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blog post - preparing for the big spring event

The first of March marks the beginning of meteorological spring but just in case you were in any doubt the seasons have changed, the fact that Gardeners World has returned to our televisions is a sure sign spring has sprung.

If autumn is the after party clear up, then spring is definitely the prep before the big event. Thank goodness the days are getting longer because my to do list is growing as fast as the plants at the moment. To coin Monty’s phrase, here’s a few jobs you could be getting on with this weekend.

Build a compost bin. Adding compost to your garden (as a mulch or soil conditioner) is, in my opinion, the single most important thing you can do for your plants. Instead of wasting money on expensive bags of compost, make your own. If you can’t get your hands on a few strong wooden pallets, you can use treated timber to build the frame and chicken wire to separate the interior walls. Your garden and a little elbow grease will produce all the material you need to make good compost.

Prune dogwood and willow. In the past, dogwood and willow were hard pruned in January and February but nowadays the recommended time for cutting back is late March/early April. Not only does this give you more time to enjoy the colourful winter stems, at this time of year the root to shoot ratio is in balance and ensures the plants are able to bounce back vigorously from a hard prune guaranteeing a good display next year. Young plants should be left alone for the first few years but thereafter, cut back stems hard to within 10cm of ground level. Plant summer flowering bulbs. Gladioli and lillies can be planted in pots or the border at this time of year. As a rule, bulbs should be planted at a depth of two to three times the height of the bulb. But if in doubt, I find Google is a good source of reassurance. Depending on species, they make thank you for a little sprinkling of grit or leaf mould (homemade, if you’ve got some) in the planting hole.

Treat paths with weedkiller. I use herbicides sparingly. I’m old fashioned and prefer to tackle weeds with my hand fork but sometimes needs must and like me, I’m sure you’ve got better things to do this season than weed gravel or paved areas. Spend a little time now weeding out the usual suspects with your hand fork but then apply a residual weedkiller to keep on top of things for a time while you tend to more important jobs.

Mulching. Tidy up borders and apply a generous layer of garden compost - it’s much easier at this time of year before the plants are fully up. Feeding the soil each year should provide plants with all the nutrients they require but if any are struggling, give them a little TLC by scattering a dose of fertiliser around their base and watering well.

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