Preparing for the coming of Spring
By Kieran Gallagher
The weather last year was not at all gardening friendly, so I doubt I am alone in hoping for something a little more comfortable in 2016! Indeed, the weather was so bad for so much of the season that many gardeners simply gave up, especially on bedding plants.
As I write this in late January, the winter has been relatively mild, but many records have been broken for the amount of rainfall we have endured. The unseasonable weather has not had any major effects on the garden, but you must not let the mild weather fool you as spring is still some way away and frost is almost guaranteed before then.
This is our favourite time of the year at Cardwell Garden Centre. Spring is around the corner and the potential for the whole year lies ahead of us. The garden centre is free from Christmas decorations, the gardening supplies are in place, early spring plants are looking great and our staff are back in their comfort zone!
Although the spring season is still a while away, your garden can still use some attention.
Early season seeds can be sown in heated conditions, onion sets and other vegetables can be prepared and even autumn bulbs are on sale in the garden centre!
Plug plants and seedlings for summer bedding and vegetables are also available, if you prefer the convenience of not growing from seed.
However, if you are growing in a heated greenhouse or propagator you should leave the doors open during milder days and close them again in late afternoon. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it allows your young plants to become slowly accustomed to unheated conditions. This is invaluable prior to moving plants outside.
There are a lot of plants lost to cold nights in Scotland and it pays to make sure the plants you grow, and buy, are capable of withstanding a cold night. This can be particularly true of plants you buy, so check where they come from. Good independent garden centres, including Cardwell, buy Scottish grown bedding plants that will easily handle all but the coldest of nights. Even after a cold snap, semi-hardy plants will bounce back quicker and stronger than plants shipped up from England, or even Europe. Also bear in mind that gardening TV programmes and many newpaper columns are based in England, where the temperatures are several degrees warmer than Scotland.
The second reason for airing your seedlings is that it helps avoid fungal infections, which are a major killer of young plants.
Early spring is the last opportunity to move any shrubs or do any pruning required. When moving shrubs remember to plant into new compost and, ideally, a small amount of bone meal. The bone meal will specifically encourage root growth. General fertiliser can be used later to encourage foliage growth and flowers.
Top dressing borders and containers should also be done now. If it is not practical to completely replant and replace the soil in containers, remove and replace the top 2-3 inches or 5-8cm of the soil. Borders will also benefit from new soil or by the addition of some well rotted farm manure or chicken manure pellets. You will be surprised by the difference this can make and both manures are cheap to buy.
Depending on the weather during March your lawn may or may not be growing. If it is not growing fast I would suggest doing nothing to it until April. If the grass has grown and you wish to trim it then you can do so now, but you should only take a very small amount off it. Your lawn will not need fed until April.
In the next article we will look at summer bedding plants, the lawn and some ideas for mature plants in the garden.