Spring must be every gardener’s favourite season of the year. Winter is behind us and plants are starting to grow, the bulbs are coming up through the soil and the days are lengthening. So starts the gardeners frenzy as spring is by far the busiest season of them all. There are flowers and vegetable seeds to be sown, shrubs to prune, lawns to mow and general tidying to be done after the long winter months. Weeds and pests are starting to appear, ready and waiting to demolish the progress our plants, shrubs and seedlings have made. The freshly cleaned greenhouses and cloches are all ready for early sowings to get a head start. So come on get cracking!
Spring checklist of what needs doing
- Check all plants for evidence of pests and diseases. Early treatment often prevents major problems developing.
- Divide overcrowded clumps of perennials and replant young sections.
- Sow hardy annuals where they are to grow in flowerbeds outdoors.
- Take softwood cuttings of greenhouse plants such as pelargoniums and chrysanthemums.
- Allow spring bulbs to die down naturally after flowering, this builds up the bulb’s energy for next years display.
- Thin out seedlings planted earlier leaving the strongest plants.
- Give evergreen hedges their first trim of the year.
- Finish preparing the vegetable garden for seed sowing, breaking down and digging in the well rotted manure spread over the soil during the autumn/winter months.
- Sow vegetables for a succession of crops. Sow tender vegetable seeds undercover and plant out after the risk of frost is over.
- Begin to mow lawns, keeping the blades high for the first few cuts. Feed lawns with a spring fertiliser.
Long days, and hopefully warm sunny weather, mean many hours are spent working and enjoying the garden at this time of year. In early summer everything is growing rapidly and the garden changes daily before our eyes. Border plants are at their best in midsummer although attention is needed in the staking department to keep them upright. Constant attention to weeding and pest control is also required to stop these from taking over. The kitchen garden will be in full flow gearing up for its main productive season. Crops will need to be picked regularly to stop them from going to seed or getting too big.
Summer checklist of what needs doing
- Plant out tender bedding plants once the risk of frost is over. Make sure they have been hardened off first.
- Water plants especially those in containers. Hanging baskets and pots often need watering morning and night in hot weather. Remember rain water is much better for the plants than tap water so check out your water butts.
- Continue to control weeds in the garden, treat pests and diseases at first sighting to prevent them from spreading.
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs when the flowers have faded.
- Provide supports for climbing plants and tie in the shoots as they grow.
- Summer prune trained fruit trees – lightly prune at this time of year any unwanted branches, diseased or cross over branches.
- Continue to mow lawns frequently, treat weeds on lawns.
- Stake border plants and tie them in to their supports.
- Propagate shrubs and climbing plants from semi-ripe cuttings.
- Deadhead faded flowers to encourage new blooms and to prolong the flowering period.
- Aerate ponds during still weather to oxygenate the water and keep fish alive.
- Continue to sow vegetables for a succession of summer crops and to provide crops for winter.
- Plant out runner and French beans, leeks, winter Brassicas, tomatoes and peppers.
- Harvest fruit and vegetables regularly, remember they taste so much nicer when they are young and not old and tough.
The long days of summer are quickly turning into the first days of autumn. This seems to happen all of a sudden but yet there is still plenty of work for the gardener to do. The autumn leaves need to be cleared away before they smother lawns and plants underneath them. The fading perennials need to be tidied and the tender plants protected against the cold and wet weather just around the corner. On a positive note Autumn is not all about the growing season coming to an end, it is also the time to be preparing for the next one. Spring bulbs need to be planted that will cheer us up in Spring. It is also the time to plant new trees or shrubs or perhaps move plants that have outgrown their space and planning your garden for next year.
Autumn checklist of what needs doing
- Clear away fallen leaves and bag up or compost to make leafmould.
- Stake and tie in dahlias and chrysanthemums.
- Prepare the soil and plant any bare-root or container grown trees and shrubs.
- Plant out spring bulbs such as narcissi and crocus.
- Move tender plants under cover before the first frosts.
- Protect slightly tender plants by mulching or provide shelter.
- Sow hardy annuals to overwinter outdoors for early flowers next summer.
- Trim evergreen hedges.
- Lift and divide perennials.
- Clear out summer pots and hanging baskets and replant them for winter interest.
- Sow new lawns from seed.
- Lay new lawns from turf.
- Aerate, feed and topdress existing lawns and repair edges where necessary.
- Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs when leaves have dropped.
- Tidy borders leaving dead stems on slightly tender plants to give winter protection.
- Harvest fruit and vegetables and store them as appropriate.
Winter is the time to prepare for the new growing season that lies ahead. Take advantage of the winter days, when the garden is not overflowing with flowers and jobs, to reassess and plan what you are going to grow or what changes you would like to make. The long dark winter evenings have their benefits of being able to sit in front of the fire with the seed catalogues or gardening books planning your gardening year ahead. Before you know it there will be reminders that Spring is really just around the corner. Spring bulbs will soon be popping their heads through the soil and the snowdrops and crocuses will soon be cheering us up and giving us a starter of what is to come.
Winter checklist of what needs doing
- Complete the planting of bare root trees and shrubs before the new growing season begins.
- Remove weeds from flower borders and around shrubs and trees. Mulch the soil with chipped bark or similar.
- Begin pruning fruit trees; this is a job that can be continued throughout the winter.
- Service lawnmowers and other garden machinery.
- In the greenhouse start overwintering plants, such as fuchsias and chrysanthemums, into growth by watering them and increasing the heat.
- In early winter begin digging over the vegetable garden and preparing soil for the coming season by spreading rotted compost or manure over the soil.
- In late winter begin sowing seeds under cover.
- Thaw ice on garden ponds to prevent toxic gases building up and harming fish.
- Knock snow off the branches of evergreens so they do not break under the weight.