Many alpine plants are beginning to flower this week, and I suggest you fill gaps in the garden with these easy to grow, inexpensive plants. I've also got tips for those of you with ponds and those planning new lawns. You can never let your guard down as far as slugs and snails are concerned either, so there's a little reminder here too!
- Lay turf to create an almost instant lawn. Don't skimp on the soil preparation as it will be much harder to correct things after the turf is down. It's imperative that newly laid grass is watered thoroughly and regularly until the new roots have formed.
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- If turf is too expensive and you're not in a hurry, you can get a great lawn by sowing grass seed. As with turf, prepare the soil thoroughly to commence sowing from the end of March onwards.
- How about a wildflower lawn? You could buy wildflower turf from a specialist or raise wildflowers to plant into the grass later on. Either way, you will be more successful if your soil is hungry and depleted of nutrients.
Ponds and Bog plants
- If you have used a water heater, remove or switch it off now. Turn on the pump to circulate and oxygenate the water and start feeding the fish if you have them.
- If you fancy some early colour in your pond plant Marsh Marigolds Caltha palustris. They are an excellent plant for bees too!
The Veg Plot
- Protect young seedlings and newly emerging soft shoots from slugs and snails. If you use the ferric phosphate based safer slug and snail controls, do so sparingly. It's safe but often too much is applied at once.
- If your garden has large paved areas, try to get low growing thyme in any cracks. Why not plant a container full of these little plants? Use John Innes no. 1 compost and add a third, by volume, of fast draining grit. Position in full sunshine if possible.
- Top dress alpine plants with sharp sand or grit. Get it in under the base of the plant so that there is excellent drainage there.
- Alpine plants are not just for rockeries. Fill gaps at the front of borders with easy low growing alpines. Start with dwarf pinks Dianthus, Campanulas, rock roses Helianthemum, rock soapwort Saponaria ocymoides and saxifrages.
- If you live in a city, near the coast or just in a sheltered warm spot you could now remove winter protection from tender plants. In these areas, tree ferns, banana and ginger lily could be unwrapped now. If your garden is in the north of the country or inland, it will pay to wait another 3-4 weeks to do this.