As we head into spring, there are tons of jobs you can get stuck into in the garden. We begin to clear away winter wilderness to get ready for spring splendour which, although it may not feel like it, is right around the corner. First though, we need to support the new growth getting ready to emerge. Here are my top tips to make your outside endeavours easier and give plants the love and attention they deserve.
The need to feed
1. It’s important to regularly treat your plants to feeds and fertilisers and you can find the right one for you at your local garden centre but you can also supplement their effect by adding banana skins in the soil of roses.
Either bury these whole when you’re planting, chop them up or lay them fleshy side down on top of the plot. As they decompose, potassium and nitrogen will be released and this in turn will boost plant growth.
Bananas also give off a ripening gas called ethylene, so they’ll ripen your tomato crop if you pop them in your greenhouse.
2. Egg shells are naturally high in calcium so they’re super for strengthening the cell walls of your blooms. For acidic soils, adding calcium will also help bolster most vegetable crops by increasing alkalinity and legumes like soybeans, squash, asparagus and rhubarb will love this.
To condition your soil, sprinkle mineral-rich loose tea leaves and coffee grounds over containers and borders alike, for a nitrogen kick your plants will appreciate.
3. Rhododendrons, camelias and heathers will all benefit from your disused rusty nails and brillo pads.
The rust helps release iron, which is vital for ericaceous or acid-loving plants, so leave the nails inside a full watering can for a few days and then douse your plants with the water—it’ll do them wonders.
1. Fungal disease-prone growers that are in bloom now like Galanthus (snowdrops) and winter pansies can be helped during damp weather by the likes of cinnamon which, when scattered over the surface of the soil, can deter fungus from growing with its natural but powerful anti-fungal properties.
2. For a pest-preventing measure that won’t damage your other plants, add washing up liquid and water to a spray bottle. When squirted over infested leaves, it’ll cover them with a waxy coating under which the aphids are unable to breathe, making any infestations a thing of the past.
3. Companion planting is the growing of different plant varieties near to one another, in order to enhance their growth. This method of planting can work particularly well at deterring pests. Calendula officinalis (marigolds), for instance, emit a strong odour that will repel greenfly and blackfly so they’re ideal for planting alongside your vulnerable veggies.
1. Watering your plants while you’re away needn’t be a headache, drip feed water to plants in need just by placing a damp towel in your bath tub. Bring your houseplants to sit on top of it and the roots will soak up the excess water from the towel gradually as required.
2. For outside watering, it’s important to give you plants a drink first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening.
This will ensure that outside temperatures aren’t too hot, preventing the water evaporating off the surface of the soil and giving it a chance to soak down to the plant’s roots.
3. Compacted or heavy soils that pool water on the surface, probably do so because the ground’s too dense for the water to reach the plant’s roots. For this, take a broom handle and push the end into the earth, it’ll make a tunnel for the water to travel down.
A win for wildlife
1. A truly worthwhile pastime is to support your garden’s wildlife and it can be done very easily. Just collect up some pinecones during your weekend walks and tie them together, displaying them around the garden as a habitat for ladybirds—they’ll lap up aphids, larvae, mealy bugs and mites, so they’re mighty handy to have around to keep pesky pest populations down.
2. As garden birds go into nesting season, you can help them with the task of collecting materials by simply stuffing moss, hay, twigs and grass into kitchen whisk you hang out in the garden—it’s like a bedding buffet for them. Or you can use the whisk as container to hold fat balls for them to munch on.
3. Similarly, wooden logs will shelter refuge-seeking insects and mammals from the cold. Even laying a plant pot on its side will provide a home for frogs and toads, which are great at keeping your garden’s pest populations in check too.
These clever little tricks will support the protection and prosperity of your plants for the ultimate homemade gardening homerun.
Will my olive tree produce fruit?
Olive trees are semi-hardy and they make great year-round ornamentals. They’re most likely to flower and produce reliable fruit with long exposure to hot weather but they can do so in a UK climate—my olive tree has produced fruit for the last two years. Cover with adequate protection during colder weather.
How can I plant bulbs beneath my lawn?
Galanthus (snowdrops) and Narcissus (daffodils) can both be grown beneath lawns. Planting will need to be done in Autumn for the spring flowering, just use an edging tool to cut a H shape in the turf and peel back to expose the soil, planting the bulbs at the required depth and firming down to complete.