Sarah's Snippets

Welcome to our blog by Sarah Squire, of the Squire’s family and Squire’s Garden Centres.

April Gardening Tips

I had hoped, when I wrote my column last month, that we had seen the last of the snow. Alas that was not to be and our teams have been routinely swathing any slightly tender plants in horticultural fleece to protect them from the icy chill. However the good weather will come and when it does there is so much to be cracking on with in the garden. I cannot wait to get out there more often and enjoy the scent of spring, the ever more joyful birdsong and the increasing warmth of the sun – fingers crossed!

April really is the time to take a good look at your lawn. Mow as required staring with the blades set quite high and gradually reducing the height as the spring goes on.

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New lawns can be planted from seed or turf laid. Apply a lawn seed or lawn feed, weed and moss killer to get the best from your lawn over the coming months. It really does make a difference.

It is also time to get planting, surely the most exciting gardening activity because it holds so much promise. Plant new trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and rock plants. Plant Dahlia tubers and Gladioli.

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Sow seeds for summer bedding in the greenhouse or conservatory and prick out sowings made in March. Sow annual seeds in the open soil. Do not sow too thickly and water as required. Sow Tomatoes in pots in the greenhouse or on a warm windowsill. Sow Leeks, Broad Beans, Beetroot, Lettuce, Parsnips, Peas, Mange Tout and Spinach outdoors under cloches. Grow Basil from seed in a warm greenhouse or on a windowsill. Plant out onion sets, leaving enough space for hoeing out weeds. Plant potatoes.

Plants for free are always a good idea. Early April is the ideal time to divide perennials that have become woody or died back at the centre. These can be split and replanted thus increasing your stock.  Dig over the area and fertilise before replanting. Water in well and mulch.

Train Clematis, tying in the shoots to spread the growing shoots over the wall or fence for a better display of flowers. Beware as new shoots are easy to break.

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Dead head bulbs but do not cut down the foliage as the bulbs need this to produce food for the bulb beneath the soil so that it flowers well next year.  It is a good idea to feed the bulbs now.

Apply a general plant food around fruit bushes, trees and Strawberry plants.

If frost is forecast use horticultural fleece to protect the blossom of flowering fruit trees.

Wishing you a very happy Easter and a lovely spring

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March Gardening Tips

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March may be starting with a cold snap but, on an optimistic note, spring is just a bud burst away and by the end of the month the clocks will have bounced forward and we can enjoy longer, lighter evenings perfect for an ad hoc potter in the garden.

Whilst my garden is still in the grip of winter chill, putting growth on hold for a little while, there really is a lot to look forward to this month as the temperature rises. In the meantime keep off frosted lawns if you can. But, believe it or not,  by the end of the month it will be time to give the lawn the first cut of the year. Set the blades high. Rake (scarify) the lawn to get rid of debris, dead grass and moss and aerate badly drained areas of the lawn with a hollow tined fork.

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Thinking of food, as one does on a cold day, it is time to put Seed Potatoes in a cool, light position to chit (sprout). Plant early varieties towards the end of the month. Sow hardy annuals outside towards the end of March. Sow half hardy annuals in the greenhouse, on a window sill, in a conservatory or buy young plants to grown on. Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsnips, Peas, Radishes and Spinach can soon be sown outside and then covered with cloches. Plant Onion sets and Shallots. There is still time to plant bare root fruit trees into well prepared soil. Mulch trees and bushes to keep the soil moist and weed free. As Rhubarb pushes through cover with an up-turned bucket to exclude the light to encourage the plant to produce pink shoots. For an early crop, bring potted Strawberries into the greenhouse, water and feed

Turning to ever brighter, more colourful, thoughts, buy summer flowering bulbs, corms and tubers, such as Gladioli, Dahlias, Begonias, Crocosmia and Lilies. Gladioli can be planted in the second half of the month. Herbaceous plants (cottage garden plants) will start to grow. Fork a general-purpose plant food around them then apply a mulch such as garden compost, composted bark or bark chips to keep the moisture in and the weeds down

Prune Hybrid Tea (large flowered) and Floribunda (cluster flowered) Roses and then give them a feed. Shrub Roses and Ramblers should not be pruned in the spring as they flower on the previous years’ wood. However, they still benefit from a feed.

I am so looking forward to the garden waking up and bouncing back from a long winter slumber. I hope you enjoy every new leaf and every breaking bud this month.

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February Gardening Tips

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It may be my imagination but I like to think that, when the sun comes out, I am hearing the birds chirrup just that little bit more optimistically now, heralding that spring is on the way. Some of the early daffodils are already fat with bud in my garden with the later flowering varieties poking up through the soil like mini green telegraph poles. I have also seen lots of Snowdrops making a welcome re-appearance. If you didn’t plant bulbs in the autumn there are plenty of pot grown ones to buy to cheer up your borders or doorstep. I am about to plant out the hyacinths that have filled the interior of my home with perfumed flowers so they can come up next year in the garden. Here are some other things to be getting on with as the month progresses.

Snowdrops_Once they have finished flowering, split clumps of overcrowded Snowdrops and replant.

  • Plant trees, shrubs and perennials provided the ground is not frozen.
  • Mulch borders.
  • Sow bedding plant seeds in a heated propagator.
  • You can also sow Tomatoes.
  • Dead head winter Pansies and Primroses.
  • Firm any Alpines that have been lifted by frost back into the soil.
  • Sow Broad Beans, Carrots and Parsnips under cloches.
  • Sow Onions, Peas, Leeks and Cabbage in a propagator.
  • Sow Parsley in a seed tray.
  • Cut autumn fruiting Raspberry canes to the ground and others to a bud above the top wire.
  • Continue to prune established fruit trees.
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December Gardening Tips

Ok, so it may not be a good idea to work on frosted soil or frosty or wet lawns. However, do not rule out December in the garden. After all, there are only so many festivities one can take (bah humbug) and a little fresh air, at any time of year, is a wonderful thing. So if you need a breather here are some ideas/excuses to get outside.

Dead head winter flowering Pansies.

Cut back Roses to prevent wind rock.

Put food out for the birds and make sure they have water.

Then with a clear conscience and a spring in your step you can get back into the festive mood by

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protecting Holly bushes that are carrying berries so that you can use the branches for Christmas decorations.

Buying a real Christmas tree. Don’t forget to cut off an inch or so at the base and place the tree stand that has a water holder – as if it was a bunch of flowers. Avoid standing it in front of a radiator.

Some cheerful houseplants such as Cyclamen, Poinsettias and Azaleas brighten up the house at this dark time of year. Cyclamen and Azaleas like it cool. Poinsettias like it warm and hate draughts.

Above all I wish you, most sincerely, a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year!

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November Gardening Tips

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I am always a little sad when the clocks go back. I am not a fan of the dark evenings. However, looking on the bright side, I suppose they make us appreciate the crisp, short autumn days all the more.

On the upside, if you see mowing as a chore rather than a delight, it is time to make what is likely to be the final cut of the year. Ensure the mower blades are at their highest setting.

There is still time to plant tulips and to plant and divide perennials. You can plant deciduous hedges and all kinds of deciduous shrubs and trees.

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You can also move established plants if you have come to the conclusion they are in the wrong spot. Cut back longer shoots and dig out the plant with as large a root ball as you can manage for replanting in a prepared planting hole deeper and wider than the root ball.

For a really satisfying garden workout give the vegetable patch a good dig and add well- rotted organic matter such as homemade compost or composted stable manure. If you feel more in the mood for a little pruning then winter prune established bushes and fruit trees (other than stone fruits such as plums and cherries).

So perhaps I shouldn’t be too gloomy when there is still a great gardening month ahead!

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