Get in trim for blooms
Don’t be shy when pruning fuchsias and remove dead tulip flowers, says Mary Lovell-smith, but let the leaves remain on bulbs.
EDIBLES • Sow courgette and pumpkin seeds in trays under cover but hold off planting them as well as tomatoes, aubergines and peppers for at least another fortnight in all but the warmest districts – until the ground dries and warms up, air temperatures lift, and the weather is a little more settled. • In the meantime, make sure the beds are ready for them by ensuring they are clear of weeds and mix in plenty of organic matter, preferably compost, or sheep pellets. Pile it on top if you’re a fan of the no-dig method of gardening. • Tomatoes like a sunny spot with good airflow – to
help combat fungal diseases that can beset them. • Courgettes, aubergines, peppers and pumpkins are also sun lovers, while generally, leafy crops will cope with a bit of shade. • Swot up on what tomato varieties you like best – big and fleshy for cooking, small and sweet to pop in your mouth, acid-free… Each year garden centres and farmer’s markets and the like seem to stock more and more varieties – an almost overwhelming choice, and it pays to have a rough idea of your preferences. Failing that, buy several different types. • Carrots, leeks, onions, parsnips and radishes may be sown direct into the garden. A fine tilth will yield the best results – both in germination rates and health of plants. Hold off sowing corn outside for another fortnight or so. • Netting might be needed over strawberries to stop
birds picking off the fruit as it ripens.
ORNAMENTALS • Prune flowering shrubs and trees once flowering
is finished. • Remove dead flowers from tulips to stop them setting seed – it can take up to 30 per cent of the bulb’s energy – which could be better employed growing the bulb and its offsets. • All bulbs’ leaves should not be removed for at least
eight weeks after flowering as bulb regeneration occurs via photosynthesis through the leaves. Generally, when the leaves go yellow it is OK to remove them. Note, though, that this serves no other purpose than to make the garden look tidier.
• As they reproduce readily from seed, the likes of sparaxis, freesia and muscari (sailor boys) should be removed, rather than allow them to naturalise.
• Feed spring-flowering bulbs with a liquid fertiliser, or mulch around them with compost.
• A firm hand pruning fuchsias will encourage an abundance of blooms.
• Lightly rake lawns to remove old plant debris and alleviate the stifling effects of thatching.