This month in your garden

As the weather starts to warm up ants can become troublesome as they look to make new homes.  Don’t let them get into flower pots or they will make nests there completely killing off the plants.  Either raise the pot off the ground on little Chinese ‘feet’, put the pot on a paving slab or if you are re-potting, put a piece of nylon tights or something similar over the drainage hole to stop them from entering the pot. 

Snails and slugs have been having a field day this winter with all the rain, so check under the rims of pots that might have been lying around and turn over plant trays where you may find snails firmly attached to the undersides.  Do get rid of them or they will play havoc with your spring bedding and salad crops.  Sparrows are also attracted to fresh soft foliage, lettuce in particular and may peck them to pieces!  Sweet corn plugs can be planted once we have reasonable overnight temperatures. Remember to grow them in squares if you can, as they are wind pollinated and on a breezy day you will see the pollen being blown off the tassels onto the flowers below.  They do need space and their eventual height might put off people with small gardens but the taste of them, picked straight from the garden, is a great pleasure. Now that the weather is relatively warm, watch out for green fly and black fly on your plants. Broad beans usually suffer from the latter when grown in the UK but here they mature much earlier and usually escape them.  If you grow the silver leaved artemisia you may find swarms of them on the stems.  Early roses may well be affected by greenflies, which can be sprayed with a soapy water spray. Obstinate pests may need a more chemical treatment, which I am always reluctant to use if there is an alternative, so try the other treatments first.

I am constantly being asked at this time of year why some daffodils do not produce any flowers. If the bulbs were newly bought and planted last autumn they should have flowered. If they didn’t, it is a probably not a fault of yours but they may have been lifted too early before being packaged and sent from Holland. There are several reasons why bulbs don’t produce flowers.  If they have been in the garden for a while, they might have become congested and need to be dug up and replanted deeper – around two or three times the height of the bulb. Remove the dead head as the flower dies down and leaving the leaves to die down naturally, which should guarantee flowers for next season. Feed the bulbs with a general fertiliser (all the same number) or something like a tomato fertiliser also helps. Other bulbs like hyacinths may appear and flower for a couple of years or so, but the flower stem will become smaller and the lovely flowers greatly reduced.

Plant up hanging baskets now or if you don’t have the facilities to do that, the garden centres have a wonderful choice.  Remember that a hanging basket doubles it weight when it is watered, so ensure that the hook or rail it is hanging from is secure and not likely to bring the support down. One of the best hanging baskets I had in recent years was filled with scaevola, whose flowers appear in a fan shape. They can also be used in the garden, but their sprawling habit is best shown off hanging from on high!

Roses greatly benefit from a regular feeding routine from now if they are to flower all summer long. Chopped banana skin spread around the root area is good for them as they contain lots of potassium. I tried this once but didn’t notice much difference. There are lots of fuchsia plants around as well as they become more popular. However they cannot cope with our hot summers, unless grown high up in the mountains.  You would be lucky to keep hydrangeas going as well, as they take a rest in the high summer too. However a blue hydrangea that I bought last year looked absolutely dead until it suddenly came into life again recently and sent up new shoots from the root area, so it has been fed and watered and is coming on.  You can’t keep a good plant down!

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