PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 April 2014
Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice
Toby’s talking alpines and rock plants at this month’s Gardeners’ Coffee Morning on 22 and 23 April. Tickets cost £7 each or £13 for two and include light refreshments. Places get snapped up quickly so call to book your place 01626 891133
Hello! Whoever thought thirty days was enough for April obviously didn’t think it through. There’s so much to get stuck into in the garden now, from sowing seeds, repairing the lawn, planting borders, starting off veg and herbs - the list goes on and on!
And that’s not to mention sitting outside and feeling the first warm rays on your back, while wondering if you’re going to regret not slapping on the sun cream.
I am pleased to note, however, that this year the powers-that-be have placed Easter and its attendant Bank Holidays slap bang in the middle of the month and if that’s not a good excuse to get out to your local nursery or garden centre – or visit some of Devon’s beautiful gardens – then I don’t know what is!
What to do now
After a very wet winter the soil beneath waterlogged lawns becomes compacted and airless and that will stunt growth and encourage moss. Breathe life back into your lawn by ‘scarifying’ - in other words vigorously raking with a spring-tine rake. You’ll be amazed at the amount of debris and thatch that comes up. This process opens up the surface, lets in air and encourages the grass to grow sideshoots making for a thicker sward. It’s also the ideal time to feed and sow and for lawn repairs.
Not all slug pellets are bad for wildlife. If you’re worried about birds and hedgehogs use organic pellets containing ferrous sulphate as they don’t rely on harmful poisons that get into the food chain. I scatter them around vulnerable plants and near stones where slugs hole up during the day.
There’s so much to sow at this time of year but don’t forget your root crops, especially carrots. Varieties like Early Nantes can be pulled as baby veg just a few weeks from sowing and can be grown in tall containers.
The myriad of potting composts sold in garden centres can make choosing the right one seem tricky but as with all things in life and gardening you get what you pay for. The cheapest blends contain very little other than peat while the best have a slow-release fertilizers or loam-based compost blended in which helps them hang on to nutrients for the whole summer.
If you want to avoid peat in your potting compost altogether New Horizons is the one to go for, as with all composts though buy fresh and preferably from pallets stored under cover as the feed leaches out over time. When potting leave a 2cm gap between the surface of the pot and the rim, and then water in well, topping up with more compost if it sinks down.
Plant of the month: Dicentra
Dicentra or Bleeding Hearts are probably the most unusual-shaped flowers we grow with arching stems of cherry-pink lockets in early spring. They’re not as delicate as they look, growing happily in sun or in the dappled shade of trees and shrubs.
Add plenty of leafmould or compost when planting and they’ll reward you with an abundance of flowers over blue-grey foliage right through spring and summer. Because the entire plant dies down by late summer then I’d suggest teaming them up with later-flowering Japanese windflowers to continue the display.