It’s Show Time
Garden shows get into their stride in May. I love the RHS Malvern Spring Gardening Show, which takes place from the 9 to 12 May. The setting at the foot of the Malvern Hills is very special, the plants are bandbox fresh and everyone is happy and optimistic at the beginning of a new gardening season.
Two weeks later it’s the Chelsea Flower Show, celebrating its centenary from the 21 to 25 May – although if you don’t have your tickets I’m sorry to say it’s too late – they were sold out months ago. Console yourself by visiting the most exciting and dynamic of gardening events – The Chelsea Fringe. Started in 2012, it has taken off in a really big way this year, spread across London and far beyond to the depths of Kent, the Home Counties, Bristol and even as far as Vienna! Most of the events are free and organised by people with a real passion for gardening. Taking place between the 18 May and 9 June there are plenty of opportunities to find a time and location that suits you.
Carbon Gold are involved in a number of ways: They have teamed up with Crabtree & Evelyn, supplying biochar compost for their ‘Avant Garden’ (pictured above left) – an innovative pop-up herb garden that will blossom on Covent Garden’s West Piazza from 14 May to 9 June. They are also providing GroChar Soil Improver and Fertiliser for a new Pocket Park designed by the Edible Bus Stop on Landor Road SW9 that will launch during the festival. Craig Sams, founder of Carbon Gold, will be helping to plant a tree on the launch day – Saturday 18 May, 1pm and 4pm. Finally, GroChar Soil Improver will be used to stop the soil drying out in an Edible Wheelbarrow Roller Coaster installation (pictured above right) to be situated adjacent to the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank from 31 May.
Make watering easier by filling all your watering cans at the end of a major watering session. Dot them around the garden so that they can be used instantly to revive flagging plants
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
Cover your soil with a mulch and you will stop weeds growing, help retain moisture and stop the soil splashing onto the leaves in heavy rain. In my own garden I generally use gravel for small pots and containers because it looks really good, a mineralised straw mulch called Strulch on the borders, and composted bark under trees and shrubs. In time, both the Strulch and the bark will rot down and increase the organic matter in the soil – and I will then add a new layer of mulch. When sowing fine seeds, dampen the end of a matchstick and pick up seeds one at a time for even spacing.
Toughen up your Tomatoes (and other young plants)
‘Hardening off’ is one of those gardening terms that is obvious when you have it explained, but isn’t really crystal clear otherwise. It’s the process of gradually acclimatising plants to the great outdoors. It applies to any plant that is undercover when you buy it or that you have raised yourself on the kitchen windowsill, in a cold frame, or a greenhouse. Start off by moving the plants outdoors (dappled shade is best) on fine days and returning them undercover at night.
Do this for a week, but not if the temperature drops dramatically, it’s blowing a gale, or raining cats and dogs, all of which would damage tender leaves. Then keep an eye on the weather forecast and listen for the magic words ‘a warm night’ – when you hear this you can safely leave your plants outdoors. Hardened off in this way most plants will then happily deal with any less-than-lovely weather.
Plant fragrant and aromatic plants alongside pathways and around doorways so that you get the maximum enjoyment from their fragrance.
Once spring bulbs have finished flowering in pots and containers, they are taking up valuable space that you will need for summer planting. If you have the space, rather than digging them up and discarding them, remove them carefully with as much root intact as possible and replant into large plastic pots.
Give them a good water and a liquid feed and leave them to complete their natural process of dying back in a tucked away corner of the garden. Once the foliage has died back completely you can clean up the bulbs and plant them in the ground to naturalise. Narcissus establish well, as do some tulips, especially the species, singles and lily-flowered varieties. It’s a matter of trial and error, but definitely less wasteful than throwing them away.
Basil hates to go to bed with wet feet, so only water it in the morning and throw away excess water that drains into the saucer.
The Chelsea Chop
So-called because it is carried out around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show, this is a useful technique for controlling the height of plants and delaying or extending their flowering period. By reducing the plant’s height by half you can delay flowering for a special event – or if you have several plants of the same variety, you can cut some back and leave others untrimmed for a staggered display. It also keeps plants fuller and more compact so that less staking is needed. Not all plants are suitable for this treatment, but phlox, sedum, rudbeckia, helenium, echinacea and solidago respond well.