10:45am Saturday 7th April 2012
By Gina Parkinson
The gardener is never busier than at this time of the year, finds GINA PARKINSON.
THIS month is one of the busiest of the gardening year with lawns to cut, flower and vegetables seeds to sow, new shrubs, trees and perennials to plant, roses to feed and beds to clear. So it is easy to be overwhelmed.
Flower beds need to be cleared of old leaves and dead twigs as soon as possible, since the new growth from herbaceous perennials will soon make it too difficult to get into the bed without causing damage.
This covering of decaying matter is a useful hiding place for small creatures such as beetles and ladybirds in the winter, but they are on the move now.
Instead it now provides cover for slugs and snails which have an eye on the fresh new growth popping up through the earth.
As the soil warms up this month, new shoots from ornamental perennials will be joined by weeds; these need to be kept in check regularly if they are to be stopped in their bid to take over the garden.
The main problem we have in our own garden is from Shepherd’s Purse and Fat Hen, both of which are annual weeds and easy to pull out.
It takes a bit of effort, and they spread rapidly if allowed to flower, but they are nothing like the problem of the perennial weeds that are much more difficult to subdue.
The two we have in abundance are couch grass and bindweed. The former sends out long underground runners, usually into the centre of a mature ornamental perennial, and is very difficult to eradicate without digging up the whole clump and disentangling the two plants.
Bindweed develops long over- ground stems that wind and bind up into climbers or smother lower growing plants in their bid to reach up to the light. The smallest root left behind will quickly grow into a new plant but regular removal will reduce the spread of this plant even if it isn’t totally eliminated.
My problems with weeds are nothing compared to those my sister has. She wages a perpetual war against mare’s tail in her front garden and ground elder in the back. After nearly 20 years of toil against the mare’s tail, her battle is nearly won; but the ground elder is proving pernicious despite daily removal by hand, attempted smothering with black plastic and many applications of glyphosate.
EARLY potatoes can be put out this weekend if the weather stays mild and the soil is warm. As it is still early in the gardening calendar, it is a good idea just to do a row or two and to keep an eye on the weather forecast.
If a frost is due, cover the area with fleece overnight for protection. If the shoots are already showing above ground and no fleece is available, simply cover the growth with a layer of soil. This should be enough to protect from frost damage, the shoots will soon pop through the earth.
CHECK clematis. These climbers will be putting on large amounts of growth, especially those that will flower over the next couple of months. Tying in the stems regularly will stop them being damaged by gusty wind or snapping through their own weight.
FLOWER Power Fairs begin their Yorkshire season tomorrow with a return visit to Newburgh Priory in Coxwold. Visitors to the fair will also be able to wander around the 40-acre garden of the priory within which are walled gardens, a woodland walk and water garden.
There will be several new nurseries at the show alongside more established ones, including Rebekah’s Vegetable Seeds from Lancashire selling easy-to-grow cut-and-come-again salads, seed potatoes and a range of other vegetables. The Newburgh Priory fair is open from 11am to 4pm and admission is £3.
The next Yorkshire fair is the following Sunday, April 15, at Sutton Park in Sutton-on-the-Forest. Nurseries to this fair include sweet peas from David Matthewman and a wide selection of herbaceous perennials from DK Plants from Staffordshire. Sutton Park Spring fair is open from 11am-4pm and admission is £3 which includes entry to the award-winning gardens.
In aid of the National Gardens Scheme Ellerker House, Everingham, YO42 4JA, 15 miles south east of York. A five-acre garden on sandy soil with spring bulbs, mature trees, formal lawn and extensive grass area and a woodland walkway around the lake. Open 12pm-5pm, Admission £3.50.
Sleightholmedale Lodge, Fadmoor, YO62 7JG, six miles north east of Helmsley. A hillside garden with a walled rose garden, April daffodils and views over a peaceful valley in the Yorkshire moors. Open 1pm-6pm, admission £3.50.
Hotham Hall, Hotham, YO43 4UA, 15 miles west of Hull. A mature parkland setting with established gardens, Victorian pond, mixed borders, spring bulbs and a walk around an island arboretum via a bridge over the lake. Open 11am to 2.30pm, admission £5 adult, £2.50 child, tickets include refreshments.
8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.
9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.
2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Pippa Greenwood, Bunny Guinness and Matthew Wilson are in Hampshire where they advise members of Bramshott, Liphook and District Horticultural Society. Eric Robson is in the chair and the gardening weather forecast is at 2.40pm.
3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. The horticultural discussion comes from Beckminster Methodist Church in Wolverhampton where chairman Eric Robson and panel members Pippa Greenwood, Bob Flowerdew and Chris Beardshaw answer gardening queries. Meanwhile Matthew Wilson advises on making a child friendly garden. (Repeated on Sunday at 2pm).
8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. This week the programme looks at seeds with Carol Klein giving a master class on seed sowing and Monty Don celebrating tender veg seeds. There is also a visit to a two acre plot in Somerset filled with annual flowers.
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