This month can be used to get yourself properly prepared for springtime. The following jobs will help, says gardener Pete Harcom.
Tips for Basic housekeeping
- Clean up and consider fumigating the greenhouse – this will help keep pests under control.
- How about installing a water butt now, ready for the summer? Rainwater is particularly useful for watering acid-loving, ericaceous plants.
- Find out what type of soil you have. Invest in a soil testing kit to help you choose the right plants for your garden.
- Wash empty pots by scrubbing them with hot water and a mild detergent. Rinse them well afterwards.
- Keep feeding the birds, hangup fat balls and keep bird feeders topped up.
What you should be pruning
- Prune winter-blooming shrubs such as mahonia, winter jasmine and heathers, once they’ve finished flowering – but be careful not to cut back into old wood.
- Cut back wisteria side shoots to three buds from the base, to encourage abundant flowers in spring.
- Prune buddleia and elder hard back – right to the base – to keep these vigorous shrubs to a reasonable size. Trust me. They’ll grow back!
- Trim back ivy and deciduous hedges, Virginia creeper and any other climbers. Do this now, before birds start nesting and to keep gutters and windows clear.
- Prune summer-flowering clematis towards the end of the month, before active growth begins. Cut stems back to healthy buds about 30cm from the base.
Get ready for sowing
- It’s a good idea to organise this year’s seeds by sowing date. Get hold of a box with dividers, and file your seed packets by the month they need to be sown in. This will make life a lot easier in the weeks to come.
Start now for show-stopping summer fuchsias
If you have a cold greenhouse you can start potted Fuchsias back into growth. Prune overwintered fuchsias back to one or two buds on each shoot. For the next few months if you pinch out the lead bud on every shoot, you will have lots more flowers in the summer. Show- quality Fuchsias (used for showing later in the year), are pinched out like this.
Removing the growing tip stimulates the side shoots into growth, so, instead of having one main stem, you double the shoots each time you pinch out. These side shoots will then take precedence.
Let those side shoots grow until they have two or three pairs of leaves, then remove their growing tips. Repeat this process until you’re happy with your fuchsia form, though it’s best to stop pinching out around June at the latest. Having pinched out several times, you’ll have a nice bushy plant with lots of growth, lots of flowers and maybe even a show quality plant!
by Pete Harcom at Sherton Abbas Gardening
Sponsored by Thorngrove Garden Centre