Here's a number of gardening tips for each month of the year.
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Cold weather update with warnings of a cold snap, you may be concerned that some of your garden plants - which have shown signs of growth - may be damaged. Here's some advice on how to protect your plants.
In cold spells, protect non-frost-proof containers with bubble wrap, hessian or fleece, to prevent them from cracking.
Protect newly planted trees, hedges and shrubs from cold winds and frosts, which can loosen and lift the roots.
In the flower garden, prune Rose bushes while they're dormant. Cut back to just above a bud, and remove any crossing or dead branches.
If your garden is looking a bit bare, try growing a winter-flowering evergreen Clematis such as Winter Beauty.
In the vegetable garden, harvest parsnips and leeks. While you're waiting for the weather to warm up, try growing your own mushrooms.
Remove yellowing leaves from your winter Brassicas as they're no use to the plant and may hold pests and disease.
In the fruit garden, begin pruning your apple and pear trees if you have not done so already - this is best done whilst they're dormant. Leave plums, cherries and apricots unpruned until the summer because pruning these fruit trees will leave them vulnerable to silver leaf infections. Prune blackcurrant bushes, gooseberries and redcurrants to maintain a productive framework.
In some warmer locations, you can begin sowing your vegetable seeds outdoors.
March is the perfect time to get those tomato and pepper seeds started indoors and ready for an early spring planting.
Ireland has a moderate climate. We do not have extremes of hot and cold weather, nor do we have extreme periods of rainfall or drought. However, we do have 'weather' - unpredictable periods, when within a given day, we can experience spring, summer, autumn and winter weather.
We've just come through March where the weather was unexpectedly cold and dry in the Cork region (although not as bad on the East Coast and up North ) although this weather was not unprecedented.
Last month the warning went out that March would be a cold and this turned out to be true. A warning also went out about the temptation to begin planting tender bedding and summer flowering plants (although I see that they've been available in many outlets without a warning that they'll be damaged by frost).
I hope you've resisted the temptation !!!
I repeat the warning, do not waste your money by planting summer bedding plants or summer container plants much before mid-April. Should you wish to begin to plant summer containers at this unpredictable (weatherwise) time of the year, you should make sure that you have the conditions to protect the plants from bad weather conditions, while making sure you have a good growing environment.
For a successful outcome for your container plants, you should delaying planting until at the earliest mid to late April.
Day length is increasing at this time of the year and temperatures are rising (day time temperatures are beginning to climb above 10 degrees) although we can have some sleet and snow along with night frosts.
Continue to mow lawns (weather permitting) and apply a spring fertiliser or a weed and feed fertiliser towards the end of the month, when it's not too dry, and scarify to remove moss. You can complete Rose pruning and feed with a Rose fertiliser and mulch beds to prevent a build-up of weeds.
Begin planting hardy herbaceous perennials, divide established perennial plants and stake tall, or potentially tall, perennials.
Trees and shrubs
Plant potted evergreen trees and shrubs (it's getting late to plant bare-rooted plants) and water in well and continue to water during dry spells.
You can prune trees and shrubs which have finished flowering and cut back those shrubs which will flower on this seasons growth.
Remove faded flowers from early flowering bulbs to prevent them from wasting energy in producing seeds. In dry weather, water well, to fatten up the bulbs between the fading of the flowers and the withering of the foliage.
Summer container planting
Now is the time to begin to plan your container planting for the summer season. Complete the cleaning out of tubs, window boxes, troughs and hanging baskets in preparation for the coming season.
Things to consider
Since our climate is dominated by 'weather' we cannot predict what the summer will bring. Under these circumstances we should consider hedging our bets, container planting wise. We need to consider the possibilities that the summer may be dry, wet or probably a mixture of both, so we need to consider choosing plants to cover all these possible outcomes.
Surfinias (trailing petunias) have been a popular choice for baskets and containers, but do not perform well in exposed locations, in wet and windy weather but do perform well in dry warm summers. However, trailing Begonias and Bacopa recover well from bad weather so a planting combining Surfinias, trailing Begonias and Bacopa with longer-lasting patio plants will recover from most summer weather conditions. If watered, fed and deadheaded, this combination of plants will flower from mid to late May until the first late autumn and winter frosts.
Remember for best results do not plant up containers too early as there's plenty of time to plant at the end of April and during May.
Ballinora Nursery and Plant Centre.