Easter weekend! Geoff’s tips for the the garden!

Easter weekend! Geoff’s tips for the the garden!

Easter is here and our thoughts turn to the garden. Whether you are going to make major changes to your plot or just plant a few tubs on the patio, the chances are that you will do it this weekend. With the sun shining and shops and garden centres full of flowers it is easy to get inspired. Here is a selection of tips and jobs to help you succeed and avoid a few mistakes. Have fun.

Feed the lawn

After winter, many of the nutrients will have washed away with the rain, especially nitrogen, the nutrient that grass needs most. Apply a lawn fertiliser now (ideally just before rain is forecast) to green-up the grass and strengthen the turf. This will reduce wear in summer and discourage weeds and moss.

Mow little and often

The other way to keep lawns green and with fewer weeds is to mow frequently and to never ‘scalp’ the grass. Irregular mowing, cutting it off so low the lawn is left yellow or brown, weakens the grass and helps weeds move in.

Sow veg

Most vegetables can be sown direct in the garden now. These include beetroot, carrots, radish, lettuce, and spring onions (scallions). Fork over the soil, removing any weeds. Hoe and rake the soil so the surface is fine. Then use a trowel to make a shallow seed drill (trench) about 1cm deep and sow thinly along this. Lightly cover with soil about 5mm deep and water well. Keep the rows well watered as the seeds germinate. If the seeds dry out as they are starting to grow they will die so take care with this. How long it takes for seedlings to appear will depend on temperature but radish should appear in less than 10 days, lettuce in two weeks and carrots in three weeks.

Sowing in pots

Many vegetables can be grown in pots on the patio. Fill pots with multipurpose compost and either sow seeds on top or plant with vegetable plants. Be aware that we are not out of the woods yet with regard to frost so don’t rush to plant out frost-tender veg like courgettes, French beans and tomatoes.

Plant strawberries

Strawberries crop quickly after planting and can be grown in the ground, in raised beds, pots or strawberry pots. Strawberry pots keep the fruits off the ground so they are less prone to slug damage – though birds will still peck at the ripe fruits. Fill the pot with multipurpose compost and pop young plants in the sides. Water carefully so the whole depth of compost is always moist and feed every week during spring and summer. You can also fill a strawberry pot with herbs – thymes always work well and parsley is a good choice too.

Plant with caution

Shops are full of bedding plants but these have all been grown in greenhouses and a sharp frost will kill them. Just be cautious! Violas and pansies are a good option right now because they withstand all weathers.

Deadhead flowers

As flowers fade it is beneficial to remove them. It keeps violas blooming for longer and the plants look better for a pick-over. Take off the dead flowers and seed pods on daffodils and tulips – it prevents energy being wasted making seeds and helps make the foliage die down more quickly too.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs

Once the flowers have died on early-flowering shrubs such as flowering currant (ribes), forsythia and white spiraeas, you can prune them. This will encourage new growth that will bloom next year and keep plants neat and tidy. Try to remove some of the old, dead wood in the centre, cutting it out low down, and shorten some of the longest stems. Avoid clipping over the whole plant every year or you will end up with domes of old wood that doesn’t flower freely.

Pot shrubs

Patios always look better with a few large shrubs in pots. Japanese maples, camellias, cordylines, olives and phormiums are all popular choices. Remember to take into account the needs of the plants – maples prefer light shade and olives want a hot, sunny patio. Be careful with your pots too – use pots with straight sides and wider tops so you can take them out to repot them in a few years! Always use John Innes No 3 compost for all shrubs and trees and not multipurpose compost. The exceptions are lime-hating plants and for these use lime-free John Innes. These are available at good garden centres.

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