Why this ‘early spring’ is great for gardeners
PUBLISHED: 12:30 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:30 13 March 2019
Spring seems to have sprung early in our gardens following the hottest February day on record - and Debbie McMorran is enjoying all that this entails.
The sky outside my window where I write is the palest blue, as though someone has dipped a piece of paper into a bottle of ink, and the colour has crept through the parchment, staining as it goes. The dirt under my fingernails is fresh – I have literally just walked in from a day spent in the garden. There are a smattering of freckles on my forearms where my shirt has been rolled up, and I haven’t even thought to apply sun cream with it being still technically winter, but my lungs are full of fresh air, my soul feels light, and my heart is full with the birdsong that has filled my ears all day. You could say that I am full of the joys of spring – genuinely. I can’t remember a time when I have been able to enjoy so much uninterrupted, warm gardening weather at this time of year, but no doubt I will regret having said that when the summer is wet and miserable… fingers crossed I’m wrong on that one.
There are some who will bemoan this kind of unseasonal weather. Of course, I am always conscious when we have such warm days early in the year that it comes at a price – the changing temperatures are of course a sign of something more sinister with global warming never far from the minds of any of the eco-conscious among us. There are others who will be complaining because the poor flowers don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, and are all blooming “far too early” and we’ll be left with nothing in the garden in the coming months before the real summer plants start to bloom.
On a much more basic level – I am glad for it. I am happy to see the swathes of daffodils in the garden opening, and by the time this goes to print, they will likely have largely gone over – but I will have enjoyed every last second of them, albeit a couple of weeks prematurely.
Looking around our garden today I was met with an assault of colours – the purest of deep purples of some of the crocuses, interspersed with splashes of rich egg-yolk yellow, the odd yellow crocus here and there which has popped up unexpectedly amidst a sea of purple. The slightest hint of canary yellow at the tips of daffodils as they start to emerge from their cocoon, the unsheathing of their beautiful petals and the way in which they stand proudly – soldiers on parade.
The sound of birds singing is almost deafening, I think it seems so obvious, after so many months of not spending proper time outside. The birds will have still been out here, still singing, but I haven’t been out here long enough to listen.
Looking at the lawn, it is not quite in need of a cut, but it very soon will be. One thing which it definitely is in need of is a good de-mossing - a fairly easy job using a fine tined garden rake. If you leave the moss exposed, birds will be able to pick from the pile for their nest building.
I found this to be a great job to do with a little helper. If you’ve got children, or grandchildren who want to help in the garden, they can be collecting up the moss while you do the raking.
Gardening for children is something that I’m really passionate about, and will be looking at this in more detail in next month’s column.
Things to do in the garden this month:
• You can cut back any Cornus or Willow that you might have been enjoying for their colour over the winter months. Having done their job for the season, you can now help them to conserve their energy for another display next year.
• This month might see the first cut of the lawn! Make sure the grass is dry, and it’s also a good idea to check for any stray stones which might have got onto the lawn over the winter months – a broken pane of glass in my conservatory following cutting the lawn at the end of last year makes me extra cautious about this one!
• Prune your climbing and bush roses – this is a job that I’ve managed to get done this weekend. Cutting just above an outward facing shoot should ensure that any new growth comes outwards. Take out any dead wood at the same time. All of this should direct the plant’s energy into the new growth and flowers for this summer.
• Divide and reassign any plants that have now gone over – snowdrops and crocuses are a good example. If you have these in your garden, and are lucky to have had them spreading, you can divide up the clumps and replant them elsewhere in the garden to get more widespread coverage for next year.
• If you are planting early potatoes or onion sets, now is the time to do it. I’m already salivating at the idea of those first salad potatoes – true gold straight from the earth!