Saturday, 11 January 2014

Happy new year, time to start the big garden tidy.

By now we have eaten, drunk, been merry, been full of festive spirit and cheer and are all Christmas-ed out. Hopefully you all had a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Once the festivities are over and because I have two weeks off at Christmas I keep my fingers crossed we have some reasonable weather and I can get out and start tidying up the gardens for spring. Some gardeners start this in autumn once everything goes over, but I like to leave the garden to slide gracefully into winter, enjoying the frost on the seed heads, late flowers and also giving plants extra protection if we have very cold weather and deep frosts. But it is also important to get it all done before the bulbs and herbaceous start growing and emerging from the ground.

Before and after spring tidy up in the woodland garden
For the gardens at Easter Mosshat, the great tidy up involves cutting back the herbaceous plants, weeding the borders, re-edging the lawns, forking over the beds and finally adding fertiliser. Once done the gardens look great and it's such a satisfying feeling to get the gardens and plants off to a great start. As always in Scotland it is weather dependant. There have been years where I have been lucky enough to get it all done before the end of February and then there are the years when I am still trying to finish the tidy up in May. This is much more difficult as bulbs are up and plants are growing. But we gardeners are always at the mercy of mother nature.

Both borders complete, just needing the grass cut!

Cutting back the herbaceous plants, picking up dead leaves and general rubbish lying around instantly improves the look of the borders. The stems and leaves of virtually all herbaceous plants can be taken down to ground level. At this time I also cut all last years leaves off Hellebores, even though they are still green. This allows us to see the flowers when they bloom early in the season and allows new leaves to grow through. If I have had a good year in the garden there are few weeds to remove now, but there are always some tenacious ones that insist, so out they come. Forking over the beds (taking care to avoid bulbs) opens up the soil to allow better drainage and let air in, it also looks good of course.

The kids garden after tidying up, note the Agapanthus still wrapped up under its bamboo cloche
I re-edge the lawns at this time of year, which increases the visual look of the borders and garden but also gives a nice firm edge for the coming season. Firstly I take the shears and edge the lawn, then I run a half moon edging knife along the edge, taking care not to take much off but enough to get rid of mossy, ragged soil and create a nice vertical edge. I then take the shears over it again to remove any last straggly bits. We were always taught that if the grass edges look good and the first foot or two of the bed is tidy then you can worry less about what lies behind, and it does work.

Lastly I scatter fertiliser and compost over the beds, enriching the soil and feeding the plants. Well rotted manure is great or compost from your compost heaps spread over the surface of the soil is great to improve the soil, reduce weeds and feed the plants. Gradually over the year it is worked into the soil when you fork or hoe the beds and by the worms. I also scatter pelleted chicken manure over the beds. I have previously used Growmore and other chemical based slow release fertilisers but find that the organic pelleted chicken manure is really good and the plants love it!

The fruit and veg garden after its spring tidy up, wish it looked this tidy all year round!

Once the beds, patios, paths, lawns and other areas are all tided up the garden looks great and we can enjoy the plants growing and starting another year. After a month or so the garden will require another tidy up, but this is easier as its just a quick hoe and weed, the grass gets cut every week and we work on new projects.

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