Whilst there is still the occasional nip in the air, you can definitely tell that spring has indeed sprung. But what does that mean for your garden? You’re likely to start spending more and more time out in your garden now the temperatures are on the up, and you’ll no doubt want to get your garden looking great for the summer.
We’ve come up with some essential gardening tips you need to pay attention to this springtime, as well as speaking to landscape designer Genevieve Schmidt for some expert advice…
Clear out the rubbish
If you haven’t attended to your garden much over the winter then there’s a good chance it’s looking a little worse for wear and could do with a clear-out. Clear out any dead annual plants and compost them if you can so that they don’t go to waste.
If you have perennials in your garden then you may need to give these a bit of a prune, particularly if you didn’t do so in the autumn. You may also have sticks, leaves and even branches to get rid of if it’s been a particularly windy winter.
We’ve already mentioned briefly that you might need to prune the odd perennial but there are plenty of other types of plant that you can start to prune in the spring. Plants with woody stems, such as buddleia or lavender, should be pruned as they will only bloom on new branches. Pruning is best done once the chances of frost are at a minimum to prevent damage to the stems and new buds.
The amount you need to prune depends heavily on the type of plant, but a good rule is that you should prune around about 1/3 at the most, and probably a bit less if it’s the first time they’re being pruned or are still very young.
Ornamental grasses such as fountaingrass or reedgrass can also benefit from pruning in spring, as can broad-leaf evergreens like heather, boxwood and oleander, and fruit trees. Grasses can be cut to just a few inches from the ground – don’t be afraid to cut down that far.
Genevieve: “Spring is also the time to rejuvenate overgrown rhododendrons. They can often outgrow their space, but luckily most varieties can cope with being pruned right back to bare branches to bring it down to a more appropriate size. They produce new growth most effectively during and just after that spring bloom, the best time to prune is either before they flower or just as blossoms are beginning to fade.”
Check out our great pruning guide for more information on what to prune and when throughout the year.
Spread some mulch
Mulch has many uses in your garden and spring is an ideal time to start using it. It can be spread on bare patches of earth to help prevent weeds from cropping up, it can provide nutrients for the soil, and can help conserve water, although that’s probably not too much of an issue in this country at this time of the year.
Again you should wait until the soil has warmed up a little before you spread the mulch and should be careful not to use it too closely to stems and crowns of your plants.
Keep on top of weeds
Spring is when you will start to notice weeds popping up here and there, so it’s best to take care of them quickly before they spread. Chemicals can be used but usually only as a last resort as they can damage plants and can have a negative effect on wildlife. Using a hand fork or hoe to dig out as much of the weed as possible is a much safer alternative, and is best done in spring to minimise damage to surrounding plants. Find more on dealing with weeds here.
Genevieve: “Weeds can come up fast and furious at this time of year. Applying corn gluten to lawns is an organic way of preventing new weed seeds from sprouting, while in garden beds, a 3 inch-thick layer of wood chips will keep the weed growth down by about 80%.”
Start to plant vegetables
If you plant vegetables in your garden then spring is the time to start planting, although planting times do differ between veggies. For example, you can start planting broad beans as early as February but kale is best left until May. You also need to be wary of what vegetables you plant in proximity to each other as some work better than others, whether that be for size reasons or that they can help to repel pests when placed near certain other vegetables.
Fortunately, we have you covered when it comes to planting vegetables with our amazing and very comprehensive vegetable growing cheat sheet. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s well worth a read and you can even print it off to use as a guide.
Plant summer-blooming bulbs
If you want your garden blooming in summer then you’ll need to start planting summer-blooming bulbs in spring as the soil starts to warm up. If you can measure it, the ideal soil temperature is 13 degrees Celsius – any colder and the bulb may not grow and could rot.
As you may expect, summer bulbs prefer a sunny, warm position in your garden and need free-draining soil as they are susceptible to rotting. If you have heavy clay soil, try mixing some sand in to improve drainage. Here are some examples of summer-flowering bulbs:
- Oriental Lily
- Butterfly ginger
In order to promote growth, you may want to ‘top dress’ flower beds with compost or manure when the soil is dry enough. You should avoid too much digging in well-established flower beds as you could disturb the ecosystem that has developed.
Genevieve: “Gladiolus are one of the top performers in my garden. They come up every year with little care or attention, and can be cut and brought inside for a vase. For a change of pace, try Butterfly Gladiolus which have exciting markings or splashes of colour on the inside of each flower.”
Prepare your lawn
As well as flowers, shrubs and vegetables, you may also want to think about prepping your lawn in spring. Again, you should clear the decks and rake the lawn to removed dead growth and unwanted debris. This will allow light and air to get to the soil to promote growth.
You may then need to re-seed bare patches of soil. To do this you should rake the bare patches before mixing grass seed with soil and scattering over the bare spots.
Genevieve: “Lawns like to grow in alkaline soil. If the soil becomes too acidic, it may have trouble making use of the nutrients already in the ground. If you can, run a quick soil test in spring to make sure the soil is in the optimum pH range of 6.0 to 7.0 for lawns. If your soil is too acidic, using quick lime can help the grass absorb the nutrients in the soil, and grow strong to combat weeds.”
Do you have spring gardening tips you’d like to share? If so, please leave them in the comments below. You can read more of Genevieve’s gardening advice over at North Coast Gardening.