Now is the time to get busy…

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Split up your herbs

Splitting herbs will keep them young, healthy and productive for many years to come.

All clump-forming herbs including marjoram, mint and lemon balm tend to sprawl and die out in the middle as they get older, leaving you with an unsightly mess and making the plants less productive, too.

To keep your plants healthy and promote lots of strong new growth – best for cooking as it’s tender and full of those essential oils which carry the herb’s flavour – dig your clump wholesale out of the ground, taking as much rootball with it as you can. If you grow your herbs in containers, just tip the herb out of the pot.

Using your spade or an old knife, cut the clump into three or four pieces, each with some good strong roots and top growth. Trim away any dead areas so you have a nice healthy young plant. Fork fresh compost into the area where you want to plant, and add a handful of slow-release fertiliser such as bonemeal. Then choose the strongest chunk of herb, replant and water in. The other chunks you can plant elsewhere in your garden, pot up for windowsill herbs or give away to friends.

 

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Earth up container-grown potatoes

To keep them growing on strongly for your earliest-ever crops, earth up container-grown potatoes. Potatoes form tubers along their roots underground, so the more root the plant grows, the bigger your harvest. Adding more compost as they grow also keeps tubers buried deep underground: if they form too close to the surface and light reaches them they’ll turn green and inedible.

After you’ve planted your two or three seed potatoes and covered them with a few inches of compost it will be just a few weeks before sturdy green shoots are thrusting up above the surface. Once they’re about 15cm high, if you’re using potato bags roll up the sides a few inches before adding more compost.

Use a 50:50 mix of general multi-purpose compost and a nutrient-rich soil-based compost such as John Innes no. 3, and carefully bury the shoots in compost until just the top leaves are showing. Then repeat as the plants grow, earthing up every time the shoots grow another 15-20cm, and watering generously throughout. Keep them warm – a cool greenhouse or sunny spot on the patio is ideal – and you’ll be tipping out your first crop of delicious new potatoes by the end of next month.

 

 

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Prune Buddleia

You can be really quite brutal and cut it right back . You’ll encourage loads of fresh growth to explode from the base this spring, and since buddleia flower on this year’s new branches, that means lots of flowers.

Best known as the ‘butterfly bush’ the buddleia is a must-have for wildlife gardens, covered with hundreds of butterflies in late summer, sometimes so densely you’ll hardly be able to see the nectar-rich flowers. It makes a fine large shrub, up to 3m tall: Our large Buddleia can be found on the shrub beds located to the left of the start of the Pagoda.  For small Buddleia make your way to the A to Z shrub tables just to the right past the big green barn.

Leave new plants for a year or two to establish, then start pruning annually in spring. Using sharp secateurs or loppers, cut away every branch to around 30cm above ground level, always pruning to just above a leaf joint. Finish with a scattering of slow-release fertiliser and a nice thick mulch to encourage it to throw out a thicket of new stems and a superb display of flowers later in summer.

 

 

Kids in the garden

Encourage children to help in the garden

It’s always great to get children involved in some fun gardening and Sunflowers are a lovely way to start them off. Sunflowers are mainly sown from mid-April to the end of May, but see individual seed packets for details. Children will love to watch their progress and will marvel at the Sunflower in full bloom.

Sunflowers are an annual plant and will flower in August.

Or you could just give children their own garden space. (This does not have to be big. You can start with a large container or a few pots) and let them do as they please. If you do have the space, give your child a small part of the garden and encourage them to dig in the dirt. (Plus younger children love making mud pies).  They will also enjoy having small versions of ‘your things’ too.  So if you can, invest in a couple of children’s tools such as a pair of gloves, a trowel or a rake. We have a great selection of items for the young gardener situated from the main entrance towards the back of the shop on the right.