Long evenings a godsend for gardening fans - what jobs should you be doing?

The roller-coaster that is spring gardening is well and truly underway for the 2022, writes Olive Ryan
Long evenings a godsend for gardening fans - what jobs should you be doing?

Tulip, 'Happy Family'.

THE longer days are allowing more time in the evenings for gardening jobs, and colour is appearing everywhere, as the sunshine and rising temperatures bring life to the surface of the soil.

All of that green energy that lay dormant beneath the soil for the winter months is beginning to come to life, and the feeling of the garden coming alive is palpable these days.

March is a month that sees great changes happening and the saying ‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’ has been a largely true one this year.

The start of the month felt like the depths of winter but by the time we got to the end, the days were longer and sunshine had begun to make an appearance.

As always, we must keep an eye on night temperatures, particularly as the seasons change, and keep the horticultural fleece and cloches close to hand and seedlings under cover until later in spring and early summer. This in-between time can be a dangerous and frustrating one so be vigilant for the next few weeks.

The daffodils are looking resplendent this year as they got a great window of sunny and dry weather to display their dainty nodding heads in the spring sunshine. Tulips are beginning to appear now also and bring a great variety of colour to the garden, with flowers of every colour starting to appear.

The drier, brighter and longer days help the soil to dry out in preparation for the growing year ahead, and while a little early for planting much out into the ground just yet, the soil can be worked without damaging the structure when weather conditions improve, as they generally do for a window of time at this time of year.

It seems we get some of our best spells of weather in March and April and spend the rest of the year wishing it back! 

There is plenty of garden compost to be spread and lots of last minute pruning to be done before growth kicks in.

The more tender and later flowering shrubs like fuchsia and buddleia will benefit from a good reduction now. These shrubs flower on the current year’s wood, which means pruning at the start of the growing year will not affect flowering for the season ahead.

Some shrubs flower on year-old wood, which means pruning them at the start of the season will remove their potential flowers, so do be mindful of this before launching into action with the secateurs.

Shrubs flowering on old wood include Forsythia, Philadelphus, Camellia, Azalea, Rhododendron and Magnolia.

The sap is starting to rise in plants as the air and soil temperatures warm up and many flower and leaf buds are ready to open.

Any dahlias that were dug up and dried out over the winter will need to be cleaned up and potted on as temperatures rise and buds begin to swell. Trimming off any damaged/partially detached tubers will benefit the plant in the long run as these will only rot in the soil.

If the plants are grown on under cover for a few weeks before planting out into their summer flowering positions in the garden, flowering will begin earlier and continue right into the autumn. It also allows for the opportunity to take basal cuttings once the fresh new stems appear, and they will root readily now at the beginning of the growing season.

Dahlias fell out of favour for a long time but are currently the height of fashion and a valuable addition to the late summer flower garden, with their blousey, colourful blooms of different colours, heights and textures producing great colour extension and wonderful cut flowers also.

Time now to start sowing seeds of vegetables and annual flowers for the garden. Ideally, a glasshouse bench is the best spot but a sunny windowsill will do the job just as well, capturing the sunlight to heat the soil, which in combination with moisture in the growing medium will awake the seedlings and stimulate them to germinate, producing roots and shoots. They can remain on the window sill for a few weeks before needing to be moved on.

Seeds can be direct sown into the soil in a protected environment like a polytunnel or glasshouse, so salad crops like lettuce, radish and beetroot can be started now and sown at intervals every few weeks to provide succession.

Yes, the roller-coaster that is spring gardening is well and truly underway for the 2022 season.

Enjoy planning and planting and remember to take some time to stop and admire all of your handy work as the garden awakes from its slumber!

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