Gardening Tips - nurture new growth in Spring

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 March 2014

Watering your plants in spring is a fine balancing act

Watering your plants in spring is a fine balancing act


Fingers crossed for warmer weather, says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall

It’s April and spring should have well and truly sprung by now. In our gardens we have been blessed with a fairly mild winter and there is an abundance of spring flowers, new shoots in the ground and leaves on the trees to make the wild, windy winter a distant memory.

Here at Brodsworth our winter project has been to reinstate the Victorian corner beds on the south and west terraces. They will help to anchor the hall to its surroundings and make for an eye catching picture from whichever way you view the house.

The new growth on your plants will just be starting to settle in and it is important to keep an eye on them as they will be fairly fragile and vulnerable for a while. Don’t be tempted to over-water as it is important that newly planted shrubs are only watered when they really need to be. Watering as a matter of course is not only a waste of time and water but can actually stunt the development of a plant rather than help it.

And perhaps conversely, a plant that is used to getting a regular supply of water from the can or the hose is much more likely to succumb to drought and dryness. This is a result of an under-developed root system caused by the fact that it has never had to search for water. So it really is a fine balance that you need to adopt when watering.

Admittedly, plants planted in the spring rather than the autumn or winter usually do require more help with water than their winter planted counterparts as they have had less time to bed in before the warm weather and long days arrive. It is worth making a note of which plants were planted when and then targeting your watering accordingly.

Brodsworth’s trees and shrubs are gradually weaned off manual watering within a couple of seasons. After that they will only get watered if there is a risk of drought and the April showers hopefully mean that watering won’t be too much of a concern and we can concentrate on a few other important garden jobs.

Much of our time over the next six months will be spent on maintenance duties. We strive to get the basics right and this involves keeping weeds under control, especially in the formal garden. As an apprentice I was taught that hoeing on a weekly basis, even where weeds are not visible on the soil surface, means that they won’t get a chance to germinate which makes the job quicker and easier, almost a pleasure.

Cutting grass on a weekly basis is also a priority and straight, clean edges are the finishing touch to a beautiful garden. This regular activity in the garden will mean that you are never faced with a build-up of unwanted soil and garden fiends and our borders and path edges are edged to within an inch of their lives to keep them looking pristine. It’s actually quite therapeutic.

As April dawns, your climbing roses might need some attention. New stems and strays blown free over the winter might need tying in, but try not to let the support structure such as the rose arch or pergola get too congested with stems as it makes it difficult to remove any older wood in the winter. If there isn’t space for the new stems then don’t worry, you might have to prune them off until you can take out some old wood later in the year.

Your roses are probably a little bit hungry now, but I suggest that you wait until there are obvious signs of growth, such as an opening leaf bud. If you feed the plant too early when it is still dormant, the nutrients risk being leached away through the soil by rain.

At Brodsworth we use a granular rose food which we sprinkle around the base of the rose. This is then raked in with a springbok rake. If the soil is very dry, the beds are then watered. To get the best from our roses we add a winter mulch of Brodsworth’s own compost each year.

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