One of the great joys of those early spring days has to be getting out into the garden and laying the groundwork for the joyful summer months to follow.
If you don't have a lot of spare time to invest in gardening, don't worry - a ten minute burst of pottering here and there will make all the difference.
Planting shrubs, saplings and flowers is an easy way to celebrate the new season and bring some colour into your outdoor space. And looking out at your thriving garden on a dreary, rainy morning is sure to brighten up your mood.
So whether you’ve got acres of land to play with or just a modest terrace or patio, we’ve put together some handy tips from flower farmer and florist Nicola Cavanagh that prove you don’t have to be a seasoned pro to spruce up your garden in time for summer...
1. When to start planting
One of the main factors that determines whether a plant will thrive is the temperature of the ground: “It must be warm enough. This will vary according to plant type and of course where in the country you live."
"Plants are grouped into ‘hardiness'. From the hardy ones that can withstand temperatures below freezing to the half-hardy. These plants can only tolerate frost for a short time and need warmer conditions. This is normally 10 degrees and above to survive and flourish.”
Planning is key when thinking about what to plant, and sometimes the flowers you love have to take a backseat if they’re going to be hard work. Instead, don’t plant anything half-hardy until the weather is consistently in the double figures.
2. Where to plant the new additions
Both the location and the direction your garden is pointing will decide whether your new outside additions grow.
3. The soil
If you’re new to gardening or have recently moved house, you might want to do a quick soil test using an at-home kit to see whether your soil is acidic or alkaline.
"This will dictate which plants will best suit your garden. If your soil is alkaline, there is a large range of plants you can plant. With acidic soils, however, you're a little more limited, but things like camelias, azaleas and skimmias love this soil".
4. Prepping the garden beds
"Spring is a great time to start to prep your beds. Firstly, weed over beds with a hoe. Then, feed your beds with the three crucial soil nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Top with mulch to keep the water in, add nutrients and suppress the weeds - this can be done with well-rotted horse manure".
5. Planting the flowers
Once you’ve selected the shrub or flower you want to plant, warm up the ground by covering your beds with black matting. When the sun hits the mats, the heat will transfer through the mats directly into the soil.
While you're doing this, pop your new plants into a bucket of water and leave them to soak up as much water as they can over a few hours. When you put them into the ground, the excess water will run into the surrounding soil, so don’t worry about them drowning.
"Dig a square hole slightly deeper than the pot side and wider than its circumference. Add some multipurpose compost or garden compost with some bonemeal (ground bones, often used as a fertiliser) to the hole and water it well. Next, place the plant in the hole and fill in with the garden soil".
When it comes to watering the newly planted shrub, Nicola's advice is to "water well throughout the first season, especially during hot spells. Make sure you water early in the morning or later at night - not in the heat of the day".
6. Planting vegetables
If you're thinking of trying your hand at growing veg, it's good to start early.
Tomatoes, chillies and aubergines need a long growing season (you can start them off under glass) while broad beans, beetroot and Swiss chard can all be planted outside in March. Happy gardening!