Tips to get ahead on summer GardeningPosted on: 23 May 2017 by 50connect editorial
As the sun finally starts to break through the clouds and the winter frosts give way to green buds and longer days, it’s fair to say that spring is in the air.
Experienced gardeners know that this is the perfect time to start preparing your garden for the season ahead. There are plenty of little jobs that you can get on top of before growing season gets into full swing, to make everything a little bit easier and your garden a little more fruitful. We’ve asked some experts for their top tips, so you can get ahead on your spring gardening like a pro.
Prep garden tools
Your tools have probably been sitting around all winter, so now is the time to make sure that they’re going to be ready for the job. Tools that have been sitting in the shed can be washed with soap and water, and wooden handles treated with mineral spirits to prevent the wood from splintering. This is also a good time to sharpen your lawnmower blades and secateurs, to make sure your equipment is as effective as possible.
Clear drainage ditches
Leaves and debris tend to gather in your drainage areas over the winter months, which can stop those spring rains from draining away from your soil. This can lead to your delicate seedlings getting drowned in the rainfall. Vegetative growth tends to be at its lowest in early spring, so this is the perfect time to clear dead leaves and branches into the compost, ready to help your garden instead of hinder it.
Mulch bare spots
Covering bare spots with mulch is another good way to keep the weeds at bay. Add mulch to a depth of around 3-4 inches, which should usually be enough to keep down any unwanted growth. Keep mulch a few inches away from the trunks, crowns, and stems of plants to help reduce rot on the stems of young plants and protect bark on young fruit trees.
The whipping winds, frost and rain of autumn and winter can leave your garden looking a little dishevelled come spring. Start things right by having a good clean up before you start working on your garden in earnest. Clear away broken branches, leaves and other debris from your lawn and beds. Doing this early will help you avoid stepping on delicate new growth as you clean out the beds.
Top dress garden beds
Once it is dry enough, you will want to ‘top dress’ the garden beds with compost or well-seasoned manure. This will help to prepare your beds for a new season of planting. Resist the urge to dig the bed at this point, as established beds tend to have complex ecosystems that will do better undisturbed.
Spring is the perfect time to start getting weeds under control in your garden, as their roots are still shallow. Pull them up as they appear, or use plastic sheeting to keep them at bay before the year’s planting begins.
Prepare your lawn
Now is the time to get your lawn prepared, so you can promote new growth for a lush lawn come summer. Start off by raking the lawn to remove dead growth and winter debris, as this will help bring light and air to soil level. You can also re-seed any bare patches and over-seed areas of the lawn that are a little thin. Cutting the grass with the blade set high can also be a good tactic, as this removes tussock-forming grasses before they get chance to take over.
If you time the perennial division when the emerging shoots are only 2-4 inches tall, this will make your job a little easier. Planting perennial flowers in a good thick layer of organic matter is essential if you want to minimise their risk of suffering from a summer drought. Established perennial beds should also be cleared of old plant debris at this point in the year, before being mulched to prevent weed growth.
Prepare for pests
As the weather picks up, and all our favourite plants start to bloom, another less-welcome presence makes itself known in the garden. Pests. From snails and slugs to ants and grasshoppers, all manner of visitors will make their way to your garden in spring – often munching on all your favourite flowers, grasses and trees. So, it’s important to be prepared for their invasions.
Make a plan
It can be tempting to just plant things where they will fit or look prettiest, but making a plan of your garden before you start is a great way to make sure it thrives. Identify your soil type and see which flowers and vegetables are most likely to grow. Different plants can be placed together to ward off each other’s natural predators. You can also layer your planting to give you different bursts of colour blooming throughout the season.
Prune shrubs and trees
This is the right time of year to prune unwanted branches off trees and shrubs, just as the new growth has started. Any remaining dead perennial foliage should be cut back, and roses pruned before they start to bud. Fruit trees should be pruned earlier, as the stress of pruning once they’re breaking into bloom can result in a reduced crop.
You can get ahead of the season by starting some flowers and other plants from seeds indoors a few weeks before it is warm enough to move them outdoors. This will save you money on purchasing ready-raised seedlings from a nursery once the season is underway. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can just repurpose a bit of sunny windowsill to get things started.
Time for lime
If your soil pH is below 6.2, adding lime is a good way to reduce the acidity and make it easier for your plants to thrive. Lime should be added several weeks before planting, as it takes time for the lime to take effect. You can determine your soil’s pH with a soil pH testing kit.
Anything that is planted in the early spring tends to be vulnerable to the hard frosts which can set in overnight at this time of year. To protect your seedlings, you can cover them overnight with anything you have to hand – ensuring they are kept safe from the damaging effects of an oncoming frost.
Plant out bulbs
And finally, to the exciting part of spring gardening – picking your flower array for the year and getting the bulbs planted out into the garden. Much of the hard work over the early stretches of spring were planned for this moment, so consult your plan from step 11 and plant out all those bulbs destined to bloom beautifully.
And now, relax. It’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour and revel in your lovingly-crafted spring garden.
For more summer gardening tips, visit Capital Gardens
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