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Top tips: Lockdown gardening

28 May 2021
Children Looking At Mixed Potted Seedlings (part Of Series)

April is known as nature’s planting time, which is good timing for us. Here are a few top tips for what you can potter away at in the garden, writes Rachel Vogan.

Free plants anyone? One of the most fun and rewarding things to do in the garden is to save your own seeds. Easy ones to start with include sunflowers, poppies, gladioli, nasturtium, cosmos and sweet peas and Queen Anne’s lace. Be organised and label all the seeds as you go so you know what they are. Consider taking a photo on your phone as you package them up. Envelopes and small jars are ideal for storing seeds, just make sure the seeds are mature and dry before sealing the lids or packets.

When it comes to packing a punch with flavour, herbs are at the top of the list, as not a lot is required to elevate an average dish into something outstanding. Herbs that can go in the garden now include rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, bay, parsley, winter savory, chervil and coriander. To maximise and promote healthy growth, plant in good soil, in full sun. All the aforementioned herbs will thrive in tubs and planters – just don’t be tempted to plant them in small pots, as they all enjoy plenty of root room.

Autumn is the ideal time to trim evergreen hedges, such as buxus, laurel, privet, escallonia, teucrium and lonicera. With deciduous hedges, it is wise to wait until the plants have shed their leaves before pruning. Remove any leaves lying on the hedge to enable fresh air and sun to circulate. New hedges can be planted out this month too. Allow a reasonable distance between plants to ensure the roots are not competing with those of their neighbours. A side-dressing of general fertiliser will give the plants a boost before winter.

Flowering perennials, summer-flowering shrubs and climbers all need the short-back-and-sides treatment now. Leave still-blooming dahlias alone, these can be dealt with in a month or two. Hydrangeas can be pruned now. Trim the stems back by up to 50 per cent if you want to reduce the overall size of the plant. However, note that this doesn’t have to be an annual job – you can, alternatively, just leave them to it, space permitting.

With falling leaves and the cooling of the soil, it is time to plant new bulbs and lift and divide existing ones. It’s incredible that those small, dry, knobbly things transform themselves into something flowering and wonderful in spring and summer. You’ll want to plant plenty as, once they are in bloom, you will always want more – never less!

A good way to manage grass clippings is to leave the catcher off the mower and leave the clippings on the ground overnight. That’s if you can stand the look of it. On hot days the clippings shrivel and almost disappear overnight, saving a whole pile of work and admin.

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