Monday August 02 2021




Gardening with Hannah Genders

Sow seeds of summer

Posted on February 27 2017 at 12:13:22 0 comments

Comma butterfly

Hannah Genders suggests ways to get your garden ready for the year ahead.

I do love this time of year – finally the dark days are really behind us and spring has sprung. From a gardening point of view March is a very important month.

The weather is warmer, but there can still be some cold snaps, and the plants sown outdoors don’t really start to sprout until the soil reaches six degrees or more, so a soil thermometer is a good investment as it’s sometimes hard to gauge this important change.

Veg Growing:
In the vegetable garden, seed sowing can start this month. Your beds should be mulched, laying good quality compost or well-rotted horse manure on top to protect the soil surface and increase the worm and bacterial activity in the vital growing layers of the soil. Again, this doesn’t really start to happen until the ground warms up.

Onions and shallots can be planted now – check the bulbs you buy are firm and look healthy, and just push the individual bulbs into the top layer of the cultivated soil, so that only their top shoot is showing.

Birds can be a problem in this early stage as they tend to pull up the bulbs before they root down. It doesn’t do any damage, it’s just annoying! You can protect the emerging bulbs with some fleece or lightweight garden netting.

This is also a good time to plant garlic if you haven’t already. There is a saying with planting garlic: “plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest”, but I often don’t get mine planted until March.

I use kitchen garlic that has sprouted and it seems to crop very well. Push the individual bulbs into the ground just like the onions.

All these crops need good amounts of nitrogen to get them to grow and crop well – chicken fertiliser is ideal and it can be bought in a pellet form.

Broad beans can go in now, and they are easy to grow. Although organised gardeners will have planted earlier, it’s not too late in March and for something a bit different and very attractive try the red-flowered broad bean which is a heritage variety and has deep red flowers and delicious beans.

This month is a perfect time to start plants off in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill. I’ve found that I need to do this more in my garden as we have a lot of mice eating the seeds I plant – although I manage to catch a few in humane traps and remove them, it never eradicates the problem completely so I do a lot of pre-planting.

Beans, both runner and French, and courgettes are all started off in my greenhouse, grown on until late May and then planted out.

Your Lawn:
I realise that in the fifteen years (I can hardly believe it’s that long!) that I’ve been writing gardening articles for The Village, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned lawns until now, but March is the ideal month to work on your lawn.

Complete any repairs to edges and fill in holes with good quality top soil ready for reseeding patches in April.

Excessive moss can be raked out this month and to aid drainage the whole lawn will benefit from aeration. This can be done either with a garden fork or spiked shoes on a larger area.

Finally, give the lawn a spring feed with an organic, slow-release fertiliser, and my advice is not to over-weed it – let some clover and nectar come through for the bees.

Talking of bees, it is in the early spring months that the first bumble bees appear – these are the queens that have hibernated over the winter and wake early, desperate for nectar. Early flowering plants like Hellebores, and spring bulbs such as grape hyacinth and Iris reticulata are ideal to give them this early food.

If you find a bee that is exhausted, give her a sugar boost by mixing a solution of half sugar and half water. If you put it in a saucer near the bee she should feed and regain her energy. It’s a great thing to do with children as they get to see a bee feeding close up.

There are 25 varieties of bumble bee in the UK, and they need our gardens to keep the numbers up and keep them healthy, after all they do such a vital job for us in pollinating our plants throughout the rest of the year.

One of the plants I love in my garden is the common buddleia; it looks like nothing for most of the year but in the late summer it is covered with bees and butterflies on its spiked purple flowers. It is a leggy plant that can easily get out of hand without yearly pruning and March is the time to do it.

Cut the plant back very hard – you can take it right back to just a foot above ground level. As buddleias flower on this year’s new growth, the flowers will be much larger and better after a good prune, giving more nectar to bees and butterflies and allowing you to enjoy them much better with a smaller, more manageable plant.

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