Throughout the country, the variable weather continues. Several weeks of hot days and cold nights with a niggling, chilling wind have turned this into a long and beautiful spring for blossom yet low rainfall and cold nights are still affecting the gardener.
Although it is May and garden centres are awash with beautiful bedding, resist the temptation to buy until you are certain that frosty nights are over, buy early; regret later. You can still plant up your hanging baskets and put them in the greenhouse, so they are flourishing before putting them outside. It is worth buying your plants from a supplier with a good reputation, prices may be a bit higher but the choice should be greater, the quality higher and if there’s a high turnover, they will be healthy and won’t have been standing around on the benches for too long.
Choose your plants carefully for sun or shade; select colours that work well together in bright or pastel tones and roughly work out how many you need beforehand to save the cost of impulse buying. The plants should be compact, pest and disease free and the leaves should not be yellow, make sure there aren’t masses of roots growing through the drainage holes and that the compost is moist. When you do finally buy bedding plants for outdoors, acclimatise them for a couple of weeks in the green house, leaving them outside during the day and bring them into the glasshouse at night. When they’re finally planted out, give your new plants a boost by watering in with liquid general fertiliser.
I bought a wonderful old hoe from a garden shop a while back – what a bonus! The worn blade is thin, sharp and cuts like a knife, perfect for the lush young weeds that are popping up everywhere. There is always a file in my back pocket, too, to keep the blade sharp, so it always cuts with maximum efficiency (regular filing is needed, particularly on stony ground, which blunts the edge). It may be old, but in this case the older the better.
Plants for the exotic border will stay under cover until the weather warms up. Tomatoes and cucumbers which are waiting to take their place can be potted into larger pots. I bought a selection of Californian annuals which will be sown in modules ready for transplanting outdoors when the weather warms up. It is also a good time to sow hardy annuals, a cheap and colourful way to perk up any bare patches in the garden. They can be planted in modules and transplanted later or sown directly in ‘drifts’ on soil that is raked to create a fine seedbed. Mark out the shapes with sharp sand then sow the seeds in straight lines, making it easier to decide which are seedlings when it comes to weeding; the lines will disappear once the plants have grown taller. Remember… don’t discard your winter clothing till May is out!
Happy gardening, Matt