It is very sad that the celebration of new life at Easter and in springtime that should be the main feature of this month is being dominated by the isolation, illness and fear associated with coronavirus. Many of you may well feel that with all the problems and worries at this time gardening will take a pretty low priority. On the other hand, if like my wife and I you are amongst the isolated, this may be an opportunity to give the garden more attention than usual and it will help to keep you positive as you reap the benefit of being out in the open air …
You might even have time to sit in the garden as the weather warms up. The current difficulties with shopping also bring home the advantage of growing your own fruit and vegetables. The worst predictions of the length of the outbreak offer the prospect of reaping a home-grown harvest and not just getting it started.
The lack of sunshine and continuing rain after the wettest February on record may mean that you haven’t been able to get much started in the open ground in the vegetable garden. You need to rake the soil into a fine tilth to sow seed and it is difficult to achieve that in wet and heavy soil. If you have a greenhouse or conservatory or a cold frame you can get quite a few things started by sowing seeds in modules, seed trays or pots using sowing or general purpose compost. The sort of things you can sow are brassicas (cabbage, broccoli etc), salad leaf crops (lettuce, rocket.) and leeks and spring onions. Root crops don’t take kindly to being transplanted so carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and radishes need to be sown directly into the soil where they will grow. Some seeds, such as tomato, cucumber courgette and sweet corn, need heat to get them started and that needs a propagator or an airing cupboard. In the latter case put the container in a plastic bag. In either case, check frequently for signs of germination and remove from the heat as soon as growth is visible. When you water newly sown seeds in containers it is best to stand the container in a tray of fresh tap water so they soak up the water rather than watering from the top with a watering can. It is best to use clean tap water rather than water from a water butt
If you are the sort of gardener who isn’t overly keen but still likes things to look good there may still be some tidying up to do after the winter months when you haven’t been very active outside. Cut back any dead growth in flower borders, and lightly fork over the soil with a hand fork removing weeds. In many gardens your lawn will be the most prominent feature and this will need some attention. Before you start mowing, check for tree debris blown down during the winds and clear it up and make the first cut with the mower set fairly high.. The appearance of a lawn is much improved by sharp edges and for this you need a pair of long-handled shears and a half-moon edging tool. Cut the edges and clear up the grass cuttings before sharpening the edge, keeping the tool vertical
If you haven’t started feeding plants it is not too late. For beds and borders and the vegetable patch and soft fruit this can be in the form of a mulch of garden compost or well-rotted manure or in granular or pellet form; either organic or inorganic. Growmore is a good general purpose inorganic fertiliser which is in granular form. Organic materials are blood fish and bone fertiliser or bonemeal which are like a coarse powder and are good for forking into the hole when planting. Chicken pellets can be bought most cheaply in a large sack and are easy to scatter by hand. There are specialist rose fertilisers which should be applied in spring and again in late summer. Heavy feeders like tomatoes and clematis do best with a frequent application of liquid tomato feed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for frequency. Container grown plants need a fortnightly application of liquid feed such as Miracle Grow; general purpose or, for acid loving plants, azalea and camellia feed.
Daffodils which have finished flowering should be left for at least six weeks before being mown or cut back and can be fed with growmore. Don’t put out frost-tender plants until the second or third week in May. Supports for taller perennial plants should be put in place as soon as possible so they get hidden as growth increases.