Rain, rain go away: Carrying on gardening, whatever the weather
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Columnist Deborah McMorran takes a monthly look at gardening, flowers and the outside world in and around Hertfordshire.
It’s hard to know what to do in the garden when it’s pouring down with rain - I’m looking out of the window at the moment, and it’s coming down in bucketloads.
Of course it’s always refreshing for a gardener to see the rain - the old adage that it’s “good for the garden” is of course true.
There are many benefits to a good drenching of the garden, and particularly if it’s not too cold, you can almost see the garden growing as you watch it with the nourishment that the rain provides.
On the other hand, it can be incredibly frustrating when you have spent months indoors itching to get out in the garden to then be confined inside whilst the rain comes down.
For this very reason, in my old house, I had a garden room built. The little orangery provided the perfect space for pottering when it was raining outside - it was part greenhouse/part conservatory and had a raised bed built inside it, so that I was able to plant things which needed to be kept a little warmer in the winter months.
I also had a little potting bench where I could sit and plant out seedlings, or browse seed catalogues dreaming of what bulbs I would buy if money were no object.
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I miss having that space - it was the perfect little sanctuary - but there isn’t really room for something like that where we live at the moment - with children’s toys taking priority over my beloved potting bench!
For many people, a greenhouse is an excellent solution - it offers somewhere to bring on seedlings ready for potting out, and also means that you always have somewhere to go which is outdoors, but still dry in wet weather.
If you do have a greenhouse, now is a great time to make sure it’s all clean - hot, soapy water should ensure that the glass is free of bacteria and any bugs which might damage your new seedlings in the spring. Over the winter it’s so easy for leaves and moss to get lodged in the roof of a greenhouse - it’s much better to start the new growing season with it all clean.
It is at this time of the year that I buy most flowers for the house. Of course I would love to be like Elton John and have huge swathes of cut flowers in the house throughout the year, but unfortunately my budget isn’t quite the same as his... and I have to limit myself.
When it’s dark outside there is nothing more cheerful than a bunch of flowers on the kitchen table - brightening the place up.
It’s so easy, and fairly inexpensive to buy a couple of bunches of native daffodils from the supermarket (or ideally your local greengrocer or florist). They are normally only a couple of pounds for a bunch and make such a difference to a room.
It won’t be long before we are able to pick our own flowers from the garden, but until we can do that, it makes me feel so much more cheerful to have some fresh flowers in the house.
Houseplants are another great way of bringing some fresh life into the house - most of them are fairly easy to look after and a little touch of green here and there in the house makes all the difference - especially when you’re not getting out in the garden as much!
Things to do in the garden this month
- If you are planning to have sweetpeas, the seeds should be planted in seed trays this month
- If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable garden or allotment, the potatoes will need to be chitted. Seed potatoes will now be available in the shops, and you can chit them anywhere where they will be out of the frost. Some people do this in a dark place, but there are some who believe that by doing it in the light the shoots won’t get too “leggy”
- You can prune any trees and shrubs which haven’t yet been pruned
- Although it’s still too early to start mowing the lawns, it’s definitely a good time to start your lawn mower, or other garden machinery which hasn’t been used over the winter to ensure that it’s still working. If you find that it’s not, then it’s a good time to get them serviced before they are needed
- Many formal gardens will start to open to the public this month - especially those which have a good display of spring flowers and snowdrops. It’s a great time to get out and about to look at other people’s gardens to get inspiration for your own
- The tickets for the main agricultural shows are on sale - if you’re looking to visit RHS Chelsea, or Hampton Court for example, now is a good time to get your tickets before they sell out
- If you are planning on growing any of your plants from seed this year, you will want to make sure that any seed trays are free of the compost from last year - giving them a brush out in a water butt will leave them ready to use when you need them