Spring is in the air, so time to march into the garden
Mother Nature is so fickle.
February, my least popular month weather-wise, was in reality a reasonably “nice” month.
So hopefully, with the major part of winter over, we can consider moving forward with plans for the garden although it’s important to always be mindful of March winds.
Preparatory work carried out over the last two months should leave gardeners well placed to move forward with upgrading and planting.
Two points I cannot stress enough: do not plant too closely, and think long-term in whatever you plan.
Towards the end of last year I watched the progress of a new house.
It is a small property land-wise, with a hibiscus hedge planted on the roadside fronting a wall.
The plantings are about two feet apart and the width of bed is about the same.
This is an example, in my opinion, of over planting — wasting money on plants and labour and, more importantly, a very poor choice for the said area.
If a wall is attractive, consider why you would want to hide it, especially if the width of bed is not adequate to accommodate the plant’s growth.
Narrow beds with quick-growing plants equal high labour requirements, which equals a cost.
Selection of plant material should be based on the area for which it is required; this is a common fault in Bermuda.
In the initial design stage consider whether the planting area, if of a narrow size, can be widened to accommodate a plant that you want.
If not, choose a plant that will make a statement in the allocated area.
When I mention the idea of planting with the long term in mind, clients often tell me, “If it grows too quickly I’ll cut it back.”
I would suggest this is a redundant exercise not only in time and money but, more importantly, in the reduced impact of the finished product.
Plants, by their very nature, grow. Why continue to dwarf them by pruning and reducing their ability to be of a floriferous nature.
When purchasing plants check their root systems and general shape, and especially check for pest and disease problems.
Purchasing plants with a good root system — not a pot-bound system were roots are growing around the root-ball and literally strangling themselves — and a nicely formed branch system which has uniformity of growth, will give the plant a good start once planted.
Plants with a “solid” root system should have the base of the root ball teased out to encourage new growth, it also makes it easier to search for moisture.
Look at the thickness of branches in relation to pot size; plants in small containers but with excessive and heavy branches could well be pot-bound and will struggle to grow out and produce a typical growth habit.
If we manage to avoid any severe winds in the coming month, and temperatures start to increase, new growth should be noticed in quick time.
With soft new growth comes the need to look out for aphids and caterpillars and, if mornings are humid and wet, the possibility of fungal activity.
A timely application of a pesticide/fungicide will prevent, or certainly reduce, further activity.
Now is a good time to check vines and prune out dead or unwanted growth and ensure their supports are adequate for the new season’s growth.
Open up heavy growth to allow more light, which helps to encourage new growth.
March winds can cause damage to young foliage.
Care should be taken in how much wood is removed, thus allowing a second cut if required later in the month.
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