If you have not already done so you can lift and divide snowdrop bulbs, remove all the seed heads and carefully lift with a garden fork. Try to keep a reasonable amount of soil with the roots and gently pull apart into smaller clumps about 50mm (2 inches) and replant immediately in their new position. Dividing them ‘in the green’ is very effective and they seem to establish easier using this method.
As shrubs and climbers start into growth its a good idea to spend a little time checking them over applying a little organic fertiliser and a mulch of well rotted compost. As you inspect remove any broken branches damaged by strong winds. Its not too late to prune out and dead wood, and its often easier to see the dead branches as the buds on the rest of the plant emerge. If you haven’t finished cutting back herbaceous perennials make a concerted effort to complete it before the end of the month otherwise you run the risk of damaging the young spring growth emerging from the base.
Some perennials such as Penstemons are best pruned towards the end of the month. In all but the very sheltered site it is best to leave all the top growth on to protect them throughout the winter. I usually cut them back towards the end of the month removing straggly top growth down to about six inches just above a newly emerging shoot. Sprinkle a handful of general fertiliser and a light mulch of well rotted compost.
As spring bedding plants and in particular pansies and primulas are in full flower make sure they do not dry out, especially if container grown.
Removing fading flowers will encourage them to flower longer. Although you will be seeing summer bedding plants for sale in some garden centres and nurseries it is too early to plant them out in the garden. If you are tempted to buy then keep them in a frost free greenhouse for another month. If they seem a little pot bound (full of roots) or the leaves are yellowing its a good idea to pot them on into a slightly larger pot with fresh multipurpose compost. If you have the space in your greenhouse and plan to grow them in large containers you can plant them up now.
I love to grow vegetables but if space is limited many people are put off thinking that its not worth it. Believe me there is nothing like fresh home grown vegetables and it is worth growing salads and herbs in containers. I have grown both Cabbage and Kale in containers, just plant three plants in a container about 30cms (12 inches) in diameter filled with multipurpose compost, keep them well watered and they will produce lots of growth. You can harvest them before they mature fully when they are about 20cms (10 inches) across, using them as you would ‘Spring greens’ or Kale.
Direct sowing is well underway in the vegetable garden, with crops such as Radish, Beetroot, Peas and carrots. Onion sets started in the greenhouse can be planted out too. Many of these can also be grown in containers or as micro veg, using them like small salad leaves or mini carrots. Pea shoots are very popular as a garnish in many dishes these days and they are the easiest thing to grow. Just select a large pot about 15cm (6 inches) diameter and fill with multipurpose compost to about an inch from the top of the pot. Space the seeds about 1cm (1/2 an inch )apart over the surface of the pot and cover with a layer of compost. Water well and stand on a warm windowsill or greenhouse bench. When the peas are about 2.5cm (1 inch) high pinch the top out and the plants will produce side shoots, when they are about 5cms (2” ) tall they can be harvested and used in salads. Empty the pot onto the compost heap and repeat the process every two weeks until the end of august and you will have pea shoots all summer.
Next month planting hanging baskets, dealing with straggly perennials, and keep an eye on soft fruit.