour and interest right through until October.
• If you are growing strawberries, lay straw between the plants and the soil. It will lessen the chance of mould spoiling the crop and will keep those luscious red fruits clean, too.
• Did you know that you can achieve greater yields from your vegetable beds if you plant in triangles rather than rows or squares? Stagger your plants, but don’t plant too closely. The crop is far better when there’s a bit more space in between.
• It’s time to make supports for runner beans. Allow about 2.5m of height and plant just one bean per support. These can go in the ground at the end of the month.
• Chit and plant potatoes, if you haven’t done so already. They like soft, crumbly soil. Always avoid planting them in boggy sites.
• Get weeds under control this month and it will make the rest of the growing season much easier. Hoe when the weather is dry, as this stops weeds in their tracks.
By Caroline Knight