Spring Message and Gardening Tips from Ashdon Gardening Club
SPRING IS HERE AT LAST
AGC committee member, Ian Herd writes:
The bulbs have burst from their slumber with their wonderful perennial display, the cherry trees are in full show and you can be sure everything else is on its way. If you get a chance mulch your beds to keep that winter moisture trapped in during our usual hot and dry April/May. As the lawns are growing now keep your blades high for the first few cuts until the new root growth has anchored it down. A spring fertilizer treatment will work wonders after all of that snow and rain, if using a dry treatment make sure you water it in if there is no rain within 24hrs. Keep an eye on those ever emerging weeds and hoe off annuals or dig out pernicious perennial weeds with their roots.
Remember to open your greenhouse windows on sunny days as the temperature inside can rocket even on cold days, as the sun gets higher in the sky.
Put a couple of dates in your diary firstly 15th May is the Annual Village PLANT SALE outside the Village Hall. This is the main fundraising event for the Gardening club and proceeds pay for our fantastic speakers throughout the year. If you have spare seedlings or plants from your sowings please bring them along or arrange for us to collect them for donation to the sale.
Secondly for the Ashdon Village Show: Saturday 21st August. With 95 different classes in 8 sections including children’s categories, handicraft, jams, cakes, floral art, photography, pot displays, fruit and flowers and of course vegetables with 23 classes of its own. There must be one section that everyone can enter at least one exhibit, the show handbook will be included with the summer edition of the Ashdon magazine so keep and eye out for that. Alternatively you can pick one up from the Ashdon Post Office in August and enter something from your garden just for fun. With ‘Grow your own’ becoming more and more popular this is your chance to join in with village life and who knows it could be you walking away with one of the numerous cups and trophies.
We are a friendly club with a varied membership from window box gardeners to professionals who are happy to share advice and local knowledge to help your garden flourish. We meet in the Village Hall once a month on a Thursday evening from 7.45pm September to May. We have expert professional speakers, question and answer sessions along with tea, coffee and gardening chat.
Our future meetings are:
March 18th 7.45pm Roger Harvey, ‘Colour in the garden all year round’
April 15th 7.45pm Dr Twigs Way, ‘ The history of the allotment’
May 15th 8.30am Village Plant sale
May 20th 7.45pm Annual general meeting + local gardens presentation
June 17th Members evening visit to the gardens at Ashdon Hall
July: Members evening visit to the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, date TBA
August 21st Ashdon Village Show
September 16th Hilary Thomas Subject TBA
October 21st Peter Jackson, ‘Combating garden pests & diseases’
In the garden in March/April
- Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes
- Protect new spring shoots from slugs
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs
- Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials
- Top dress containers with fresh compost
- Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)
- Cut back Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow) grown for colourful winter stems
- Weeds come back in to growth - deal with them before they get out of hand
- Start feeding fish and using the pond fountain; remove pond heaters
- Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days
Place cloches or fleece over outdoor strawberry plants for an early crop. Make sure to lift the sides of the fleece during the warmest part of the day, to allow pollinating insects to enter. High potassium feeds (such as tomato fertiliser) will also help to encourage flowers and fruit. Hand pollination may be necessary in very cold spring weather, when insects are scarce.
Strawberry runners that were removed last year and potted up can be planted in new strawberry beds, or in pots.
Cultivate and prepare seedbeds, covering them with clear polythene or fleece to warm up the soil before sowing.
Sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, celery, salads and globe artichokes can all be sown in a frost-free greenhouse. Artichokes and celery can be transplanted outside later in the spring. Tomatoes can either remain in the greenhouse or be taken outside from early summer onwards. Peppers, cucumbers and aubergines do best kept under cover.
Chit early and maincrop potatoes. If the weather is warm enough, earlies are planted out in the second half of March. If it is still cold and wet wait until April.
Pot up tomato seedlings when they develop true leaves above the more rounded seed leaves. After growing on in small pots, they can be planted into larger pots or growbags.
Early spring is an ideal time to plant herbaceous perennials, including Geranium, Astrantia and Oriental poppies. Check that the plants you buy have strong, green shoots and plant them into well-prepared soil.
Hardy annuals can be sown in pots or modules to provide colour in the garden. They are inexpensive and can provide fun activity for children. Plant summer-flowering bulbs. Prepare the soil first, to ensure that drainage is sufficient to prevent the bulbs rotting. Sow summer bedding plants in a heated propagator or under glass.
Cut back ornamental grasses and other perennials left for winter interest, if you have not already done so. Even if they still look good, you need to make way for the new growth.
Divide clumps of herbaceous perennials that you want to propagate, those that have become too large for their allotted space, and those that are flowering poorly or have lost their shape.
Divide hostas before they come into leaf.
Divide hellebores and polyanthus-type primulas after flowering.
Cut off old leaves of hellebores that produce flowers from ground level (including Helleborus x hybridus and H. niger) to expose the flowers and remove possible foliar diseases such as hellebore leaf spot.
Deadhead the flowers of Narcissi (daffodils) as they fade, but allow the foliage to die down naturally. Removing the spent flowers prevents the bulb from expending energy on seed production, instead using its energy to replenish the bulb itself.
Herbaceous perennials infested with couch grass and other perennial weeds should be lifted so the roots of the weeds can be removed. Improve the soil by digging in organic matter before replanting.
Clear up weedy beds before mulching. Mulching with a deep layer of organic matter helps to condition the soil, suppress weed growth, insulate plant roots from temperature fluctuations, and conserve soil moisture during the summer.
Most of all enjoy!