The Perfect Spring Garden
No matter whether you’re an amateur or an experienced gardener, spring propels us outside with the urge to create something new and lovely in our gardens. So what help and advice can our local Boroughbridge garden centres offer us?
March is the time when frosts recede, temperatures inch upwards and the sun creeps sheepishly back into our lives. Gardens burst back into life, revealing carpets of snowdrops and crocuses, cheery daffodils and bright tulip buds. Inspired by the multi-coloured carpet of crocuses on Harrogate’s Stray, and motivated by the delicious displays at Studley Royal’s Georgian waterpark, your thoughts should be turning to the great outdoors.
The worst of the winter is hopefully over for this nation of gardeners and the growing season is almost upon us. Gardens all around North Yorkshire are metamorphosing from lifeless gloom to activity; birds are merrily squawking and bulbs pushing up everywhere. But when both you and your garden have been studiously avoiding each other since November, where do you start to reacquaint yourselves?
March is actually one of the busiest months in the garden so it’s time to get cracking. Luckily for the people of Boroughbridge, Jim Baker from local garden centre Hardwicks is on hand to help you out. “Getting advice from your local garden centre can be very helpful; obviously we know the soils and growing conditions around here, what will grow and what struggles. We get a lot of first-time gardeners coming armed with questions and we’re always pleased to be able to help.”
March is actually one of the busiest months in the garden.
Although there is so much to do in the garden in March, all the gardening experts advise caution. Always wait until you’re fairly certain the worst of the frosts are over – particularly relevant to our soggy and chilly North Yorkshire climate. “Young plants are at their most vulnerable when newly planted,” claims Jim. “Late frosts and snow can easily kill them off.”
So here’s how to pull your garden back together again…
Firstly, attend to the basics and start the tidy up. Clean tools and greenhouses, oil the lawnmower and sharpen the blades. It’s very important to rake over your lawn before mowing it for the first time this year. “Raking over the lawn and removing dead leaves aerates the grass, encouraging it to grown again,” explains Jane Bennett of Green Sleeves Lawn Care Ltd.
Remove old growth and garden debris from the flower beds and sprinkle them with compost. Start weeding and remember that as the weather warms up, the weeds will persist in returning, so be prepared for long-term battle. Now is also the time divide and move any deciduous shrubs before they start flowering, but absolutely the most enjoyable element of spring gardening is planning and buying your summer-flowering bulbs for planting out now.
Both Hardwicks and Boroughbridge Garden Centre have a plentiful supply of summer-flowering bulbs. “Lilies and gladioli are very popular as they bring an instant shot of colour to beds and perk up your garden,” says Alan March from Boroughbridge Garden Centre. Other flowers and shrubs that add interest and vibrancy to gardens include buddleia, better known as butterfly bushes as butterflies swarm over them – brilliant for the environment – hydrangeas and potentilla. Potentilla is perfect for novice gardeners as it is so easy to grow and spreads madly. And, of course, the nation’s favourite, delicate roses in many colours and types, which add fragrance to any garden and also attract bees.
You can also get ahead of the game in your vegetable garden or allotment by preparing the ground, digging it over and weeding in March. If the ground is not frozen, sow onions, radishes, spinach, leeks, garlic and some hardy lettuces straight into the soil. Now is also the right time to sow early broad beans and peas in compost for planting out towards the end of the month; courgettes and lettuce should also be sown under glass. Greenhouse crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and fiery chillies can also be sown in March. It’s still too early to plant potatoes outside but you can get on with chitting (sprouting) them indoors.
If you’re growing a fruit crop, plant out raspberry canes, and cover strawberries with cloches to protect them against late frosts. Add mulch around the base of fruit trees and prune them back before the buds start to open.
And don’t neglect the wildlife; if you have fed your garden birds on seeds and nuts throughout the winter, continue to do so as they will have learnt to rely on your food supply to survive. If appropriate, put up nesting boxes to encourage roosting birds.
Spring is also the perfect time to start planning alterations and long-term improvements in a garden. Dave Dyson of Cascade Garden and Aquatic Centre in Bishop Monkton just outside Boroughbridge is something of a specialist in water gardens, ponds and fish. “People come from the villages all around Boroughbridge to ask about creating water features. We can help with design and construction, pond filters and even supply the fish,” says Dave. “We are specialists in koi, tropical and marine fish as well as being able to supply plantings for ponds and as we are local we’re always on hand to help our customers with any problems that crop up.”
And remember that anyone can cultivate plants; it doesn’t matter whether you have a large garden, an allotment or a little courtyard. Even if you only have a window box, plant it with mint and parsley, rocket or unusual lettuce seeds to enjoy your own cut-and-come-again fresh produce across the summer. Just make sure that the containers you use to grow the seeds and seedlings have got drainage. “Save money by growing your plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs from seed.” suggests Jim Baker.
The bounteous results of all your careful planning, planting and nurturing over the next few weeks will pay off in shed loads all summer long. Share any extra veg or herbs with your neighbours, take cuttings from their plants and swap hints over the garden fence, hopefully making new friends at the same time.
And if you’re after a perfect spring garden for 2015, get planning now. For that cheering carpet of snowdrops and crocuses nosing up through the ground and heralding the end of winter, plant your bulbs in clumps for best effect and plant them now.