Garden inspiration


Preparing the April Garden for the Summer Ahead

Traditional English gardens require a lot of water. Conserving it in beds and borders is becoming more of a priority to many of us, especially after the long hot summer we had last year. It just shows that we can’t always count on rain from heaven to keep things green and growing and it seems inevitable to me that us green-fingered folk will have to make some changes in our approach to maintaining gardens. Establishing a pristine, green stripy lawn was challenging last year – yes, lawns turn brown in hot weather, but it’s not worth wasting water on them as the grass will soon recover after a good downpour. If you must water, really soak the turf once a week, rather than a sprinkling every day. New lawns, however, are the exception. It is vitally important that they don’t dry out until they have become established (normally after about two weeks).

a sprinkler device on a lawn spraying water

If you’ve never used a mulch before, this might be the year to consider it – and now is the time to do it, before plants have put on too much growth. Mulches are basically ‘coverings’ placed on the surface of cultivated soil. They can be applied to bare soil or to cover the surface of compost in containers. Over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of materials as a mulch and have found the best one to be well-rotted bark, which will break down gradually to release nutrients into the soil and help improve its structure. The key is to apply a really thick layer. An 80L bag will cover an area of about 1 metre. In addition to preserving water, a thick layer of mulch suppresses weeds, improves soil texture, deters some pests, protects the roots of plants from extreme temperatures and gives a decorative finish. If there’s one thing I’d encourage all gardeners to do this summer, it would be to become a mulcher!

a wheelbarrow full of woodchip mulch

The best way to ensure you have a garden full of abundant flowers all summer is to choose plants that will cope with some drought. Silver-leaved plants in general are good choices, although they can be less hardy and need full sun. One of my favourite plants is Convolvulus cneorum, with its serrated silver leaves and goblet white flowers. It looks great with other silver-leaved plants and decorative grasses such as Briza media, Festuca Glauca and Stipa gigantea. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme and salvia are also great choices for a dry garden (and useful in the kitchen too).

serrated silver leaves and goblet white flowersConvolvulus cneorum photo copyright: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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