The Sunday Telegraph - Stella
Your garden angel
She’s back! Stella’s resident green-fingered expert, Alice Vincent, is here to help you with all your gardening needs. After all, we can’t let all the good work from last year go to waste...
Alice Vincent returns with tips on how to reignite passion for your plot
WE WON’T REMEMBER 2020 being good for much, but it did undeniably benefit our gardens. Turns out being legally forced to stay at home combined with one of the warmest, sunniest Aprils on record turned us all into Barbara Good for a couple of seasons. We ran supermarkets out of seeds, queued up outside garden centres, and spent our lockdown days idling in waiting rooms on nursery websites. We dug and mulched and watered and pruned. We finally came to value our gardens, and some of those without found themselves moving to get one.
A year on, and the end of lockdown is on the horizon. As we dare to dream of things that don’t involve sitting in our gardens (pub lunches! Minibreaks! Spontaneity!), how can we balance them with gaining ground on all of the hard work we put into our plots last year?
Mid-April is a good time to crack on even if you’ve not, in all honesty, given the garden a second thought through what has been a fairly cold and miserable winter. If you planted bulbs in autumn, they’ll be rewarding you now. Those that have gone over can be deadheaded and left to wither back; while the leaves are still green they’re providing vital nutrients for next year. If the lawn hasn’t been mown, no bother – doing it too early in the spring can leave heavy soils in a mess. Wait for a dry day, go slow and steady and await deep satisfaction at the horticultural equivalent of a hoover up. If you can face spending a sunny day weeding, it’s a good time to get the hoe out, too.
That warm weekend in February offered ripe opportunity to tidy up overwintered perennials, cutting back dead growth and making room for the new, but if you didn’t get the secateurs out then, it’s not too late. Perennials will be putting on new growth now, so be conscious of where you’re cutting. As a general rule, you’ll want to aim for just above a pair of leaf nodes to encourage bushy growth.
These are the kind of jobs I like to squeeze into a lunch break, or snatched between rain showers. Fifteen minutes here and there, over the course of a week, can be enough to keep on top of things.
Yes, there are seeds to be sown and beds to be cut, and perhaps this summer will be the year you finally tidy the shed and sort out the patio. But I’d also like it to be the year that you continue a familiarity with your outdoor space – whether window box or expanse of lawn – that perhaps gained new meaning last year. What I’ve loved most about my growing spaces (originally a balcony, then a garden) since last March is their sheer presence: the fact that I can pop out with a cup of tea, in the gap between getting dressed and breakfast. If I can keep that habit up as the world slowly eases back into a louder rhythm, I’ll have clung to one of my favourite lockdown leftovers.
Fifteen minutes here and there can be enough
to keep on top things