Did you know that gardeners have a different date for the start of spring to the rest of us? While ‘Meteorological Spring’ starts on 1 March every year, ‘Horticultural Spring’ is another matter. It’s determined by certain spring plants appearing in your garden (daffodils, crocuses etc.) and takes eight weeks to travel from Lands End to John O’Groats. Given that we’ve already spotted a daffodil in bloom on a roadside in South Oxfordshire, I’m afraid there’s no excuse to delay – the garden is calling! (unless you’re north of Leeds, in which case, slippers on and back to the wood burner…)
First up will be snowdrops, crocus and Iris reticulata, then as they start to fade, daffodils, tulips and herbaceous plants will come to the fore – so clear long grass and weeds around them to give them the chance of maximum exposure and impact (an autumn note: for late winter to early spring colour, get a good mix of these bulbs in the spots you most look on from the house, plus daphnes for their gorgeous scent and ornamental quince. Finger wagging moment: you could be enjoying them right now if you’d planted them in the autumn).
So, onto the jobs to do in your garden now it’s spring- or almost spring – whichever way you define it:
Start weeding! If your plants are growing, so are the weeds, and generally, they will grow faster than your plants. They will compete against your plants for light, nutrients and water, as well as hosting pests and diseases.
Service your tools. Clean any hand tools with a light disinfectant before starting up (and for extra brownie points and satisfaction, sharpen the blades on secateurs and oil and wooden handles so they last longer), and make sure you check your power tools. Refer them to a professional if there are any issues you can’t fix. You will soon be cutting the lawn so dust off your mower – but remember to only take off a third of the grass blade length at a time.
Larger herbaceous plants showing signs of growth (in laywoman’s that’s plants without permanent woody stems that pop up and surprise you every year) can now be divided and moved, or just tamed.
Increase the stock of snowdrops by division once they have finished flowering. Lift a half or quarter bunch and replant. This process is called planting ‘in the green’ as there’s still foliage and often dead flowers coming out of the bulb.
It is pretty much the last chance to prune apples, pears and wisteria. Wait until spring is well underway to prune any stone fruits though.
As well as cutting lawns (when it’s dry and frost-free), it’s time to consider treating them as well, ensuring a rich, well-coloured lawn in time for the summer. This could involve raking off dead leaves and debris, and aerating the lawn if you’re super keen.
More about the expert:
Nicholsons is an Oxfordshire-based company that offers design, landscaping, maintenance, forestry and more, as well as selling plants, trees, and shrubs.