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Gardening Hints

April fourth week in your garden:

PLANTING ORNAMENTAL GRASSES: This week is an optimum time for planting out grasses. Free-draining sandy soils are ideal, but incorporating grit in clay soils will aid soil aeration and drainage – the key requirement for ornamental grasses. There is generally no need to add fertiliser or manure.

The idea is to provide a range and depth of color and texture of grasses without any one over powdering the next.

Consider extending the season of interest by underplanting the bed with spring-flowering bulbs in spring or autumn. A classic example of this is mixing the black strap-like leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ with the glaucous foliage and white flowers of taller snowdrops (Galanthus) such as G. elwesii, which grows up to 15cm tall.

Another idea is to have a carpet of blue in February, by underplanting with Iris reticulata in early autumn. Summer-flowering bulbs can also be used with grasses, planted now. For example, carmine red Gladiolus communis subs, byzantinus makes a striking statement planted with the yellow grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’. Finally, mulch with stones, slate, cobbles, gravel or some similarly inert material, from an environmentally sound source.

CARING FOR NEW SHRUBS AND TREES: If March and April have been very dry, make sure that you water newly planted trees and shrubs sufficiently. New planting are especially vulnerable while their roots become established.

If you have planted a tree or shrub on a slope, create a small lip of soil to make a saucer. This will eventually disappear but in the meantime help to direct water towards the roots that require it.

Water plants at their base in the evening or early morning when less water is lost to evaporation.

Check tree stakes and ties. Ensure that they are neither too loose nor too tight.

If the tree has just come through its second winter, think about removing the stake. Generally, stakes should be in place for 12 – 18 months. After this time, the tree should have developed a root structure with which to support itself.

If the tree is not firm after this time, think about the reason why. For example, is it planted too deep? This can stop the stabilizing action of the roots; it may already have killed the tree or caused it to rot, especially if it has been subjected to winter waterlogging. If the tree still sound, lift and replant at the correct depth.

Hardwood cuttings of flowering and fruiting shrubs taken in January, week 4, and placed in a cold frame should have rooted by now. Don’t be in a hurry to move them, though – autumn I usually the best season in which to plant out.

Gardening Hints
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