Don’t say it too loudly or you’ll scare it off, but I think spring is finally here. The sun is out, beer gardens are full of people who aren’t actually smoking, and the first wasps of the season have begun repeatedly head butting our window panes.
So for the first time we’re poking our heads out the backdoor and thinking about all the jobs that are going to need doing. There are quite a few of them. Of course, the first item on any to-do list is the phrase “Write to-do list”. So to save you the trouble, here’s one we made earlier. Congratulations! You’ve ticked the first item on your to-do list off just by reading this article!
1. Spray Your Fruit Trees
The flowers are in bloom and the bugs are all coming out of hibernation. If you’re growing any orchard fruits, now’s the time to make sure they don’t get eaten. This is easy enough. Simply spray your trees with a coat of dormant oil. This not only keeps away bugs, it also smothers any eggs that have already been laid and kills off any fungal infections that may have set down. Get this done before your trees start to bud for the best results.
2. Repair Your Plant Supports and Beds
If you’re growing raspberries, blackberries, or flowers such as climbing roses or any other plant that requires a trellis, you should make sure that the supports that keep those plants in place are still in good condition.
Check them over and make any necessary repairs. You should also check your raised plant beds to see if they need reinforcing and fix any broken fence pickets.
3. Care for Your Lawn
This is a good time to lay down a pre-emergent lawn-care treatment. It’s a good way to combat weeds such as quack or crab grass. Get it down early when the weather improves and stop the problem before it even starts.
4. Prune the Roses
An old bit of gardening folklore my dad used to like repeating was that you have to cut away the dead canes from your roses when the forsythia blooms. If you don’t have any forsythias, March is probably a good time to get started.
5. Clean Your Garden Plots
Yep. This isn’t one of the more glamorous gardening chores but it needs to be done. Now that the snow has disappeared you need to get rid of all the winter debris that’s built up while you’ve been hiding inside in the warm. Get rid of all those broken twigs, vegetable plant skeletons and the litter of string, paper and old crisp packets that have somehow found their way onto your plant beds while your back was turned.
Nobody likes weeding but it needs doing and if you want it to be less of a chore you need to get it out of the way early. That way the root systems will still be pretty shallow and you’ll be able to clear them out of the way and devote more time to the more fun parts of gardening.
7. Top Dressing
If you’re not going to be tilling under your plant beds, put down a top dressing to get more nutrients into the soil and help the plants grow stronger. Good top dressing options include compost or, if you can find some, aged manure is great for the plants.
8. Replace Mulch
It’s not uncommon for your mulch to take a beating over winter. When you first venture out into the garden, check for any newly emerged bare patches. It’s a good idea to get those patches filled in while you’re putting down new top dressing to cut down on weeds.
If you’ve got any young trees or shrubberies that you want to move, this is when you should be moving them. The soil will be nice and soft, so moving them will be easier than at other times of the year. It’s also good for the plants to be moved before they start budding.
10. Sharpen Your Lawn Mower Blade
Of course the one job that we shouldn’t have to tell you you’ll need to start doing is mowing the lawn. Your grass has just been going through a massive growth spurt and it’s going to need keeping in check. That means you are going to need the right tool. Namely, you’ll need a lawn mower with a good sharp blade. If you can’t sharpen it yourself, get it down to the repair shop. A sharp blade doesn’t just make cutting through the grass easier, it can also mean avoiding getting the mower jammed or other dangerous malfunctions.
11. Mow the Lawn
Once your lawn mower is in perfect shape it’s time to put it to good use. At the start of the spring you don’t want to go nuts on the lawn. Cut it to the relatively high height of around 4-6 inches to keep the lawn looking neat without interfering with the grass’ growth phase. Later you might need to cut it shorter than that, but now is not the time.
12. Plant Your Vegetables
Finally you can start doing some actual planting once you’ve done everything else. If you like growing your own veg this is the time of year to start. Your potatoes, onions and peas, your lettuce, rosemary, oregano and thyme all need to go into the soil now if you want them to get the most of the good weather and grow up big, strong and above all, incredibly tasty.
Once you’ve ticked these off your list you’ll be able to get down to the real fun of gardening: planting new plants and tending to your favourites. Or maybe just getting a folding chair out and sitting down to have a read in the sun. Most of all, let’s enjoy the good weather while it lasts, as we all know it’s going to start raining again any day now.
Mark Bartram is the managing director of Lawnmower’s Direct.