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Garden Diary

Early Spring

The ornamental garden

Dig up and divide overcrowded snowdrops and perennials and prepare ground for summer bedding. Scatter fertilizer among border perennials and roses and fork it into the soil. Wait until the late frosts are over before planting out seedlings. Seeds such as candytuft, larksur, lupins, nasturtium, wild flower mixtures and poppy can be sown directly into the border where they are to flower or for thinning and planting into final positions later. In good weather sweet peas can also be sown outdoors now.

Fruit and vegetables

This is a busy time for planting and sowing the vegetable garden. Plant a succession of crops for a prolonged harvest. Carrots such as Amsterdam forcing and early Nantes can be sown at intervals through to early summer. Try and sow early crops in a sheltered position as this gives some protection from carrot root fly. Other seeds to sow include broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, parsnips, lettuce, peas, radish and cauliflower. Germinating seedlings need nitrogen for vigorous growth, phosphate for root development and potash for hardiness. Therefore, one week before sowing or planting incorporate growmore at a rate of 140g per square metre to get plants off to a good start. Early potatoes should now be planted. Plant fruit trees and bushes, prune raspberries and mulch canes with compost or manure. Pollinate outdoor peaches, nectarines and apricots and protect the blossom with muslin. Soak the soil around newly planted fruit trees and mulch with manure.

The lawn

Apply a nitrogenous spring and summer lawn fertilizer, combined with a moss killer or weed killer, if required. The nitrogen content will quickly encourage a lush green lawn. Rake and scarify the lawn to remove moss and thatch. Mowing should be carried out as necessary, the frequency will depend on the weather, but once a week is ideal, keeping the blades at a medium height 2cm for a luxury lawn and 2.5cm minimum for a utility lawn. Cutting too low at this time of year can encourage moss growth and reduces the overall vigour of the grass.


Repot houseplants and give them a week or two in the greenhouse before bringing back indoors. Heating encourages pests to keep breeding throughout the year, check for aphids on indoor plants.

The greenhouse and conservatory

If the weather becomes warm during the day keep ventilators open as often as possible to harden seedlings but don't allow them to dry out. Cuttings of fuchsias, pelargoniums, chrysanthemums, geraniums and helichrysum from stock plants can be taken and rooted in pots or trays of compost after first dipping in rooting powder. Pinch out shoot tips of fuchsias as they grow. Sow half hardy and tender annuals in a heated propagator. Seeds of salads such as tomato, lettuce, pepper and greenhouse cucumber, can be sown in preparation for planting into growing bags or open ground in mid spring as the greenhouse empties. Sow mustard and cress indoors. Peaches, apricots and nectarines can be pollinated by dabbing the centre of each open flower in turn with a small brush.


Put stakes in to support tall growing perennial plants like lupins and delphiniums. Net brassicas to protect them from pigeons.

Mid Spring

The ornamental garden

There is a wide choice of colourful plants for garden at this time of year, especially for use in hanging baskets, pots and containers. Even the smallest garden can be transformed into a blaze of colour. The planting combinations in baskets are limitless, but the general rule is one taller plant in the centre to give height and trailing species positioned around the edge of the container to trail over the side. Tubs and window boxes are planted in much the same way. Plant up containers with half-hardy annuals when the risk of frosts has passed and feed them each week with a liquid fertilizer. Choose pelargoniums and petunias for containers in full sun that cannot be watered regularly. Any shrubs that were not pruned to provide frost protection, like hardy fuchsias and hydrangeas, can now be pruned. Forsythia, ribes and other spring flowering shrubs can also be pruned after they have bloomed. Propagate rhododendrons by layering. Feed spring flowering bulbs now with a few handfuls of general fertilizer.

Fruit and vegetables

Sow broad beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, rocket, spinach, swedes, Swiss chard and turnips outdoors. Protect young vegetable plants with netting. Growing bags can be used to grow excellent crops of tomatoes - ideal for sunny patios and balconies. Cucumbers, sweet peppers, aubergines, courgettes, melons, radish, lettuce and culinary herbs are also ideal for growing in bags for salads at home, if space is at a premium. For growing tomatoes, either propagate plants from seed, sown from mid winter to early spring, or purchase the plants from a garden centre. When buying ready grown, ensure that you are obtaining correctly labelled plants as the many different varieties available may have very different growth characteristics, requirements and taste. Whichever variety is chosen keep the plants well watered in a sunny position until the first flower on the first truss opens. After the second truss has set, gradually remove surplus or old leaves from the base of the plants to allow the fruit more space and light, but don't remove too many leaves at once. Feeding will encourage higher yields of full-flavoured tomatoes. Remove weeds from between strawberries and place cloches over a few plants to produce an early crop. Prune damaged branches from fruit trees and bushes.

The lawn

This is a ideal time to dispose of weeds in the lawn. Several granular and liquid products will feed the lawn and kill the weeds in one application. Now is the time to complete the sowing of grass seed and laying of new turf. The frequency of mowing should be increased depending on the finish and type of lawn required.


Take cuttings of indoor pot plants. Clean the leaves of foliage plants. Wipe the leaves with moist cotton wool to remove dust, and spray with a leaf shine.

The greenhouse and conservatory

French beans can be sown in a patio tub. Plant out outdoor tomatoes, courgettes, sweetcorn and melons. Sow half hardy and tender annuals for summer bedding and greenhouse displays. Prick out seedlings from earlier sowings and shade them in spells of bright sunshine. Pot up overwintered cuttings of geraniums, fuchsia and other half hardy perennials.


Shade seedlings in spells of bright sunlight. Keep compost containers covered to stop the contents drying out.

Late Spring

The ornamental garden

Plant out your summer bedding, the long warm days are ideal for the growth of cultivated plants. New perennials can be added to borders if gaps have appeared, push in twiggy pea sticks around them if needed and provide stakes for plants that need them. Feeding with liquid fertilizer to keep pace with the demands of fast-growing plants. These products give the plant all it needs whilst controlling the amount and type of nutrients. A dressings of organic matter in the form of garden compost or farmyard manure will improve the water holding capacity of all but the coarsest sandy type soil. Watering is a priority as the weather becomes warmer, particularly for pot plants, patio containers and recently planted trees and shrubs. Look out for greenfly, whitefly, caterpillars, mites, slugs and snails which descend on the garden at this time of year, the use of pesticides may be necessary. Cut back shrubs such as broom, Choisya, Kerria and Ceanothus that have finished flowering. Also cut back Aubrieta and deadhead rhododendrons. Overgrown plants of Clematis montana can be cut back drastically, but most clematis generally need just a light trimming of the side shoots. Deadhead plants such as delphiniums as soon as flowering is over, as this can encourage a second flush of bloom later in the year. Lift tulip bulbs now if the foliage has withered.

Fruit and vegetables

Sowing can continue in order to produce a succession of crops. Carrots, beans, peas, endives, salsify, radish, lettuce should be sown and greenhouse raised Brussels sprouts, broad beans, runner beans, peas, onions, lettuces, leeks, cauliflowers and celery planted out. Lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflowers can also be sown on an indoor windowsill. Weeds should be hoed down as they appear or treated with weed killer taking care not to splash the leaves of cultivated species. Fruit trees, fruit bushes, raspberry canes and strawberry plants can still be planted now. Cover fruit bushes and strawberries with netting to protect the ripening fruits from birds. Surround strawberry plants with straw or strips of black polythene to keep the fruit clean and give the plants a foliar feed. 'Stop' all new shoots on figs by removing the tip after the fifth leaf. Thin out peaches to leave 22cm between each.

The lawn

The lawn should now be looking its best, but if there are bare patches scatter some grass seed over the surface and scratch it in with a rake or small hand fork. Aim to cut the lawn twice a week, particularly on luxury lawns. However the height of cut should not be lowered too much should conditions be dry or weeds and moss will flourish at the expense of comparatively shallow rooted grasses. Apply water as necessary through any dry periods, keeping the soil moist to prevent any check in growth or loss of colour. Feeding can continue but in hot conditions the use of a liquid preparation is recommended to lessen the risk of scorching. Treat weeds as soon as they appear with spray or spot treatment, or dig out individual weeds like dandelions by hand.


Houseplants require less maintenance if they are placed on a piece of capillary matting draped in water.

The greenhouse and conservatory

Sow seeds of cinerarias, cyclamen and greenhouse primulas for winter flowers. Sow marrows, courgettes, melons and sweetcorn for planting out later. Plant onion sets in boxes of compost under glass to go outdoors once they have formed small plants. Plant out leeks, Brussels sprouts and winter cabbage. Where salads such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are being grown, little if any shade will be needed until later in the season when things really hot up. Remove side shoots from greenhouse grown tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. As temperatures rise, shading of some kind might be necessary to protect crops still in the greenhouse. However this should be light at first, allowing for the occasional period of dull weather which could occur. Greenhouse shading may take the form of a liquid which is sprayed onto the glass through to ready-made blinds which can be rolled up on dull days to make use of available light. Ventilation is crucial to prevent temperatures inside the greenhouse or conservatory from becoming too hot. Regular ventilation also allows for the air to change inside the structure, cutting down the risk of disease.


Erect supports for runner beans. Provide wire or trellis supports for new climbers and tie in the stems while they are young and flexible. Down-pipes leading from the guttering of greenhouses, conservatories, sheds, garages and the house itself are all potential sources of good clean water which can be stored in butts during times of water restrictions. Fit water butts with a cover to prevent debris from entering on which water-borne diseases can breed. Check hoses and tap fittings for leaks.

Birstall Garden and Leisure Centre began trading as a family owned and run Centre in 1969, and was the first Garden Centre to start trading online. In 1999 we created our website in order to give customers from all over the UK the opportunity to take advantage of our amazing prices, fantastic online discounts and speedy nationwide delivery. In particular areas of the UK, we are able to both deliver and construct your new garden building, summerhouse, greenhouse or garages. And assemble your new garden furniture or BBQ.