Get your garden into condition
GROW MINT IN CONTAINERS
Mint is a must-have herb for spring and it’s dead easy to grow – so easy in fact, it can become a bit of a pest that can take over vege beds.
An easy way around this problem is to grow mint in pots. That way its creeping roots are kept contained and you can keep the pot close to the house for easier access and harvesting.
The simplest way to grow mint is to buy a young plant from the garden centre, but you can also strike cuttings easily from plants you have already. Place the cut stems into a jar of water and they will sprout roots within a couple of weeks. They can be planted out soon afterwards. If you’re after a lot of plants, mint can be raised from seed any time from now until early autumn, but it won’t mature until the following season. Raise in trays and transplant seedlings to 30cm apart. Established mint plants will also be bursting back into leaf now so if you haven’t yet tidied up your clumps and removed the dead or straggly winter growth, do it now.
SOW & GROW SWEET PEAS FOR LATE SUMMER
If you didn’t get sweet peas sown in autumn or winter you can still do it now for a beautiful show during late summer. There’s nothing quite like the scent or sight of these beautiful flowers winding their way up a trellis, cascading out of a hanging basket or along a fence, and the blooms last extremely well in a vase.
Sweet peas grow best in a sunny position in the garden, with fertile, free-draining soil. Climbing varieties will require something to clamber up, like a frame, obelisk or trellis, while dwarf varieties are perfect for small pots or hanging baskets.
Sweet peas are best sown directly where you want them to grow but can also be raised in trays. To sow in the garden, press a couple of seeds into a shallow hole, spaced 10-15cm apart. Germination (in optimum conditions) takes up to a fortnight so be patient and water regularly to keep them from drying out. Sweet pea seedlings are irresistible to snails and slugs so keep them well protected with bait to prevent them being chewed down to the ground.
To encourage strong side shoots, pinch out the tips when seedlings have grown to around 10cm.
A great tip from the Kings Seeds blog is to add Epsom salts to the soil which adds a boost of magnesium that increases both the colour intensity and perfume of the flowers.
Once your sweet peas begin flowering, pick blooms regularly to ensure a continuous supply.
KEEP PLANTING STRAWBERRIES
You can never have too many strawberries and there’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a perfectly sun-ripened berry you’ve grown yourself! Strawberry plants at garden centres are already in flower, which means, if you plant them now, you’ll only have about a month to wait before those first fruit will be ripe and ready to harvest. Grow strawberries on mounds in fertile soil in full sun, spacing plants 20-30cm apart. Strawberries grow very well in containers and hanging baskets too. Use a goodquality strawberry growing mix which has everything they need to get off to a flying start.
GET SET FOR SUMMER WATERING
While the heat of summer is still a long way off, preparing yourself properly for watering means your garden is less likely to suffer. Buy a decent hose – one that can reach all areas of your garden, install an irrigation system, sprinklers or even just a good size watering can for when the truly hot weather starts. Once plants become heatstressed, they rarely recover, and if you grow your vegetables in containers, watering is even more important, as moisture is lost much faster than in a regular garden.
KEEP WATCH ON YOUR VEGE SEEDLINGS
Check your spring seedlings daily.If your vege seedlings are growing in trays under cover, make sure you let the light each day. Opening up the vents of tunnel houses and cloches will prevent young crops from being fried during the heat of the day.