One day it’s glorious sunshine and the next day it snows. Welcome to late winter/early spring! By this I mean from about mid January to late February/early March. Gardening isn’t always a pleasure this time of year, but it’s a good opportunity to do some pruning, planting and moving of plants if you can. There are loads of great YouTube videos and websites about seasonal tasks so I’ve included some main points and links.
Mulch your borders:
One of the best things you can do for your garden is give it a good mulch of compost or manure. Autumn or early spring are good times to do this.
Prune, move or plant shrubs:
- Plant new shrubs or move those in the wrong place
- Prune summer-flowering shrubs
- Renovation or formative pruning can help overgrown or sickly shrubs
There’s a nice video here from the RHS on pruning basics
A quick note: shrubs which flowered later on in the summer, ie July through to September, can be pruned now. If you’re not sure when to prune your shrub, check first. You won’t kill it by pruning at the wrong time but you might cut off with the flowering buds. Ideally, you’d prune after danger of frost but this is very difficult to predict.
People worry about how to prune roses, and either don’t do it at all, or prune them incorrectly (especially climbing roses). Once you know your own roses, and what kind they are, it’s quite easy and very satisfying! There are 3 common pruning techniques depending on the type of rose:
If you need to move a rose, now’s the time to do it while it’s still dormant. Don’t plant a new rose where there was a rose recently planted – a build up of certain organisms in the soil could kill your new rose.
There’s still time to plant a new tree as long as you keep it well watered. You can still prune trees, including apple and pear trees, while they are dormant. Pruning of mature trees can be dangerous (for you and the tree!) if you don’t know what you’re doing so it’s worth hiring a qualified tree surgeon.
If you either didn’t get round to cutting back your herbaceous perennials in the autumn (or left the stems for wildlife and winter interest) now is a good time to cut them back before new growth emerges. Once the soil starts to warm, you can move them, and create new plants by lifting and dividing established clumps. Here’s a video explaining how to do it.
If you’ve got summer flowering clematis you can prune them now. Leave early-flowerers alone. Remember: “if it flowers before June, don’t prune” Here’s Monty Don with some advice!
Refresh containers and repot overcrowded plants:
Once the weather begins to warm up, repot any plants which have outgrown their containers. If you’re leaving them in the same container, you need to refresh and top-dress the compost.
Prune soft fruit:
Some soft fruit bushes benefit from a prune this time of year, but check first because they need different methods depending on the type of fruit. If you haven’t already done so, autumn-fruiting raspberries can be cut back.
If you want to grow some potatoes now is the time to chit and plant them. If you have a greenhouse or a sunny windowsill you start sowing some vegetables, such as runner beans, inside. It’s best to check the sowing times and instructions for the veg you want to grow as they are all different. Don’t be tempted to start too early though – a late frost will kill tender veg like runner beans, and if you keep your plants inside for too long they will get leggy and weak. Here’s a nice planner from the RHS which will give you an idea of where to start. If you’re short of time and want to grow a few vegetables for fun, it’s absolutely fine to buy starter plants or seedlings from the garden centre!
If you grow ornamental grasses you either need to cut them back if they are deciduous or give them a good comb through if they are evergreen. (It might be just me but this last job is one of the most satisfying jobs to do in a garden…)
Two good websites to check for seasonal tasks are: