Garden Action

The premier gardening information source

APRIL 1st to 7th

Susan Explains Soil for Herbs
Many herbs are Mediterranean in origin. They thrive in well-drained soils which receive some moisture but never get water-logged. Pots filled with multipurpose compost is ideal if placed in a sunny position.
If you want to plant them directly in the soil, dig in lots of multi-purpose compost and, on heavy soils, some sharp sand. Don't add any nutrients, sun-loving herbs don't need feeding except on very poor soils.

It's quite possible to leave daffodils to themselves in some soils but they will do better in all soils given just a small amount of attention. First, when the flowers start to fade, as they do at that time of year, then pinch off the dying flowers. This will stop the plants putting effort into producing seeds. Instead they will put all their efforts into producing bigger and more bulbs for next year.

Leave the foliage alone until it dies down. The plant obtains its energy for next year from the leaves absorbing sunshine. Don't bend them over to encourage them to die as some gardeners do, this just restricts the time they have to grow larger and healthier bulbs. This is one time when "doing nothing" is better than "doing something".

Finally, sprinkle a handful or two of long lasting fertilser around each square meter (3ft square) of soil or grass. Very lightly work it in the soil so that it doesn't get blown away. Bonemeal or blood, fish and bone will be excellent for a long-lasting feed.

Planting Shrubs
Shrubs are traditionally bought and planted in autumn but if they are pot grown (as opposed to bare-rooted) they can be sown at any time of the year. This time of year is also a very good time to plant shrubs. The soil is warming up and at the same time there is plenty of rain to keep them self-watered until they become established.

Every garden and gardener is suited to different shrubss but there are a few which will thrive in almost any conditions. First is the thorny pyracantha. These are normally evergreen but at the same time they produce fragrant flowers in spring. They become really spectacular in autumn when they produce red orange or yellow berries. Avoid the red berried varieties because they tend to be eaten by birds.

Another all rounder which will grow in almost any situation is the berberis. Like pyracantha, some varieties are evergreen, but still produce flowers in spring and spectacular berries in autumn. Many berberis will also have foliage that makes a brilliant display of scarlet, blue and black in autumn.

Recommending a particular berberis variety is almost impossible because there are nearly 500 varieties to choose from. The best plan is to workout what you want from the plant and then take a trip to your local nursery. Evergreen / deciduous, berries, stunning autumn leaf colour, flowers, use for hedging or specimen plant. In our garden we have a berberis Darwinii, discovered by Charles Darwin in Chile. It grows to about 3m (10ft high) and produces masses of tiny yellow flowers in spring. Later in the year it produces blue berries.

If you want something a little smaller which can be bought really cheaply then go for berberis vulgaris. It grows to about 1.2m (4ft) high and produces blue berries. In some parts of the UK it grows wild so you can be assured that this plant will survive in most parts of the UK.

More Information
For more detailed information and timings go to our individual vegetable, herb and fruit pages. If you want to see a condensed vegetable advice page with planting, sowing, care and harvesting information for the entire year on one page then go to our vegetable calendar.