The start of spring is the ideal time to lay the groundwork for eye-catching summer displays in gardens, window boxes and on terraces or balconies.
Sowing and planting out bedding can begin. And while weeding may not be the most glamorous of gardening tasks, tackling it early will pay dividends in creating beautiful borders, beds and pots, according to the experts at Fulham Horticultural Society.
After an April with the third lowest minimum temperatures since records began in 1884, combined with low rainfall, the dry and frosty conditions have been a challenge. But as the mercury rises and rainclouds fill the sky, there is plenty to keep gardeners busy this month.
Take caution with flowers
While the cheerful colours of daffodils and crocuses are fading, “do not be too hasty in cutting off the foliage from bulbs”, advises FHS honorary secretary Nicole Coleman. “The foliage is needed to help the bulbs build up reserves for next spring,” she explains. “Leave the foliage for at least six weeks after flowering.”
As the bulbs lose their sparkle, biennials and short-lived perennials can be grown from seed before being transplanted later in the year to a prime position for flowering.
Wallflowers, forget-me-nots and biennial flowers such as honesty and Canterbury bells can be sown from seed now to bring a splash of colour, while nasturtiums can be sown outside towards the end of spring.
Growing fruit or veg
For gardeners keen to produce some fresh and tasty crops, now is a good time to start sowing runner beans and dwarf French beans, advises FHS, which is celebrating its 97th year in the borough.
“Sow the seeds into 9cm pots of multipurpose compost and place on a warm windowsill,” explains Nicole. “These can then be moved to a cold frame once germinated, so that the plants acclimatise gradually before being planted outside towards the end of this month.”
Any gardener, whether new to planting or with decades of experience, will attest to the trials of dealing with weeds, especially as the weather warms up and pesky roots and leaves take hold.
Hoes, hand forks and border forks can make all the difference and hoeing bare ground will keep down weeds as they germinate.
“Weeds are much easier to kill off at this stage, rather than when they are larger,” adds Nicole. “It also allows them less opportunity to set seeds. Mulching with organic matter will also help prevent the growth of further weeds.”
While the past month has been a challenge for gardeners, there is hope ahead as the weather looks set to improve, although gardeners should be prepared for more frosts, the Royal Horticultural Society’s chief horticulturist Guy Barter told the Met Office.
“Considerable damage has been experienced in many gardens with flowers such as camellia and magnolias being scorched,” he said.
“Watering before sowing and after planting are now necessary, but after such a wet autumn and winter there is plenty of water lower down in the soil that established plants can access.”
The Fulham Horticultural Society is open to all and welcomes new members. Visit the Fulham Horticultural Society website for more details.
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