Notes from the Garden – Spring

gardenSpring is the time when suddenly one is tempted into the garden, perhaps only briefly to look at snowdrops or crocuses, or to venture into the greenhouse, or perhaps, as a keen gardener, to check on progress from last year’s work. Whether you are an armchair gardener or a ‘son of the soil,’ Matt Biggs has some ideas to make sure your outdoor space is both productive and attractive…

This is a great time in the garden, everything is green and fresh, and with the yellows and purples of crocuses and daffodils it really is an optimistic moment, and a time when we want to enjoy what we have and anticipate what is to come. However, this does necessitate a bit of work so there are a few absolute essentials to do, and some fun stuff too.

A few jobs for early Spring.

Now is the time to prune bush & climbing roses. A good pair of gloves and really good secateurs will make this one so much quicker and the sharp secateurs will prevent damage to stems.

There are some beautiful summer flowering bulbs …. so we need to plant these along with shallots, onion sets and early potatoes. If you don’t have a dedicated veg patch there are other options and you can easily incorporate some herbs and veggies into your borders and even your ornamental pots and baskets. 2

If some of your favourite perennials have outgrown their space divide them and perhaps use what you take away in other parts of the garden, or share with gardening chums, or pot some up for plant sales or charity sales later in the year.

Get out the hoe and give the weeds a shock, you can then mulch to keep them at bay.

If it is dry enough give the lawn a mow.

Make a list of the seeds that you want to sow and a rough plan of where they will go, that way you wont over buy and can use your time to grow what you really want to see in your garden and to eat from it too!

That is a few jobs tackled, now it is time to be creative with borders….

As with everything in life, fashions change and although we may all aspire to serried ranks of perfect cabbages and pillars of beans, somehow life doesn’t always allow us time to achieve that – but there are some great options to incorporate the veggies and herbs into your garden amongst the flowers. There is the classic parterre garden which is a delightful mix of fruit, flowers and veggies and these arrangements have a lot of benefits, not all of them immediately obvious, such as the opportunity to companion plant using plants that deter pests alongside the crops that suffer from them.

Herbs are a great start to adding edible, useful things to your borders. Chives, rosemary, thyme, all of these are easily incorporated and as long as you make sure that your soil isn’t too rich for them, or pop them in an old sink or container within the border, they will thrive and add so much to your culinary options.

Hanging baskets don’t just have to contain petunias, plant a couple of herb ones – this is an easy way to make sure your herbs get the ideal soil and drainage conditions and if you hang them near the kitchen you don’t have to trek down the garden for a sprig of thyme for the Sunday roast. Dill, Thyme, sage, mint there are so many options.Tomatoes can also be grown in hanging baskets – a tumbling hybrid cherry tomato is a great choice – traditional tomatoes don’t work but these small, sweet ones are ideal and there is nothing like the taste of a freshly picked sun warm tomato!

For borders, a sure option is chard, looks fabulous and is so useful, and some of the ones with coloured leaves are real show stoppers. Rainbow chard and ruby chard both produce fabulous colours and blend wonderfully into a hot colour scheme too, so you get great food and great design in one go! You can pick the leaves individually over the summer, regular picking ensures a supply of tender leaves – and unlike spinach it is less likely to go to seed if you forget to water in dry weather.

There is really no end to the ways you can incorporate the things you want to eat with the things you want to see – and as Leo Tolstoy said “Spring is the time of plans and projects.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

Matthew Biggs is a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Gardeners’ Question Time and author of a number of gardening books. He writes regularly for several magazines, including ‘BBC Gardeners’ World’ magazine, ‘Gardens Illustrated’ and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Magazine, ‘The Garden’. To find out more www.matthewbiggs.com