Prepare your garden for the summer by seeding grass and planting more bulbs
PUBLISHED: 16:25 25 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:21 26 February 2013
It's time to begin some serious preparation for the summer including seeding grass and planting more bulbs, says Dan Booth head gardener at Brodsworth Hall
March is usually a very busy month for a gardener. Just how busy depends on how kind the weather was in February. A sustained cold snap or a covering of snow will mean two months work to do in one. Here at Brodsworth we are working to have the garden looking spic and span ready for the start of our summer season which begins on Good Friday.
We have just about completed our big winter project on the North Drive and we await the newly sown grass to appear - assuming any of it survives the ravenous pheasants and wood pigeons.
To prepare the surface for seeding it was first mechanically cultivated before being levelled with landscaping rakes back in February. As mentioned in last months issue this gave time for it to settle and firm before we walk on it to broadcast the seed.
Once we had checked and re-levelled, the surface was moistened slightly to help the seed stick and stay in place so you dont end up with a patchy lawn where the wind has blown all the seed to one side. The seed was then sown and raked in with a standard soil rake and finally given a good watering. If possible it is better to seed an area after a few days of mild weather so that the ground has a bit of heat in it to encourage root growth.
For small areas, sowing by hand is usually fine, but on larger areas like the North Drive we tend to use a pedestrian spreader. These inexpensive pieces of kit speed up seeding and adjustable versions like ours can also be used for fertilising or even gritting the drive.
You can also add a fertiliser at the seeding stage if you like; a spring or autumn feed mix depending when you are seeding. This will give the lawn a kick start once the roots develop and, in theory, you should end up with a thicker lawn more quickly.
In the herbaceous border, March is your last chance to do any lifting and dividing left over from the autumn, especially early genus such as Hosta which need dividing before they come in to leaf. You can now also add your summer flowering bulbs such as Lillies, Nerine and Allium (all of which we put to good use in our Fern Dell) to the border or simply plant in pots to add a splash of colour to a dull corner.
Speaking of pot plants now is a good time to pot on, top dress and tidy up your tender pot plants ready to bring them out after the last frost, which is usually in May or early June.
In other areas of the garden a good general tidy is required following the winter weather and it is important to keep an eye out for the first weeds of the season. Getting on top of weeds early is the key to an easy, weed-free summer.
If time allows, it is always best to hand weed using a trowel or hand fork to ensure you get all the roots out but hoeing is also an option.
In the large formal shrubberies here at Brodsworth, hand weeding is rarely possible so we do our best to hoe through all the beds when we get the opportunity, preferably on a weekly basis.
These days there is a wide array of hoes to choose from, from the traditional draw and Dutch hoes to the speedy and efficient winged weeder and it is down to personal choice, every gardener has their favourite.
Another top priority for the watchful eye in March are pests and diseases. Once the days get longer and warmer, the garden nasties start to make a comeback. In particular watch out for slugs, snails and aphis during any mild spells. Snuffing out the early signs of an infestation could save you the time, expense and heartache of replacing badly damaged plants later in the season. Rot, mildew and blackspot may also start to make an appearance; any infected plants should have affected parts removed or possibly may need to be disposed of entirely.
A good, early March tidying session will help you spot such issues in a timely fashion so get out there before its too late.
Get your plant supports for the border in place early. They will help achieve a more natural look as plants can grow through the supports rather than being bunched up and tied together after the growth has occurred.