Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”
– Robin Williams (1951–2014)
Spring finally arrives this month, after what for many of us has been a mild but oh so very wet winter. According to the Met Office the 1st March heralds the start of spring whereas astronomically it doesn’t arrive until the Spring Equinix, which this year falls on 20th March. The Spring Equinox is when the day and the night are of equal length.
So, we can start getting excited from 1st March onwards but not until after the Spring Equinox will the days lengthen and the nights shorten, giving us all more time to spend in our gardens. We tend to think it’s the increased daylight that makes our plants spurt into growth but in fact, it is the shorter nights.
Of course, spring is not just the name of the season, it is also an active verb. With lighter mornings we can spring earlier from our beds and start to make our gardens look wonderful, with the promise of summer ahead.
Top Ten Tasks
- As your long-awaited daffodils start to fade, strengthen the bulbs for next year by snapping off the deadheads. Don’t be tempted to remove the leaves, untidy as they may look, they really do need to be left to die down naturally if you want a good display next year.
- As spring bulbs come to an end now is the time to plant summer flowering ones, including lilies, anemones, dahlias, begonias and gladioli. Wait until the soil begins to warm and choose a sunny spot in free-draining soil. Summer bulbs will also do well grown in pots. Remember to plant at 2 to 3 times the depth of the bulb.
- Sow tomato seed this month and you’ll be picking the fruits by the end of June.
- Time spent weeding now will prevent them from spreading later as the ever-strengthening sun encourages growth. Weeding will also help to aerate the soil.
- Cut down any perennials left from last year so that new growth can form. Now is the time to put supports in place for the plants to grow up and through.
- Sow, sow, sow! March is prime seed sowing time so make sure you’ve got the seeds you want, plenty of seed trays and compost and then get started. Hardy annuals can be sown directly where you want them to flower. See below for advice from our own horti expert, Christine Loader.
- Lawn mowing starts this month, depending on the weather! Set the blades nice and high and remember to skirt round any clumps of bulbs. Neatening the edges of the lawn will give the garden an instant lift.
- The deadheads on hydrangeas will have provided the plant with winter protection but can now be removed. Using sharp secateurs, cut the stem back to the first strong, healthy pair of buds down from the dead flower.
- Plants growing in containers will need regular watering from this month onwards and some will need repotting. If the plant is too large to repot simply carefully remove some of the top compost and replace with fresh.
- Garden birds continue to need your help so please keep feeders clean and well stocked and remember to also supply fresh water.
When begonias are mentioned I often wonder what varieties we each see in our mind’s eye, there are just so many different types. Do we see the small delicate annuals, renowned for growing in neat rows within formal planting schemes? Or do we see the amazing houseplants, grown largely for their astonishing foliage? Or perhaps we see a hanging basket, dripping with blooms that just keep on blooming?
Here at Suttons, we’ve decided it’s time to big up begonias and so have launched the brand new “Funky” Begonias!
Compact and trailing Funky Begonias will produce a mass of double flowers, perfect for hanging baskets and containers.
Available in a choice of either light pink or blaze orange these plants will perform their not-so-little hearts out either in full sun or semi-shade and if you look after them well, they’ll do it all over again next year.
Christine’s Patch – Success with Seeds
“Spring triumphs over winter (he always lets her win).” ~Terri Guillemets
“Hi, I am Suttons Horticultural and Technical Advisor. I have been an avid gardener all my life and have a passion for growing Fruit and Vegetables. When I am not in my greenhouse I can usually be found on my allotment. Gardening has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I look forward to sharing my expertise with you in our newsletter. This month I will be providing hints and tips on how to achieve the best results with your Suttons seeds.”
The requirements are quite simple – a well-prepared seed compost, correct sowing depth, adequate moisture and correct temperatures.
Always use a quality and fresh seed compost and sieve it prior to use. All lumps and wooden material must be removed so that you end up with a very fine compost. Multipurpose Compost is best avoided as it could contain too much fertiliser. Use clean seed trays or pots and gently firm the compost in, a wooden damper is the perfect implement and makes a flat surface to sow on. Use a fine spray and mist the compost until it is evenly moist but not saturated.
Check the seed packet for the recommended sowing depth and follow this precisely. Tiny seeds such as Begonia and Petunia require light to germinate and must not be covered at all. Small seeds only need a light covering and larger seeds can be planted deeper. Use sieved soil or even better Vermiculite to cover the seed as this retains moisture for much longer.
Check the seed packet for the germination temperature required for each seed to be sown. Early in the year greenhouses and windowsills are often much colder than you would imagine and subject to high temperature fluctuations. While seeds of hardy plants are less affected by fluctuating temperatures, half-hardy annuals such as tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers require constantly high temperature. For these seeds, I would recommend using a thermostatically controlled propagator in a warm room or sowing them later in the spring in a hot greenhouse. An airing cupboard or boiler room is also a good place for germination. As soon as the seedlings come through, I move them to a cooler place in a bright position to avoid them getting leggy.
Adequate moisture is a vital factor, too much water and the seedlings and roots could rot quickly, not enough and the seed will not swell and cannot germinate either.
Some seeds will germinate in a matter of days some can take months. Some seeds will need to go through a ‘chill’ period and need to go into the fridge prior to sowing. Sweet Pea seeds benefit from soaking or ‘chipping’ as they have very hard seed coats. Seed packets will have all the necessary instructions but if you are not sure than there is always the internet.
Wishing you the best of success with your Suttons seeds.
Grow Your Own Lemongrass
If you enjoy cooking Thai or South East Asian dishes, then you will be very familiar with Lemongrass. It can also be used in herbal tea and is becoming an increasingly popular addition to cocktails. Not only does it give a sweet, lemony taste, lemongrass is also thought to help relieve anxiety and as a diuretic will prevent that bloated feeling.
As with all herbs, lemongrass is best used when fresh so grow some in pots, within easy reach of the kitchen. They will be happy outside during the summer months but will want to come indoors at the onset of winter. I feel much the same!
Greenhouses can be traced as far back as 35AD when Roman Emperor Tiberius had a glasshouse constructed specifically for growing supposedly medicinal cucumbers. Over the centuries these glass structures continued to develop and by the 16th century enormous orangeries and pineries were protecting orange and pineapple trees in winter, whilst also advertising and confirming the wealth and status of their owners.
In Victorian times glass became cheaper and more readily available. This resulted in greenhouses became popular as a means of housing exotic unusual plants such as orchids and palms. The best example perhaps being the magnificent Palm House at Kew Gardens. With 16,000 panes of glass and an immense central dome, Kew’s Palm House is considered to be the world’s best example of a Victorian iron and glass construction.
By the middle of the 20th century, the first mass-produced greenhouses became available made not only in traditional wood but also galvanised metal and aluminium. And today greenhouses are a relatively common site and come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, materials and colours.
If you are fortunate enough to own a greenhouse then a mild day in early spring is the ideal time to give it a good clean, both inside and out. This will ensure that it is working to maximum efficiency and will prevent the build-up of pests and diseases.
- Remove everything that is not being used including empty pots, seed trays, support canes, etc.
- Get rid of any dead or dying plants
- Weed any soil borders
- Remove any dead, damaged or diseased leaves from surviving plants
- Clean and disinfect staging, pathways and any brickwork
- Clean the inside of the glass
- Check that any automatic vents are working correctly
- Using a soft brush and hose give the glass a good clean removing any algae and debris
- Check for any broken panes of glass and replace as necessary
- Apply a preservative to wooden frames
Offer of the Month
Onions, Shallots & Garlic Pick & Mix Any 4 packs for £10
Pick and mix from selected onion, garlic and shallot sets and get any 4 packs for £10.
Spring planting onions can be planted from February (January for Shallots) to April and can be harvested August (July for Shallots)to September the same year.
Make sure to choose a well-drained sunny position with reasonable soil when planting onions and shallots.
To get the best from your spring planting garlic, allow 10cm between cloves and space rows 15-20cm apart. Plant your garlic cloves January to March and you will be able to harvest your garlic June to August the following year.
Browse and buy from our pick & mix 4 for £10 offer here.