Garden tidy up

I saw my first snowdrops this week: it’s a sure sign that Spring is now just around the corner so it’s time for the inevitable garden tidy up.

Now is a great time to tackle your pruning. Many plants appreciate a haircut while they are still dormant and their sap isn’t rising up the stems. It’s an especially good time to prune stems of Salix and Cornus to encourage new growth. These will then reward you with fabulous colour next year. Plant two or three Cornus together and use contrasting coloured stems for the best effect. They look particularly good planted near water.

Plant a bare root hedge, on a clear day when the soil isn’t frozen. The most cost effective is to plant whips (single stemmed rooted plants) but they do take a few years to establish. If you want something more instant opt for bigger plants but ensure you prepare the ground well and keep them fed and watered.

Prepare your garden now for stunning borders later in the year

Sow hardy annual flower seeds where you want them to flower later in the year. If you have a cutting garden which you use to provide flowers for the house then you’ve probably already stated to think about this. But if you simply want to add some colour to existing borders this is a great way of doing it.

Pre-warm soil with clothes or fleece before sowing vegetables. It’s amazing what a different a few degrees can make to the germination and growth of seedlings. By warming the soil prior to planting you are giving plants the best chance of germination and growth. Many garden centres sell ready made plastic or fleece cloches or you can make your own, often better if you have an unusual shape or long area to cover. Simply buy or make wire hoops and secure them in the soil and stretch clear plastic or fleece over them. As the air within the hoop warms up so it will warm the soil. The more air you can trap to warm up the better.

Tidy and re-cut lawn edges. They say that the cheat’s way of making the garden look well looked after is to edge the lawn. It’s possibly true as a sharp lawn edge gives a smart finish to the lawn and border. If you’re fed up with this time consuming job then opt for a lawn edge which is in place year round. A soldier course of brick or cobbles works very well or opt for one of the metal edging strips which you hammer into the soil, these are great for curves and can be changed if you decide to extend or reduce a border. My favourite is a product called Everedge which you can get from some garden centres or direct through the internet.

Add a top dressing of compost to potted plants. If your plants have been in the same pot all winter now is the time to freshen them up. Remove any weeds and add a layer (2 – 3inches) of fresh soil. This will provide a feed for the next few weeks until you start using a slow release fertiliser or liquid feed in the late Spring and Summer. Remember that a plant in a pot can’t take nutrient from anywhere else so is dependent on you to feed and water it, especially in windy weather when they dry out more quickly.

Clean tables and chairs. Don’t forget it won’t be long before you’re enjoying a meal outside so give your garden furniture a Spring clean. A pressure washer will bring up most garden furniture and a light oiling for teak or fresh coat of varnish or other protection will keep everything ship shape. If you’re looking for new furniture there are some bargains to be had right now so get shopping.

Finally, once you’ve completed all your chores, sit back and admire your handiwork, it won’t be long before the garden is rewarding you with fresh blooms.