If we are lucky in Cumbria, then spring lasts a few precious weeks from the start of April. It is a time of burgeoning growth and colour, and often mixed weather!
Essentially it is time for us to celebrate and marvel over, but one that dictates that as gardeners we need to get busy. In what seems a blink of an eye the garden is awake, and the dormancy of winter is over, and the weeds are upon us
Maintenance is the key to a satisfying garden. Little and often is an adage that I generally abide by, and this is particularly relevant in terms of weeding. In borders, the ground that a few weeks ago had little herbage showing, suddenly sprouts unwanted seedlings. The tried and tested method to remove them before they get too big is to use a hoe. Even pernicious weeds such as ground elder are checked by regular use of this implement, and if you can augment this with the use of some form of mulch, then you can conserve moisture as the weather gets warmer, as well as limit their growth.
Stagshaw Gardens. Photo: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ambleside/features/escape-to-stagshaw-gardens
There is however a lot to be said for getting out and about and being inspired by the gardens of others.
Cumbria in spring is magnificent, and one of my favourites is Fell Foot Park, beautifully situated on the southern shore of Lake Windermere.
The site is some 45 acres featuring a mixture of wildflower meadows, and gardens that look their best in spring. On a similar theme of spring flowers but in the context of a woodland setting is Stagshaw Gardens, Ambleside, where you can see a good selection of rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias.
Having had a break from your own garden and no doubt eager to start on your own there are a plethora of jobs to do. Following spring bulbs there is always tidying up to do, and now is the time to sow and plant out bedding plants. Depending on the weather, and always being conscious of the possibility of late frosts (remember last May)! You can by the end of the month start planting out summer bedding. It is a time to take softwood cuttings and begin in earnest to mow your lawn – weekly, or you could consider leaving the grass to grow a little longer in less formal areas.
If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, then you will need to keep a closer eye on temperatures during the day and ventilate accordingly. On warmer days you may have to keep the floor damp with a hosepipe to increase humidity and keep temperatures down. It is also a good idea to begin to harden off any half – hardy bedding plants that you have raised under cover by placing them outside of the greenhouse during the warmer part of the day and then bringing them in at night. This will ensure that they are properly ‘hardened off’ before planting out.
On the pruning front there is much to be done. Spring flowering shrubs such as Chaenomeles, as well as Choisya and Ribes can be pruned as soon as flowering finishes. You can also prune any frost damage from other shrubs. But remember when cutting any hedges to check beforehand for any signs of nesting birds.
May is a busy but beautiful month. Take time out to visit gardens and enjoy your own.
As always happy gardening!