It’s March and spring is on the way. We’re hoping it’s going to be a little kinder weather-wise than it was this winter, and Trevena Cross Nurseries Owner, Graham assures us that a very wet winter often means a dry, hot summer – so we’ve got our fingers crossed! While Cornwall escaped most of the frosts, it certainly didn’t escape heavy rain or harsh winds, and a few ‘fire-fighting’ jobs may therefore be in order before we really get to it this spring…
Plant potatoes, sets & bulbs
We’re generally a few weeks ahead of the rest of the country with our sowing and planting here in Cornwall, due to milder temperatures, so if you haven’t got your early seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets planted out yet, do so now. Plant your summer flowering bulbs too!
Kick-start the grow-your-own garden
It’s time to start sowing! How exciting…and satisfying when the first shoots poke through the soil/compost. It’s what those of us without a greenhouse have been waiting for, the time to sow hardier veg like lettuces, leeks, radishes, carrots and parsnips outside. Be ready with a cloche or some fleecing though, in case a freak cold spell/frost does surface, and be on high alert for those pesky slugs too! Try a great seed sowing compost like Humax or Melcourt Sylvagrow with added John Innes, and stagger your sowing of each veg, so that you that you don’t have an abundance of one type ready when it comes to harvest time!
When the rain lets up for more than a day or two, giving the ground a chance to dry up, be ready to dust off the lawnmower, and re-start a regular cutting regime. Set your blade to the highest setting to begin with to prevent stress on the lawn – and scan for worn or damaged areas of lawn requiring repair.
Top tip for the waterlogged garden
High rainfall is likely to have leached a lot of the nutrients and fertiliser out of the soil so top of the list is ensuring your plants get a good feed when things dry up – especially those in pots/tubs/planters, solely reliant on you for sustenance! A good slow release fertiliser is always a great option; feed once and your plants are fed for the season, meaning you only need worry about watering. A good top dressing of fresh compost in containers and a mulch of bark or compost on beds and borders will also be appreciated for a ‘spring boost’ and weed deterrent (once initial de-weeding has taken place!)
Top tips for the exposed or coastal gardens
Another priority is a check for wind victims in your garden. Check that anything planted within the last year is still stable and in place. Wind rock can be a particular problem in exposed or coastal gardens; making the plant vulnerable at its roots, and allowing water to collect in the ‘socket’ where the stem moves at soil level. This can lead to fatal rotting so if anything feels a bit ‘rocky’ it won’t hurt to stamp it back into place – and to avoid it in the future, try keeping things short. Don’t let your plants get too ‘leggy’ particularly down here in Cornwall, where the wind can be the devil to plants still trying to establish themselves. Staking could also prove useful, but don’t tie the stake to the stem too tightly, and remember to slacken the ties as the stem grows.
Other wind casualties this winter are our fence panels. Consider replacing with a ‘greener’ solution – hardy hedging plants that provide excellent screening and create great windbreaks inland or by the coast. Taking up little ground space, hedging can be a very cost effective and attractive option; our top picks include Griselinia littoralis and Elaeganus ebbingei.
Top tip for the smaller garden…
Make use of every available space. When you begin new spring planting, consider your space and be clever with it. Wall hugging shrubs like ceanothus and climbers like clematis can be great additions by a wall or fence, as well as screening less attractive garden structures. And where ground space is an issue, why not plant up herbs and veg in pots that hook over your fence? Create a real 3D growing space and one that can be a great advantage too – trailing strawberries for example will find relief from ground-based pests if lifted from the ground.
And finally, don’t forget to ‘spring clean’ shrubs and bushes. Improve shape and encourage new growth, blooms and fruits this coming season. Use sharp, clean tools and make clean cuts above new growth/buds. Excessively long shoots, weak or damaged growth should be a priority. Tidy up perennials that have outgrown their space or lost their shape too – it may be time to divide and replant them before they come round from dormancy.