We recently caught up with our Gardener, Cliff, to ask him a few questions about what we could be doing at home at the moment to make our gardens beautiful!
What should we all be planting at the moment and why?
Under normal circumstances, most gardens are planted with the appearance in mind. In the Links House micro-climate, this would mean keeping an eye on the containers and replenishing with spring bedding plants such as violas and pansies if necessary. It is still far too early to consider refreshing with summer bedding.
Sweet peas could be planted out in the next couple of weeks, although seed should still be sown undercover. It is not too late to plant geraniums, Astrantia and oriental poppies. There is also still time to plant summer flowering bulbs such as Allium and Dierama.
Why these? Because they have a significant visual impact and will not be damaged by a late frost.
On the homegrown veg front, maincrop potatoes should be going in now. It is also time to sow beetroot, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, leeks, radish and peas outside. It is also a good time to plant soft fruit bushes and anyone who wants strawberries and has not planted them should do so immediately.
Do you have a secret tip for spring planting?
There are no big secrets in general gardening practice, although some specialist areas have odd quirks. Presumably, the general is more interesting to the target audience. Putting organic matter into the ground during the winter has a significant impact on spring planting as does subsequent feeding with Fish Blood and Bonemeal.
On the veg front, one tip if you have no greenhouse is to transplant courgette seedlings once they have two leaves and place a transparent milk container with the bottom cut off over each plant to give it a good frost-free start.
What is a mistake people always make when spring planting?
Probably the biggest cause of failure, particularly further north is frost damage arising from planting too early.
A lot of people buy small perennials from on-line nurseries and are very disappointed with their performance in the first year. If a freshly grown perennial is to have any chance of emulating the more mature counterparts it really needs to be planted in autumn the previous year before any frost gets into the ground. Then the root system has time to develop before the plant dies back. Larger, but costly garden centre perennials will perform reasonably from the outset.
What is your favourite part of spring planting?
Apart from a general eagerness at what used to be called the “quickening” of the year the visual impact of spring bedding is always a very welcome sight and reminds me of why I am doing it. It is also good to see the first bees taking advantage of my efforts!
For those of us that don’t have gardens but have balconies, what could we be planting on our balcony?
Assuming your balcony receives a reasonable amount of sun a lot of the garden flowers will do well in containers, particularly geraniums, sweet peas, lilies (but not daylilies), dahlias and phlox. For those who would like to dabble in growing some vegetables – Sweet peppers, tomatoes and courgettes grow well in pots, but they are all frost tender so may require protection with horticultural fleece on cold nights.