Hedges may need a haircut right away, as all that rain we had earlier helped to send out new shoots everywhere. The early spring bulbs are over so cut off any dead flower and seed heads but leave the leaves on until they died away completely. If you’re leaving them in the ground feed the plants with a general fertiliser (all the same numbers) so that the leaves and bulb will work at ensuring you have a flower next season. Some people tie the leaves in a loose knot but this breaks the pumping system which feeds the plants and you will end up with blind plants next time. If bulbs have not had flowers this year, then it may be time to dig them up and replant them deeper in the soil – 2-2½ times the depth of the bulb, or store them until the autumn in a dry place. Sometimes, though they have just had their lifespan.
All the sudden warmth means that there are lots of bugs about. Black fly and especially greenfly love soft new growth. Left unchecked the bugs can create untold damage to leaves and flower buds so deal with them as you spot them. The well-tried remedy is to use a drop of washing up liquid in water and spray often. Those horrid red beetles, Dionconotus neglectus, have been around chewing my daffodils to death and the only way I have found to deal with them is to shake the flower and stamp on them – the beetles not the flowers. They then move on later to other flowers like irises.
Summer salad plugs make growing your own so much easier than sowing seeds and waiting for them to appear. Some veggies have to be sown directly in the ground, like beetroot, carrots and peas, but beans come in little plugs to add to our summer menus. Don’t buy plugs if they are dry and crusted, as it is unlikely that they will be able to take up water again. If you cannot plant them straight away, then give them a drink and keep them in the shade until you can. Remember to leave space amongst the rows to let them expand and grow.
Whilst potted polyanthuses are around to cheer us up with their glorious colours, the first roses of the season are bursting into bloom. One of my favourites, Rosa banksia, is looking lovely as it scrambles along a hedge line, and has benefited from being fed from February onwards. The damascena roses will be next. You may well have had roses flowering in your garden all winter, but they do need a rest period. It is past the time for planting bare root roses, but there are lots of pots of Hybrid Tea roses in the garden centres with wonderful colourings and perfumes.
Tie in any loose stems of roses and jasmines and other climbing plants and take off deadheads as the flowers fade. Other plants that are just glorious at the moment are osteospermums in such a variety of colours. Check them every day whilst the sun is out, so that you only remove the dead heads. If you don’t do this you will be inundated with many seedlings. Give them a feed every three or four weeks. Phostrogen plant food is useful here for potted plants and a capful in 10 litres of water will feed several plants.