At long last, spring is on its way!
For sure one of gardening’s most beautiful and expressive seasons, spring will see your early winter planting efforts come to fruition.
The entire season is a breath of fresh air after a typically gruelling British summer - it's time to savour and enjoy.
The longer days and brighter, warmer sunshine will add a splash of verve to borders, trees, shrubs and other plants. Plants you’ve thought were long lost in the frost and snow may resurrect, and pollinating insects will begin to stir.
A gardener’s work is never done, though, and as always, there are things to do to prepare your garden for spring and summer ahead.
Louise Findlay-Wilson, who writes the popular Blooming Lucky blog, told Age Times: “It’s all too easy for people to forget about summer-flowering bulbs – and by that I mean corms, rhizomes, tubers and bulbs – but now is the perfect time to plan them. Things like gladioli, lilies, dahlias and agapanthus are a wonderful way to inject zing into your beds and borders because they’re often very architectural and work so well with other plants.
“For instance cannas look brilliant in a mixed border combined with grasses or with other summer flowering bulbs such as agapanthus or crocosmia. Or why not add drama to your patio by putting a canna in a container. If you’ve already got a flower bed planted up with perennials, but you’re a bit bored with it, the addition of a few summer flowering bulbs will really switch things up. For instance, if you’ve echinaceas, you could add some liatris spicatas for a lovely fresh effect.
“The trick with summer flowering bulbs is to remember that they’re sun lovers. They want to be in a sunny spot and plant them after the frosts have finished.”
When should I start preparing my garden for spring?
Through February and March, your garden will start to wake up from its winter slumber, turning from duller palettes of brown and grey to richer greens and colours from early spring flowers.
Preparing your garden for spring through February to March will give it the rocket fuel it needs to propel itself into full bloom.
1) Weeding and garden clearance
Does weeding ever end?! The short answer is no - there’s always something growing in your garden and weeds will crop up over the winter months.
Winter gardens are often barren and threadbare, but there’s still clearing up and weeding to do.
Some deciduous and herbaceous plants and shrubs may not have survived the winter, but don’t be too hasty to still ripping out blackened or brown plants and shrubs without a proper inspection.
If you do find dead growth, then prune it back. Consider dividing your perennials if they’ve encroached onto parts of your garden that you want to keep clear for spring planting.
Shrubs and perennials are easy to dig up and move whilst the ground is still soft, so now is an excellent time to reshuffle them if you need to.
Since the winter ground is often soft and wet when thawed, weeding and general clearance are very easy - make the most of it before the ground dries out!
You can then go about mulching barren borders and digging up some of the soil to loosen it for spring sowing and planting.
Fork organic fertiliser into loose soil to create rich, fertile soils for spring and summer.
2) Prepare for spring planting
Daffodils, crocus, tulips and hyacinths should have been planted in mid-winter, but many summer flowering plants can be planted soon, so get ready for the spring bulb planting frenzy!
Lilies, gladioli and ranunculi are all fine to be planted from March onwards. Frosts can persist beyond March though, so be aware of sowing most bedding plants too early if the weather is still threatening. Of course, you can still dig through catalogues and stock up for when the time comes.
Prepare for spring by ordering in your bulbs and seeds and planning where you’re going to put them.
There will likely be large areas of barren soil in your garden from the winter - mapping out your spring and summer blooms should be pretty straightforward. You may also want to create new beds or otherwise modify your garden - now is an excellent time to plan for any serious garden modifications over summer.
Remember not to jump the gun in planting summer flowers and shrubs too early - frosts can occur as late as April.
3) Take care of your lawns
Lawns throughout winter need very little attention, but they can become muddy, and the grass can completely die away in places.
It’s time to rake, aerate weed and scarify your lawn to prepare it for rejuvenation.
Aerators improve drainage and will prevent waterlogging. Scarification also improves the lawn’s permeability.
You can sew grass seed through late spring and summer - prepare your lawn now so it can quickly regain its spring sparkle as quickly as possible.
4) Plan your kitchen garden
Vegetables are usually sown and planted through March until June, but some like broad beans and cabbage can be sewn towards the end of February on warmer years at least. Anything and everything from potatoes to spinach, lettuce to onions, carrots and leeks can be planted in late March.
February is a great time to prepare your kitchen garden plot. Choose a location and begin to rake, clear and mulch. Install frames and supports and consider edging to help keep animals and pests at bay. You can take compost from the bottom layers of your compost heap to help naturally fertilise the soil ahead of your vegetable planting sessions in March and April.
Some vegetables like peppers and aubergines should be planted inside (so long as it’s warm), or with a heated propagator. You can also sew seeds such as poppies and cosmos inside ready for transferring outside when the final frosts pass in March or April.
5) Maintain your garden infrastructure
Gardens can get pretty rundown throughout winter. Gates and fencing can rot and fall into a state of disrepair, water butts can become clogged, and greenhouses can become riddled with moss and algae.
Use this opportunity to fix up and restore your garden furniture and infrastructure. Install water butts and make sure any old ones are functional so you can start collecting rainwater. Paving and concrete can chip and crack in the cold weather too - now is the best time to plug gaps to prevent vegetation from growing in between the cracks.
Now is also an excellent time to check your tools and replace garden equipment. Stock up on garden supplies such as twine, weedkiller, fertiliser, supports, stakes and protective equipment like gloves. Sharpen blades, check lawnmowers and ensure that other power tools (e.g. hedge trimmers) are working as they should.
6) Remove garden pests
Many animals and birds could have taken up residence in your garden over winter, and it’s important to not disturb nests and other habitats, but it’s highly likely that pests such as slugs, snails and white vine weevil larvae are also sheltering in your garden.
Check your garden for unwanted garden pests and remove them before spring. White vine weevil larvae live around the roots of plants and shrubs - check your borders for any obvious signs or they’ll quickly thwart your spring planting plans!