Monday 22 January 2018

Putting the -ing into spring

Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Weeding, feeding, sowing, mulching, spraying, staking, cleaning, watering.

This is the list of ings or jobs to do I compiled on a list as I walked around the garden this week. In the garden spring and another -ing, working , go hand in hand. But also for me, enjoying.

So what do these jobs entailed that need such urgent attention?

Weeding of borders, lawns, driveways and patios is possibly the single most important and unwanted job right now. Let your weed situation get out of control and an hours work can become a days or longer. Let these weeds seed and you are inviting problems for years to come. One years seed's is seven years' weeds is a much used and true gardening expression.

Hoeing, spraying and digging are all options. Knowing your weed is important too. Annual weeds can be hoed on a sunny day but for perennials this will only cut of their tops allowing them to re-shoot again. Digging making sure that all the roots are removed will works for some perennial weeds, dandelions, docks and buttercups. Others like ground elder, bindweed and the dreaded horse or mare's tail need repeated spraying with a glyphosate based weed killer.

Feeding plant beds and lawns is very often neglected as an important spring task. Plants in general can get by without it. Or so we think. This is a false economy because strong healthy plants and lawns help reduce weeds and pests and diseases. Annual feeding can save you time and money on expensive remedial works at a later date. Apply lawn weed and feed now and top dress, scatter fertiliser, around your borders and fruit areas. There are many fertiliser types to choose from, organic or man, made so have a word with your garden centre about the best option for your needs.

Sowing of vegetables is at its height now. Repeat sow lettuces and salad crops for a continuous supply. French and runner beans can be sown out as can tender crops like courgettes. Annuals can also now be sown in situ in your flower borders. Night scented stock is a lovely options near the house where their delicious scent can be appreciated. Poppies and the wonderfully named Love in the Mist [ Nigella] are also great. Prepare small areas of soil by lightly digging and breaking up. Sow directly into these areas, lightly firm and rake. Mark with a label until the seedlings are showing.

Mulching with organic matter is hugely beneficial to all planting. Whether it is your own compost, FYM [farmyard manure] or bark mulch. Mulching reduces watering, keeps weeds down and improves soil structures. If using bark the fine grade is the best option, it looks better and stays in place on windy sites. There is a concern that as bark breaks down it uses nutrients from the soil as it does so. While this can true, particularly with large grade mulches, it only affects the top skim of soil and any annual fertilising rectifies this.

Spraying at this time of year doesn't solely relate to weed treatments. Roses can be sprayed to keep them clear of blackspot, rust and aphids. Don't spray your roses just for the sake of it as many varieties are quite disease resistant these days. Take a year to get to know which of your roses are more vulnerable make a note and spray only these in future.

There are great products on the market now for spraying on box hedges that feed and also keep the increasingly problematic box blight at bay. While not cheap I would recommend that if you have box hedges that you invest in this treatment. It could save you heartbreak later.

Staking of herbaceous perennials is a job that might seem a little premature as they may only be 6 or 8 inches high at the moment. Not all perennials need staking, including some tall varieties but is something you learn from experience. By putting in a support framework now however the plant will work itself into this and produce a better specimen. Paeony and delphinium are two plants of note that in a few weeks time you may find flattened one bright sunny morning.

Cleaning your patio for the long hot summer ahead can be done now. No matter where you live all patios get grubby whether from atmospheric pollution or general footfall wear and tear. A simple jet wash can reinvigorate from the winters slim and grime.

It might be early to consider watering but for newly planted bareroot trees and hedging it is something to keep an eye on. These plants that were planted with out soil attached to their roots are particularly vulnerable to drying out even this early in the season.

The only job on my list without the suffix -ing involved slugs. I don't think slugging is a term used in this respect. It is however top of my list, as you are aware we breed champions here in Ireland. Let the battle commence.

Wexford People

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