Spring To-do list
The weather may still have a sting in its tail, but September 1 is usually considered the first day of spring – and we have work to do! Sowing, planting, feeding, taking cuttings, and pest and weed control are part of the spring garden’s to-do list. Sched
WHAT TO PLANT NOW
• Sow or plant ageratums, alyssum, amaranthus, Ammi majus, asters, balsam, bells of Ireland, California poppies, carnations, catmint, celosias, chrysanthemums, coleus, coreopsis, corn cockles, cornflowers, cosmos, dianthus, echinacea, everlasting daisies, gerberas, godetias, globe amaranth, gypsophila, honesty, impatiens, larkspurs, lavatera, lobelias, marigolds, nasturtiums, petunias, phlox, portulaca, primulas, Queen Anne's lace, rudbeckias, salvias, snapdragons, statice, sunflowers, verbascums, verbena, wallflowers and zinnias.
• Note: Whether you sow seed or plant punnets of seedlings will be dictated by your climate. Wait till the risk of frosts has passed for most annuals. In early spring it's best to sow in trays indoors, but later in the season you can simply scatter seed directly in your garden.
• To ensure a constant show until autumn, especially if picking, sow a batch of annuals every 3-4 weeks.
• Plant dahlia tubers in an open, sunny position with shelter from wind and a compost-enriched soil that is free-draining. The ground shouldn't be overly rich or you might encourage soft, sappy growth that breaks easily and attracts diseases.
• Plant summer bulbs like gladioli, tuberous begonias and lilies after the risk of frosts has passed.
BEDS AND BORDERS
• Sow wildflower meadows. Spray off grass and weeds first or they may outgrow your wildflowers. Spray with Roundup or organic Nature's Way Greenscape, then lightly cultivate the soil (to 50mm for sandy soil or 100mm for clay soil) and let it settle. Wait a couple of weeks for residue weed seeds to germinate, then spray again. When they die, rake the surface. Mix seed with coarse sand (one part seed to roughly 15 parts sand) to get even distribution and sow. Lightly rake or water the seed into the soil. Keep your seed bed moist until seedlings are growing well.
• Stake perennials at planting to avoid crisis and damage later on from wind and rain.
• Tidy existing perennials by removing old leaves. Lay down slug and snail bait to keep pests away from new shoots.
• Set up irrigation or check existing systems for leaks. Lay mulch in late spring to conserve soil moisture during the drier months to come.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
• Feed potted flowers with a handful of slow-release fertiliser and water in. Refresh potting mix now too. • Yellowing gardenias that have had a rough time in winter will respond to Epsom salts. • Feed lawns. Nothing sets off a flower border like a luscious green lawn.
• Give roses a feed now. If the food is aged, organic and smells foul, your roses will love it. Sheep pellets are superb. If you're near a beach, there's nothing better than seaweed or seagrass, but spread it out, hose it down to remove some of the salt and leave it for a few days before you chop it up and put it on your rose beds.
• Bulbs don’t need fertiliser to flower. Apply specialist bulb food after they've bloomed – that's when they store food to form next year's flowers.
• Deadhead roses in late spring, after the first flush of blooms.
• As a general rule spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned – for shape, vigour and to encourage new growth – immediately after they've finished flowering.
• Tidy up sasanqua camellia hedges, daphne and forsythia as well as scented boronia.
• Resist the urge to tie the dying foliage of bulbs in knots or mow off the tops of bulbs naturalised in your lawn. While it's green, the foliage is still photosynthesising and feeding the bulbs below.
• Early spring is your last chance to divide perennials before they romp into growth, especially hostas, sedums and campanulas. Use a spade or knife to split your plants.
• Fuchsias and pelargoniums will root readily in a jar of water.
• Harvest hellebore seed and remember it is always best to sow it fresh. Seedlings will bloom in two years.
“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” MARK TWAIN, TOMSAWYER,DETECTIVE