Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Old Fashioned Winter – Keep cool in your garden

What an old fashioned winter, it‘s been! Old country lore is that it‘s ‘February fill dyke‘, but it‘s not just the rain that‘s done the damage, the melted snow has turned the whole garden into a sodden puddle of clay and filled nearby ditches as well! The grass around my fruit trees is waterlogged, the soil in the borders is cold and claggy yet despite it all, snowdrops and daffodils are starting to show, as welcome reminders that spring is on its way! I went to the garden centre this morning and it was filled with smiling gardeners, blinking at the sun. Everyone‘s desperate to get into the garden, yet the shrewd one‘s will wait until the soil dries out before going on the soil. Walking on wet soil damages the structure, cultivating the soil is damaging too and seeds sown in heavy soils sit there and do nothing or simply rot away. Be patient!

Wait until the soil warms up before sowing, don‘t walk on the lawn as this causes surface compaction; in fact, if you are thinking of doing anything which involves walking on or working the soil -just don‘t! You will be much better off to wait, once the soil dries out and warms up, seeds will germinate rapidly and everything will soon catch up. If you‘re preparing to sow vegetables, cover the soil with clear polythene (it is more effective than dark polythene) a sheet of glass, or a cloche, it will raise the soil temperature and dry off the surface making a warm, crumbly seedbed, within the next few weeks. While you are out in the garden feed plums, pears and apples, with sulphate of potash at 15g/m sq and sulphate of ammonia at 65g/m to encourage good growth and high yields later in the year.

Once your ‘Christmas Cactus‘ has finished flowering, give it a about two months rest in a cool room, allowing the compost surface to dry out before re-watering. Then, once the danger of frost has passed, put it outside under the dappled shade of a bush or tree. Keep the compost moist but make sure it does not become waterlogged if there‘s heavy rain. Feed it every two weeks, with high potash fertiliser, from late spring until the flower buds appear, then bring it indoors in late summer or early autumn, for a bigger, better display next winter.

Love or loath them, you can‘t impossible ignore the annual forsythia frenzy of early spring. Even critics have to admit that retina searing yellow of Forsythia intermedia ‘Spectabilis‘ is the perfect ‘blues buster‘ after months of dull winter weather. However, not all forsythias are bold and brassy, if you‘re looking for something more delicate and subdued Forsythia suspensa ‘Nymans‘ has dark stems, pale yellow flowers and bronzy new leaves and compact varieties, Forsythia viridissima ‘Bronxensis‘ and Forsythia x intermedia ‘Minigold‘ are perfect for the smaller garden. My personal favourite Forsythia giraldiana, produces delicate flowers on long arching stems from late February. It‘s magnificent and worth seeking out!

Happy Gardening, Matt