Stagger your planting from now until November for a longer season of blooms, writes Mary Lovell-smith.
• Spring is time to sow seeds. • Sowing vegetable and flower seeds in trays gives them a headstart as the soil and air temperatures will still be too cold for many varieties to germinate successfully outdoors. • However, some species, such as carrots and asters, do best planted where they are to grow. Usually, seed packets or catalogues will say if this is the case. • While commercial seed-raising mix is sterile and promotes healthy seedlings, it can prove pricey. Make it go further by diluting it with ordinary garden soil, well-rotted compost and/or humus (that rich, dark, sweet-smelling soil full of organic matter found under trees or in parts of the garden left to their own devices). You could also use humus straight as a seed-raising mix, or mixed in a little garden soil. • Sieving homemade seed-raising mix ensures no large pieces of dirt or organic matter will impede a tiny seedling’s growth.
• Asparagus crowns are available in garden centres. Before planting, choose a site for a bed, remembering that asparagus is a long-term crop and may inhabit the spot for up to 20 years. • A light and free-draining soil is best. • Weed the bed thoroughly – taking particular care to remove perennial weeds, such as twitch grass, convolvulus, dock and oxalis. Then place a hefty layer of compost all over. • Plant crowns about 5cm below the soil surface and
40cm apart, with about 1 metre between rows.
• Sow broccoli and brussels sprouts in trays
for transplanting later. • Coriander, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, radishes and spinach may be sown direct into the garden – if the soil is dry and warm enough. The old gardener’s wisdom is that if you rake the soil at 10am and it is dry and crumbly by 2pm, then all is well for seed germination. • Cut seedheads off rhubarb and feed with a
sprinkling of blood and bone.
• Sow sweetpeas in a sunny spot with rich, freedraining soil and somewhere to climb. • Plant gladioli corms – staggering planting until early November will mean a longer period of flowering. • Snow drops may be divided now – while the leaf
is still showing. • Are your tulips looking a bit short on the stem this year? This is most often caused by a lack of water about a month before they flower (though that’s unlikely this season!) or not getting enough chill over winter. Try burying them deeper or shifting them somewhere less sheltered. • Prune bush and climbing roses.