top of page

Preparing for Spring


Planning and refreshing - the exciting year ahead for your garden with lots of changeable winter -spring

weather conditions coming up so take care to guard your plants against severe gales and heavy rain by locating them in some sort of protected area eg a strong green house or conservatory. Plastic covers well secured can provide damage to early flowers by torrential rain and storms. Summer may need some additional hot sun protection measures for short term temps of 30 deg .Pots can easily be blown over so place against a wall or in a conservatory or firmly secured shed or garage space .

How content and happy are you with your garden?  What do you really want to achieve? Will a simple plan enable you to make changes and improvements and provide interesting ideas for thought and discussion? Was last year’s gardening experience up to your expectation?  What plants did you enjoy looking at? Try and make a list looking back to those warmer months. Can you remember ideas you thought might motivate you to make those exciting changes you always wanted to?  It’s not too late to make decisions for the coming gardening year so grab a pencil and paper and make a start.

List any structural and planting changes you’d like. Do you want to create more space?  Do some raised beds need adding? Especially useful if growing tap root vegetables, the Umbellifer (parsley) family eg carrots, parsnips, celery etc require depth which also helps to stop that surface resident the dreaded carrot fly. Drainage also improves hugely with a raised bed and you can add attractive and fragrant companion annual companion plants such as tagetes (marigolds) that many vegetable pests hate.  Yes it does work well!!

Be bold - get rid of poor and unsightly shrubs and plants that no longer contribute to your garden enjoyment.  Add fragrance perhaps and attractive foliage and more colourful longer flowering spring and summer species.  It’s worth having a look in a garden book/website/garden centres for ideas. The RHS website is helpful in describing a plant’s horticultural requirements. Spend time double checking plant labels to assist your planting decisions.  ‘Buy me plant me now’ - garden centres can offer an instant seasonal pick-me-up plant for your gardens as well time to meet up with fellow gardeners to exchange ideas over a warming cuppa. I do enjoy that for a needed break .

Quick planning priority list

Of vital importance your soil  - Acid, Alkali or Neutral - try to do a pH check with an inexpensive testing kit.  Take a small sample of soil, add some distilled water and shake then use the indicator to see what soil pH you have. If that’s a bit too time consuming look and see if you have acid loving (ericaceous) plants thriving such as Heather, Azaleas, Rhododendrons as that is a certain sign of a lower pH acidic soil . Is your soil sandy or clay or is it nice and generally mixed and crumbly? Tip some into a jar and add water, shake up and you will see instantly the mixture you have stones, grit and sand sinking and clay and silt particle high up with some organic (composts) floating. Estimate visually your soil mixture. The ideal loam soil is an even mixture of (inorganic-non living) clay, sand, and fine silt and 10% (organic –living matter).

Add plenty of fresh organic matter as a needed mulch (compost – manure – leaves or leaf mould) your plants will soon respond as this creates fresh nutrients, holds moisture and restricts weeds effectively. Some moderate slow release feeding will be welcome in Feb March onwards, then moderate liquid feed when plants start to flower. Different vegetables will have their own feeding requirements, so do check first ..Legumes have their own nitrogen modules .

Plant for size, not just colour or fragrance – consider height AND width, and, so often omitted, spread and space occupied in full bloom as well as light and air circulation. Shrubs are small trees so plan and prune carefully. Tall plants can add difficulty to summer gardening

Ground cover may also be just what you want in difficult planting areas.  Climbers should give great pleasure and lift colour up above all the other plants and can be used for covering up unsightly objects.

Containers can be used successfully for bulbs, summer flowering bedding plants and annuals as well as specimen standard shrubs. Try some vegetables such as new potatoes in a deep container if you haven’t done so before, they taste superb. Containers can be moved around to achieve the best position, but do so before adding water as they become too heavy.  Keep them well watered during hot weather and add water crystals before going away.  They work well!!

What Action next

May I recommend spending a cold or gloomy day enjoying some relaxation and making a list of what improvements you would like to plan ahead. Next month I will suggest some plants that may be worth looking up in books or electronically that may guide you and quick ways to improve different soil.

Enjoy the new year planning and look after our wildlife, two and four legged.

Tony Arnold MCIHort

Author Science for the Gardener Book

Secondary science resource for RHS School gardening


bottom of page