With the days lengthening at last, you may be looking ahead and considering what to grow in your garden this growing season. As you work the soil and remove any weeds and debris; you will find that the ground will begin to dry out, as it has been awfully wet since last autumn. Gardening is not all hard work and best if you take your time in order to get your garden in good condition and that for most means little and often, which is the old adage.
How to tidy your garden and prepare the soil for planting
When I am asked to get a garden sorted and tidied up; my first approach is to look at all the various areas or compartments. I then work systematically through all the areas, having identified what is required in terms of maintenance. My last blog dealt with pruning and this helps you access areas that had been overgrown and prevented access for weeding.
Sometimes it is necessary to fork out vigorous weeds, in other instances it is necessary to use the spade to scrape or sheal off the weeds at the surface of the soil, taking care not to damage nearby plants.
Rock gardens and other high maintenance areas tend to require very careful attention so as to avoid pulling out small plants. Here you will have to hand weed, or use a hand fork.
Borders and non-cropped areas may be sprayed taking care to avoid any nearby plants or water courses.
Certain weeds may be spot controlled with the careful use of a sprayer, weed wiper or gel stick. Weeding is best done during dry spells, as is any weed killer application and there is no better satisfaction than using the dutch hoe to sever weeds during warm weather.
Deciding which plants to keep
There are many difficult decisions to be made when gardening and one of the hardest is what to keep and what needs to be removed. A bit like pruning; you are looking for healthy material, free from decay and disease, if overgrown, the plants may be pruned, or if past their best; removed. Sentiment kicks in when plants have been planted to celebrate an occasion such as a birthday, wedding or possibly a death and this can make such decisions hard to make. In my opinion; if a plant does not earn its place, then its future in the garden is in jeopardy regardless of sentiment.
The removal of a plant or area of plants can provide opportunities for a new layout, while a total clearance can provide tremendous scope. Radical decisions such as grassing over the vegetable plot, or adopting a low maintenance gravel garden are sometimes inevitable due to time constraints, but for some, there will be decisions in the opposite direction; such as turning a large lawn in to a vegetable or flower garden. A garden plan drawn roughly to scale can help and enable you to see connections in so far as the various garden compartments are concerned.
Opportunities exist to bulk up your stock of plants through the use of division of herbaceous perennials. Many such plants can be split with either a spade or two garden forks inserted in to a lifted clump and then prized apart in to manageable sized pieces. These plants may be used elsewhere in the garden or used in swaps with gardening friends.
Selecting plants for your garden
Whether you only have a few gaps to fill or have an entire garden to plant up; there are numerous factors to consider and there are many plant attributes, uses and functions. Again; the selection of plants is a very personal thing, but I offer a list of things to consider, as well as what plants offer:
- Plant types/groups i.e. trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials, bulbs, alpines, water plants, wild flowers, annuals
- Plant properties: size, spread, light requirements, soil requirements, flower colour, foliage size, shape and colour.
- Fruits, stem colour, scent, attracting wildlife, food etc.
I shall cover summer bedding plants and container growing in my next blog, but suffice to say that it is too early to plant them out, but many will be growing their own in heated structures, while others will buy plugs and seedlings in the next few weeks. My approach is to plant any trees first, ensuring they are located correctly and afforded adequate space; thereafter you would plant shrubs, then perennials if in the same vicinity. Container grown plants may be planted at almost any time, however best to avoid the winter extremes and any periods of drought. Spring is an ideal time for any structure planting of trees, shrubs and perennials and you should consider all year round interest and ensure that there is always something of interest.
In previous blogs I have indicated that plant selection is a personal thing and that there are so many choices given the vast array of plant material in garden centres and to that end, I would recommend visiting garden centres and open gardens, reading books and performing internet searches.
If all else fails; get in touch with Gordon!