It has been a long while since I have done a what to do in the garden, but with the enforced isolation at this current time we have decided to resurrect this piece if nothing else to encourage you into the garden, its great fun, even better exercise and lets face it there are lots of people looking for ways to fill the day whilst improving the look of their home & garden. It is looking more and more like summer holidays may be spent in Ireland one way or another so what better preparation that to get the garden ready. So hoping that we can encourage as many people as possible.
We’re coming up to the best planting season of the year, so it’s a perfect opportunity to add any tree or hedging plants that need replacing. They’re vital additions because trees add height and scale to the rest of your planting. Even in a flowerbed or herbaceous border the canopy and branches add texture, contrast and cast a magical pattern of light and shade and this changes throughout the day as the sun moves round the garden. Planting trees helps the environment because they gather up harmful carbon dioxide and emit oxygen into the air, think of them as the lungs of the garden. Hedging in contrast are the gatekeepers, the stalwarts marking the territory and adding a screen that says this is home.
Although this is all very worthy, they will also add a touch of beauty in the coming seasons. It may be flower, autumn colour, attractive bark or a shapely winter silhouette. Even one tree can make a tremendous difference to how your garden looks.
Crab apples (or ornamental Malus) are amongst the most useful small trees because they offer attractive spring blossom that’s capable of cross-pollinating domestic apple and plum varieties. The Malus produce an abundant crop of small fruits that often persist through winter, or they can make good crab apple jelly. Some have dusky foliage in spring and some offer autumn colour. The medium sized, healthy crab apple, Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’, produces lots of red fruits and these persist through autumn and winter. A scattering of red fruit on a green lawn is a great sight in winter. This is a larger tree that will eventually reach 6m (20 feet) in height.
Flowering cherries come in a variety of shapes and sizes and their blossom can vary from delicate single to heavy skirted ball gown. If you want to cast a gentler shade over a woodland patch Prunus serrula, the Tibetan Cherry, has dainty white flowers in spring. In winter the bark looks like polished mahogany so this is often grown in winter gardens. Or you could try the paper-bark Maple, Acer griseum, because this also shines in winter when the sun catches the ragged edges on the cinnamon-brown trunk. If you prefer the stunning blossom show then the Shirotae and the Kanzan are hard to beat however if you have a little more room some of the table top Cherries create a stunning specimen.
Another tree that shines in winter is the mountain ash, or Sorbus. Most have clusters of berries and delicate pinnate leaves. They grow in well-drained places, often on mountain slopes, so they need careful siting and some aren’t easily grown. any of the Sorbus varieties are particularly good surrounded by any of the hellebores, the berries persist until the hellebores open.
All of these modest trees will all provide a focal point for your garden. Take a little time to prepare a planting hole and make sure that it’s larger than the pot. Add some bonemeal as you backfill and stake for the first couple of years using a tree tie.
I know the weather can still turn cold and windy and there may still be some frosts on the way, but the days are getting noticeably longer and the sun feels a little stronger. The plants that kick the season off are already raring to go, breaking out of bud or pushing their way through the surface of the soil so by keeping the weeds down around them, this enables you not only to keep one step ahead while we have the time but enables the newly emerged plants to get ahead. Hand weed delicate areas. Examine clumps of perennials and divide any with perennial weeds. You can also attack any perennial weeds because they’re easier to get rid of at this time of year – just when they’re breaking through the ground.
March is a great time to move things around, so if anything has outgrown its allotted space or needs to be divided, do it now. Planting is also on the list of monthly chores, so if you need to fill any gaps, or have potted plants that should be in the ground, then get them in now. It will give them a chance to settle in before the temperatures get too high.
If you have decided to grow some vegetables with all this excess time on your hands then the third week of March is ideal, for planting potatoes, first and second earlies, because generally the vulnerable potato foliage will miss the last frosts. If your garden’s cold wait until the first week of April. Space them fifteen inches apart.
You can also plant Shallots and Onions, find a warm position for shallots and give them at least eighteen inches of space because they multiply and produce a roundel of bulbs. Onions can stand more moisture at this stage. Their ancestors are snow-melt bulbs with stubby roots, so it’s important to water them in the first weeks should it go dry.