Early spring weather can be notoriously difficult to predict. It can be bitterly windy, blissfully warm, rainy or snowy, sometimes all in one day. Aldbury with its rural aspects has its own meteorological characteristics, it is often one or two degrees cooler here and the garden takes a little longer to warm up.
Rather like testing the bath water with your elbow, placing a hand on the soil can tell you much about its readiness. Cloches or black/clear terrain coverings with drainage holes can be employed to draw the warmth on sunny days.
Bearing this in mind, and throwing caution to the wind (March isn’t as windy as it used to be, famous last words) you could start on the following jobs. By the end of the month, with BST on the 27th and lengthening days, the tasks will be gathering up.
If you have not already done so, prune bush and shrub roses removing any unhealthy wood and any shoots which are crossing or rubbing. Don’t be afraid to prune hard and you will rewarded by more vigorous growth. Finish pruning late flowering shrubs such as buddleia.
Cut down old, brown and crispy growth on perennials. If there are new shoots, you can take cuttings from the base. Pot up and the new plant could be swapped at the Garden Club’s Plant Sales in May. Look out for dates in the April blog.
Look over your daffodils and tulips and determine which ones you could put into the Spring Show on 3rd April. Entry forms and information coming your way. Some Shows we have masses of daffodil entries and not many tulips, sometimes the complete reverse. That’s what makes the event enjoyably unpredictable.
Don’t go rushing down to the garden centres and be ambushed into buying tender not to say pampered plants unless you can keep them safely undercover. Even then a bit risky and potentially disappointing in the pocket.
Divide snowdrops or wait until the local garden centre jettisons them after flowering. Better “in the green” than dried up bulbs wrapped in plastic bags.
There is plenty of time to sow seeds inside or out. Bring the compost inside or in a greenhouse to warm up. Save the planet and use mushroom or grape cartons as containers, not forgetting to make drainage holes. They fit really well on the window sill too.
So, keeping half an eye on the weather and hand on the soil perhaps, outside sowings could begin of hardy annual English marigold, larkspur, cornflowers, love in the mist. Hardy vegetable parsnips, peas, leeks, carrots, sprouting broccoli, spring onions are recommended to sow but only if the weather is mild and with the aid of afore mentioned cloches. Plant early potatoes, onion sets. Mow the lawn and reseed any bare patches. From now on though jobs will be proliferating.
On joining join the Garden Club (for £3 annual sub and unique password) you can purchase seeds from Suttons for a 50% discount and 15% on sundries. Chiltern Seeds are also a very well established seed company. Their catalogue is a good informative read and is full of interesting and appealing seeds exotic and otherwise (www.chilternseeds.co.uk).
Just to mention some gardens to visit, Waddesden Manor in Buckinghamshire have a wonderful spring display as well as Waterperry Gardens in Oxford. Further afield, I have to to mention the rather quirkily named Petronella’s Hospital for Leprous Maidens in Bury St Edmunds where you can view wild tulips (courtesy of Richard Mabel from his Flora Britannica”).