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We are well and truly into spring, what a gorgeous time of year. I can’t believe Summer will officially start next month! From mid-May those pesky frosts will have passed so we can relax a little. Do keep an eye on the weather forecast though, in case we get a late frost. Be ready with some newspaper or horticultural fleece. It can be soul destroying to find you have been caught out, seeing all the hard work and love you have put into growing your plants end up on the compost heap!
All the little plants that have been grown indoors or under glass will need to acclimatise to outside temperatures, also plants that have been protected indoors over the winter period. We all know that feeling! Once they are ready, take them outdoors and begin the process of ‘hardening off’, this can take two to three weeks depending on the weather.
Choose a nice sheltered, warm part of the garden and set them out for a couple of hours. Gradually increase their time outside, eventually, they will be ok to be left out overnight. Don’t forget to check the forecast! After they have become accustomed to the outside world, they will be ready to plant out.
I have used cold frames too which is a great way of hardening off, you can just prop the glass up through the day, it makes it so much easier than trotting back and forth with your little plants.
Once plants are ready, they can be safely planted out. I like to water them in the late afternoon the day before to ensure the compost is nice and moist. When you are ready, remove the plant carefully so as not to disturb the root or lose any soil. Never handle the plant by its stem to take them out of the pot. Place your hand over the compost so your fingers go either side of the stem, turn the pot upside down and gently tap the pot and if need be, give it a little squeeze. The rootball should come out nicely ready for planting. Make sure all of the rootball up to the soil level, gently firming in, then and give it a little water.
If your plant has been in a pot that may have been a little small or maybe it has been in the pot a bit too long, it can become ‘pot bound’. You will notice there is a mass of roots and sometimes they start to grow out of the drainage holes in the pot.
If this is the case, don’t worry. Carefully take out the plant in the same way as above but you may need to give it a firmer tap or squeeze. Once the plant is free, tease the roots gently out so they can grow outwards.
If you are growing vegetables, crop rotation is very important. Don’t be put off by it though as it’s pretty straightforward. It is a method of growing so that crops will be healthier and be less troubled by pests and diseases. Each crop is prone to specific issues so that if you grow the same crop in the same area year after year it will bring problems.
By following crop rotation, the soil will be much healthier and nutrients will replenish. Dividing these plants into the four groups is the easiest way to put crops together that have similar soil requirements.
Some plants have large leaves and suppress weeds, potatoes for example are an ideal crop to put in to clean up the ground. I did this in my allotment initially to clean up a large area. The following year I divided it up into four groups.
Bed 1 - Alliums – Onion, Shallot, Garlic, Spring Onion and Leek
Bed 2 - Brassicas – Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Radish, Swede and Turnips.
Bed 3 - Legumes – Beans – Broad Beans, French Beans and Runner Beans & Peas.
Bed 4 -Roots & tubers – Beetroot, Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Parsnip, Potatoes, Swede.
Bed 1 - Roots & tubers
Bed 2 – Alliums
Bed 3 – Brassicas
Bed 4 – Legumes
Bed 1 – Legumes
Bed 2 - Roots & Tubers
Bed 3 – Alliums
Bed 4 – Brassicas
Bed 1 – Brassicas
Bed 2 – Legumes
Bed 3 – Roots & Tubers
Bed 4 – Alliums
We are going to talk about planning the summer garden. I just love the gardens of the big stately homes with huge beds and herbaceous borders! These can give us inspiration for our own gardens. Visiting RHS shows and National Garden Scheme gardens are great places to enjoy and inspire us too.
Some of the gardens at Chelsea for example can give us ideas that we may not want to replicate, but what is possible and that we can push ourselves out of our comfort zones. We can use garden sculpture to add another dimension. I remember learning about Andy Goldsworthy when I was a student. The garden in Scotland where I trained had a piece of his sculpture in.
Let’s be creative, whatever size your garden space is!
These can be filled with an array or colour and texture.
What you plant or sow will be determined by the site and soil type.
Buddleja at the back will give height and attract bees and butterflies, further forward one of my favorites Verbena bonariensis, Euphorbia, Lavender, Perovskia, Cistus.
Hypericum, Sarcococca, Vinca, Ferns are nice too such as Asplenium and Polypodium.
Dahlia, Delphinium, Gypsophila, Nigella, Zinnia, Agapanthus, Alstromeria, Aster, Astilbe, Iris, Rudbeckia and Verbena are a few examples.
Flowers for cutting are growing ever more popular and it is lovely to be able to grow some to brighten up your home.
Next month we will be talking about pests and diseases, lawn care and jobs for June.