Spring gardening

Posted on: 25 March 2013 by Gareth Hargreaves

Organic growing advice for March and April.

Tulips in springIt's the start of the growing season, an exciting time for gardeners. Our advice will help you start growing now to make sure you don't miss out on the joys of spring.

The change of the seasons is an exciting time; a time  when we can get stuck into the nitty gritty of garden maintenance and start planning for the coming summer. However, those plans more often than not ignor the needs of our pets. Our dogs and cats are as fond of the garden as we are, so it makes sense to devote some time to ensuring their is nothing in there that could do them harm. Here's our list of things to do in the garden over the coming weeks, plus a few ideas on creating a pet friendly space.  

  • Now is the time to start sowing seeds. You'll need fresh compost, seed trays, modules, fleece and netting.
  • Once you've got these you can then start to think about the food your garden can provide you with - sow peas, plant potatoes in the ground or in planters, plant out onion sets and asparagus and if you have a greenhouse sow strawberry seeds.
  • Hardy annual flowers can be planted at this time of year, and now is the time to attract beneficial insects to your garden too by sowing poached egg plants, Californian poppies and pot marigolds.
  • If you have any bare soil, sow green manures on it to ensure that the soil gets the nutrients it needs. Try mustard, phacelia or tares. Dig in overwintered green manures.
  • Apply compost or manure to overwintered crops. Mulch fruit.
  • Get soil ready by warming it under fleece, plastic sheets or cloches. It should be warm enough to sow seeds once the grass starts growing.
  • Rake the lawn to remove moss and weeds and service the mower ready for grass growth. Fork muddy patches to improve drainage, feed and re-seed as necessary.
  • Hoe to keep weeds down, on dry days. Collect the weeds to prevent re-rooting.
  • Tidy the garden, removing dead plants and so on.
  • It is also important that you've completed all winter pruning before any buds start to burst. Don't prune spring plants until they finish flowering.
  • Now is the time to be vigilant for pests multiplying as the weather warms up, so deal with them straight away before they can breed.
  • If you haven't already got one, now is the time to either invest in or build yourself a compost bin. You can visit www.homecomposting.org.uk to find out how you can build your own compost bin or buy one from The Organic Gardening Catalogue at www.theorganicgardeningcatalogue.com.

Your garden and pets

It is instinctive for dogs to dig, however, it is not behaviour that most gardeners want to encourage and it can cause health concerns, if stones and gravel get caught in paws. Keeping your dog fed and stimulated with other activities is one of the best ways of stop him from digging. You can distract them with toys, a ball, or a small morsel of food. Basic obedience training will keep your dog away from fragile plants and fertilised earth, which is particularly attractive to dogs.

Animals that eat plants, compost or manure must be dissuaded since they are at risk of getting a taste for it and transmitting disease.

An easy trick to keep your dog away from fresh garden beds is to sprinkle forbidden areas with specific pet/garden repellents that come in granule or spray form. Read instructions carefully before using any garden chemical at all. Even so called "natural" products can be dangerous to some animals. To deter cats, oil of citronella should do the trick as they hate the smell of citrus. Coleus Canina, also known as the scaredy cat plant, is very effective to repel cats and dogs. It is available from most garden centres. Another option is commercial products from your local pet shop.

Litter Box

To avoid brown patches on your lawn, create an outdoor litter box for both cats and dogs. To integrate it into the garden and offer your pet some privacy you can also surround the litter tray with plants. Make sure that the plants are safe by checking the list of poisonous plants for animals at uexplore.com

For more information about your garden and pets, read Pets in the Garden 

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