The weather has been far from fair but we are hopefully through the worst of it - bring on Spring! There's plenty of gardening to be getting on with over the coming week or so, and with the clocks changing this weekend we are looking forward to brighter days and longer evenings. Here are our top tips to keep you on track.
Splitting snowdrops and winter aconites
The best time to divide snowdrops is while they are still green – they are easy to see, but they also don’t grow particularly well from dry bulbs so it is an ideal time to tackle this job now. The same applies to winter aconites. Lift overgrown or congested clumps and plant them in areas of the garden that look a little empty and will benefit from a splash of colour early next year.
If you’ve not done this already, now is the time to start. We chit potatoes to start them into growth before planting. Lay tubers in a tray or empty eggbox in a light windowsill until the shoots begin to sprout. Once you have two or three shoots per tuber they are ready to plant out – ideally do this now for planting out towards the end of next month.
Sow herb seeds indoors
Herbs are a great way to add flavour to our food and there’s no reason why you can’t grow your own. Now is the time to sow seeds of basil, parsley and coriander and keep them on a warm windowsill or propagator until they germinate. Basil and coriander will thrive better all year round in a pot indoors but parsley can be planted out once seedlings get to a reasonable size.
Cut back grasses
Grasses generally fall into two categories – deciduous types which turn a golden, straw brown at this time of year and evergreens which keep their green colour all year round. Deciduous species can now be trimmed to a few centimetres above ground level to allow space for new growth over the coming months (unlike herbaceous perennials they enjoy keeping a little of the old growth to protect the crown). Evergreens – such as Festuca – can also be trimmed now. Simply remove any brown tips and cut back dead leaves from around the base. Species such as pampas grass should be hard pruned now – cut back as far as possible without damaging the new growth coming from the bottom of the crown.
Late-flowering clematis, which flower on the new seasons growth, can be cut back now to give you beautiful colour later in the season. Early flowering clematis will already be producing their flower buds, so don’t cut these back until after they have flowered.
This is really your final chance to prune climbing and shrub roses. Ideally this is a job for February but with the weather being so cold still, it’s not a problem to do it now. The same goes for much of the ‘winter’ pruning, so get on with it if you haven’t already!
Divide congested perennials
This month you will hopefully see the new shoots of perennials coming up through the ground. Clumps which have become too large or too congested for the space can be divided now and planted in vacant spots in the garden to add a new flare of colour or interest. Lift the entire clump, split with a sharp spade and plant the young divisions before watering in well.
Cut back Cornus
Dogwoods which are grown for their ornamental coloured stems which are vibrant during the Winter months can be cut back now. The best colour is produced by one-year old shoots which is why we prune them in spring. Prune hard and leave a stubby framework which will replenish itself over the coming season.
Plant summer flowering bulbs
Summer flowering bulbs such as Gladioli, Lilies and Aliums can be planted now to ensure your garden gets plenty of interest and colour from June through to September. These bulbs tend to thrive in a sunny position and in well drained soil, giving a succession of flowers. It always pays to think ahead.