Mid Spring Gardening Jobs
As spring weather reaches across the country, the garden bursts into life and cries out for attention.
The general weather pattern is much the same as for early spring, and differences between the south and north of Britain are still quite marked. Showers — sometimes of sleet or snow — are common, but snowfalls rarely settle for lo8-1/4in
Cold, grey weather is again possible, and the nights may be very frosty. But the sun is strong enough to outweigh the effects of the cold nights and plant growth begins in earnest.
Mid spring is a busy time in the garden, but wet spells can cause considerable hold-ups — especially if gardening is mostly restricted to the weekends. A dry period can be helpful, but take extra care to see that young plants don’t run short ofmoisture.
Plant late-flowering herbaceous perennials and those which are slow to make new growth — Michaelmas daisies (Aster novi-belgii) and red-hot pokers (Kniphofia).
Complete the routine division and replanting of border perennials if you didn’t do this in early spring. Michaelmas daisies deteriorate fairly quickly, and finerand healthier growth come from young plants. So lift and divide these plants every few years, keeping only the healthiest shoots from the outside of each clump. The taller rudbeckias, helianthus, monardas and heleniums need similar treatment.
Towards the end of mid spring, stake delphiniums before their heavy flower spikes reach half their expected ultimate height. Insert a sturdy bamboo cane or a 2.5cm (1in) diameter wooden stake into the ground behind each plant.
Tie garden string round the stake once with a single knot, and then make a knotted loop round the spike, allowing ample room for the stems to swell as they grow. As the spikes lengthen, tie them at intervals of about 45cm (1-1/2ft). The shorter, more branching Belladonna delphiniums can be supported with pea sticks.
Insert pea sticks in and around other shorter-growing but equally weak-stemmed plants, such as pyrethrums. Proprietary wire hoop plant supports are also ideal. Once kinks develop in weak stems, they can never be straightened, and the effect of support later in the season is unsightly.
Stake pinks (Dianthus), if necessary, by pushing small branched twigs into the ground so that the flower stems can grow up through them.
By the end of mid spring most herbaceous plants have emerged from winter dormancy, so winter losses can be assessed. But remember that some tuberous-rooted plants don’t emerge for another few weeks. Fill any definite gaps with new plants —annuals and other bedding plants can be used to great effect.
The last week of mid spring is also a good time to plant out healthy overwinteredtubers in warm and sheltered areas. Discard any tubers which are completely shrivelled or have rotted at the crown.
Continue to dead-head early bulbs, leaving the flower stalks and all leaves intact.
As the ground warms up, apply mulching material to. If any tender plants become frosted, try to get at them before the sun reaches them. Cover them with newspaper or sacking, or spray cold water on them — surprisingly, this allows them to thaw out more gradually.
Renew slug pellets around susceptible plants, and look out for early attacks of aphids and other pests. Spray with a systemic insecticide where necessary.
Complete seed purchases as soon as possible. Many near hardy annuals can be sown outdoors in mid spring if weather and soil conditions are favourable. These include cosmos, gaillardia, lavatera, stocks (Matthiola), sunflower (Helianthus), scabious and annual phlox.
Dust the seeds with a proprietary fungicidal dressing before sowing, and fork into the soil a dressing of general flower fertilizer if this was not done earlier.
Complete the indoor sowing of half-hardy annuals. Move to a cold frame any well grown, early-sown half-hardy annuals. Keep the frame closed at first, opening it progressively as the weather improves and the plants become hardened.
Take special care with the more tender plants. In the case of French and African marigolds, bedding dahlias and ageratums, cover the cold frame with sacking if a hard frost is forecast. There is more frost protection near the centre of the frame than round the edges.
Yellowing of leaves may occur among some boxes of plants in frames. This often indicates slight starvation and is best overcome by watering weekly with a liquid flower fertilizer.
Plant early spring-sown sweet peas as soon as they are growing strongly. Start restricting growth on cordon-grown sweet peas when they are 23-30cm (9-12in) high. Select the strongest leading shoot on each plant, and carefully cut off the remainder with a sharp knife.
Tie the leader loosely to the cane, leaving ample room for the stem to thicken. From this stage onwards, carefully remove all the tendrils while they are still small. Also remove all side-shoots which form in the leaf axis.
Naturally grown sweet peas need no restriction. Remove the cloches from rows of sweet peas sown outdoors in mid autumn.
Complete all outstandingof as soon as possible. Feed established roses with a proprietary rose fertilizer, scattering a handful per sq m/yd over the surface of the beds, except for a 15cm (6in) radius circle round the main stem of each plant. Hoe in the fertilizer.
Mulch established rose beds by covering the soil with at least a 2.5cm (1in) thick layer of well-rotted compost or manure. Alternatively, apply a 12mm (1/2in) layer of grass clippings, but don’t use mowings from a lawn which has been treated with weedkiller. Use forest bark or composted coir for newly planted roses — they don’t need the strong fertilizer content of compost or manure at this stage.
Pull up weeds by hand, but don’t hoe them off since roses have shallow roots that may easily be damaged. Alternatively, control weeds by applying dichlobenil or alloxydium sodium, ensuring that the chemical doesn’t come in contact with the rose stems.
During prolonged dry weather, water newly planted roses — 5 litres (1 gallon) per plant — to prevent them shrivelling. Although the normal planting season is past, container-grown roses may be bought from garden centres for transplanting into the open ground.
Shrubs and trees
Plant evergreen shrubs during showery spells when the soil is well-moistened. Continue to plant deciduous wall shrubs, such as clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine, ornamentaland wisteria.
Water newly planted trees and shrubs during dry spells. Mulch around these plants with black polythene or grass clippings to reduce water loss from the soil.
Propagate Hydrangea paniculata and magnolias by pinning down layers. These can be severed and replanted when rooted, after one to two years.
Trees and shrubs which have finished flowering may require some light pruning. Shorten branches and cut off dead flower spikes and old weak shoots of Chaenomeles japonica and spring-flowering clematis.
Cut back forsythia after flowering to within one or two buds of the old wood. The arching stems of Forsythia suspensa often root of their own accord where they come in contact with the ground. Sever the rooted pieces from the parent and plant them elsewhere.
Plant broad-leaved evergreenplants, such as (Hex), laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and escallonia. On free-draining soils, water the plants well during dry spells.