Mega mulching

When the 900-litre bag of compost that I ordered online was first unloaded, I thought I might have miscalculated. How on earth (no pun intended), was I going to get through all of that?!

900-litre bag of mulch
900-litre bag of mulch

3 good reasons to mulch

Mulching (what a wonderful word!) is the best thing you can do for your garden.

  1. Mulching reduces weeds (less weeding).
  2. Mulching retains moisture (less watering).
  3. Mulching improves the structure of your soil (healthier plants).

‘Black gold’

I have heavy clay soil, so I try to add as much organic material as I can throughout the year from my two compost bins, along with various shredded materials. But this year, with a bit more time on my hands than usual thanks to Lockdown, I decided to give my garden a treat and mulch on a much grander scale.

And so I found myself ordering a whole lot of compost mix called ‘black gold’, a blend of peat-free soil improver and well-rotted farmyard dung and animal bedding.

Premium mulch
‘Black gold’: a premium blend of soil improver and well-rotted manure

Wheelbarrows of mulch

Shifting all that compost was a bit of a daunting task, but I was soon pushing wheelbarrows heaped with organic goodness across my lawn and shovelling heaps of it onto my borders.

A wheelbarrow full of mulch
A wheelbarrow full of mulch

Mulching depth

The thickness of your mulch matters! It is better to pile 2–4 inches of mulch on a small area of soil around your plants than spread it thinly across a larger area. A thick mulch will prevent annual weeds from growing by cutting out the light.

Ideally, you should do all your weeding and plant dividing before you mulch, as the less it is disturbed the better. I’d managed the weeding part, but I fully expect to be dividing and moving various plants over the coming weeks, so it will have to put up with a bit of disturbance.

Mulch your borders
Add 2–4 inches of mulch to your borders and try to leave it undisturbed to fully reap the benefits

The end result

Within 2 days I had emptied the bag, spreading all that organic loveliness, across the borders and raised beds in my front and back gardens. In fact, I still had two borders to do when I ran out, so they will be treated to my homemade compost instead.

The borders are looking so much better for it, and I know the plants will benefit.

Border weeded and mulched
Border weeded and mulched – tick!

It turned out to be a pretty good workout too. Bonus!

Deadheading daffodils

As your host of golden daffodils makes way for a throng of radiant tulips, there is one easy job that you can do right now – grab your garden scissors or secateurs and snip the scruffy fading heads off your daffodils, or pinch them off with your fingers.

Scruffy end-of-bloom daffodils
Daffodils start to look at bit scruffy as the blooms fade and shrivel

Remove the faded blooms just below the swelling at the back of the flower. This stops the plant from expending energy making a seed pod.

Remove spent daffodil blooms
Cut off spent daffodil blooms where shown (arrow)
Daffodil seed pod
If you don’t remove the heads the plant will waste energy creating seeds

There’s no need to remove the rest of the foliage; let it die back naturally over the next 4–6 weeks. In theory, the plant will put all the goodness back into the bulb instead, so that it will produce more gorgeous flowers next year.

I say ‘in theory’, as there is some debate as to whether deadheading daffodils makes any difference at all to the following year’s flowering. Even if it doesn’t, it will make your garden look a little bit tidier, and you can add the spent flower heads to the compost.

Add deadheaded daffodils to the compost
Add deadheaded daffodils to the compost, so nothing goes to waste

When the foliage has turned completely limp and yellow, you can cut it back to ground level.

Deadheading daffodils is an easy 15-minute job – the perfect opportunity to get up from your work-from-home desk or escape the rest of the family for a walk around the garden and a little quiet ‘me’ time.

Happy snipping!

Five Firsts

It’s the 1st of April – how did that happen?! While there has been plenty to do in the garden throughout March, things truly start to “ramp up” in my garden now. April is the month when I go into sowing and planting overdrive.

To celebrate the first day of this glorious month, here are five firsts, fresh from my garden.

First rhubarb

First rhubarb
An early harvest of forced rhubarb, covered with a bucket to exclude light to produce rosy sweet stems.

First catkins

First willow catckins
The first of the willow (Salix) catkins have burst forth. The catkins appear before the leaves, bearing their all for pollination.

First cherry leaf burst

Cherry tree bud burst
The stumpy swollen buds of the cherry tree have started to burst with the first red-tinged leaves.

First tulip

First tulip
The first tulip has emerged, with the promise of many more to come.

First sowings

First sowings
The first of many sowings: tomatoes, aubergines, chillis, Brussels sprouts and sweet peas.

Here’s to rising temperatures, and a glorious month of sowing and planting!

Marching on

The last (extra) day in February this year brought with it more rain, more wind and even some sleet. But I managed to dodge the showers and get out long enough to finally prune my Braeburn apple tree.

Apple-tree-pruning
Apple tree pruning under stormy skies

I had to be careful not to stand on the lawn or soil for too long, as the ground was absolutely saturated. A couple of wooden boards helped me to avoid turning the area into a muddy mess.

Stay_off_the_grass
By laying wooden boards on the wet ground I didn’t compact the soil too much

What a difference a day makes

I said goodbye to February with a tinge of relief, and welcomed in March with a heavy dose of optimism. I was rewarded with a day of blue skies and sunshine, and chased the sun around the garden, pruning and weeding and planning for the gardening year ahead.

1st-of-March-sunshine
Pots and borders bathed in spring sunshine

#15greenmins in March

And so the frenzy of weeding, sowing and planting begins. I confess, as the working week starts again, the thought of all those jobs is a tiny bit overwhelming. But then I remind myself – you can do anything for 15 minutes.

Take a look at my #15greenmins March checklist and hopefully all those March tasks won’t seem quite so daunting. Keep Marching on!