Make The Most Of Sunny Days, Wash Your Pots And Clean Your Trays

Apparently we are in the second month of spring here in the United Kingdom, but in Australia they are approaching their autumn, although there are days when it still feels autumnal here. With the ever changing weather patterns and climate change, I guess we can’t rely on the seasons being predictable anymore. 

There is no doubt that we have to continually adapt our approaches to growing flowers and vegetables, keeping on top of all the new advice can be a challenge but thankfully most gardening magazines and internet sites are packed with the latest guidance and advice on plant choices and gardening techniques.

Although we have had a miserable start to the year weather wise I can see that temperatures are on the rise and plants that have been keeping their head down are now springing up. Fresh spring growth is all around, and especially the herbaceous perennials that seem to erupt like leafy volcanoes which is why we need to get out there and put plant supports in place. It is especially important to put frames, stakes, twigs or whatever you use in place before too much growth develops otherwise we risk damaging young shoots or worse still, wrestling with spindly flopping stems.


We use a number of different supports and where we have been pruning and cutting back shrubs we often keep the longer branches and twigs to provide support for herbaceous perennials. As the plants develop, the support is often hidden and using twigs and branches gives a natural feel. Having said that, taller plants and climbers such as sweet peas, need a taller frame or obelisk. These can be easily ‘home made’ using willow, hazel, birch or bamboo canes which is often cheaper than metal or wooden ‘shop bought’ supports, although they may not last as long. I have in the past used upturned wire hanging baskets which many plants will grow through, ideal for plants that grow to about 50cm (18 inches).

Garden centres and nurseries are brimming with summer bedding plants encouraging you to create vibrant floral displays for those long summer days relaxing in the garden. It is by far the best way of instantly creating a vibrant display especially if you have limited space or no growing facilities. A heated greenhouse is a must if you plan to grow tender or half hardy summer bedding as they needs to be sown in warm conditions and grown on in a frost free place until planting out late May to early June. There is so much choice it can be a little daunting trying to choosing the right combination so a little tip is to walk around with your shopping trolley and imagine it is the container on your patio, pick up and arrange plants in your trolley and you will get an idea of how the colour and leaf texture will go together. As a general rule you need a taller plant as a centre piece with several shorter plants around it finishing with something a little trailing to tumble over the edge of the pot. Colour combination is a personal thing but is no different to how you like to decorate your house, choose the colours you like after all it’s your display. 

Bear in mind though that if you are tempted to buy this month you will have to keep them protected in a frost free place with plenty of light, a conservatory is fine, a windowsill not so good. If you have a sheltered spot near the house you may be able to keep them outside on the patio covering them with garden fleece if a frost is forecast, but this relies on you remembering and of course having the time to spare. It may be better to wait until next month to buy your plants and instead concentrate on sorting out what patio containers you need, spreading the cost over a couple of months.

The most important space in your garden is the place you can sit and relax, and, just like planning your kitchen, bathroom or indeed any other room of the house the patio should be seen as simply an extension of your living space, albeit reserved for those times when the weather is behaving itself. Whether it is relaxing in a lounger sipping your favourite drink with an engaging read, or a chance to catch up with close friends leaving the rest of the world to get on with itself, the restful part of the garden plays an important part in our wellbeing. 

A few carefully chosen planters filled with colourful herbs and salad leaves can make for an inviting and productive place, if you mix edible flowering plants amongst pots of salad vegetables you can create just as colourful displays as those comprising of blousy summer bedding plants, with the bonus of all those tasty treats.

Happy Gardening, Martin.

Next month, Chelsea chop or Hampton hack?, vegetables to sow now, plants vs seed?

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