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Spring Gardening

Top tips for starting early

Whether you have a large garden, small garden or just a window box, spring is an exciting time for any gardener as you start preparations for the season ahead.

Over the last few months, your garden has taken a beating from the harsh winter weather, including the snow, and deserves a bit of TLC. As we enter spring, hibernation comes to an end and you can start preparations to wake your garden up, ready to create something beautiful for the summer.

Now is the perfect time to freshen up your garden. Turn over the soil, give your lawn its first haircut of the year, set out and create illustrious pathways or clean up your old ones. Whether you decide to create a perfectly landscaped garden, or go wild with an organised-messy country cottage feel, now is the time to revamp and re-energise your haven.

Perhaps you’ve looked outside each year and thought of a lovely patio, decking area or conservatory. Why not call a local company for a quote and find out if your dream garden project can be turned into reality?

Spring is the time for sorting out your garden mowers and equipment, perhaps looking for something new or having them serviced before the busy growing season.

But if time isn’t on your side and a complete garden overhaul or upkeep of lawns and gardens during the spring and summer seems overwhelming, take a look at local businesses in our feature for help close at hand, so you can enjoy the beauty without the effort. They can provide lots of advice and help with complete make-over design to gardening courses. Our featured companies also offer a wide variety of products and services from patios and walls, landscaping, fencing, tree advice or removal, top soil and garden materials, lawn care, sheds, fencing, plants, tubs and planters.

With spring upon us, now is a good time to plan what to grow in your garden.

It is an ideal time to start filling the vegetable patch. If you’re an expert gardener or a complete novice, vegetable planting can be as simple as you need it to be. Place rows of carrots, lettuce, rocket or spring onions and watch them thrive, ready for you to pick and use in the kitchen. It’s a cheaper, healthier and more beneficial way of getting your five-a-day!

If you want to start with the basics then why not try planting potatoes? They are an easy and assured way of beginning your vegetable growing journey. You can either plant them in the ground or use grow-bags. You can pick up vegetable seeds and growing equipment from local garden centres like Whitehall Garden Centre and talk to their staff, on hand to give expert advice.

Are you worried about space? Do you live in a flat with no outside space? Gardening doesn’t have to be limited to those who have a garden the size of a football pitch.  You can grow and nurture a number of plants and create beautiful displays in smaller areas such as flat balconies or even windowsills and window boxes.

If you are stuck for floor space, why not consider growing vertically? Vegetables such as beans/peas grow upwards with support from canes or fruit, such as tomatoes, are great and work well in small containers.

Windowsills and window boxes are ideal if you want to dabble in growing your own herb garden – easily accessible for those exciting recipes and make your kitchen smell irresistible.

Gardening can also be a great family activity to help the generations bond and teach children about nature. Get the littles ones excited about growing by giving them their own patch. Start off small, with vegetables such as cress, tomatoes or potatoes. This is also a great way to get children to eat more greens, as the effort put into growing them can encourage youngsters to explore different vegetables.

Gardening is for everyone and shouldn’t be limited to the experts. It can uplift moods, keep you fit, connect you to nature, get you in the outdoors and ultimately allows you to give back to nature the same way it gives to you. Don’t be afraid to get stuck in and help will always be available to you from local businesses to create your ideal garden.

‘Get out and garden!’ with local expert Kathy Iles

If Melksham’s success last year in Britain in Bloom proved anything, it was that the town is packed full of green-fingered enthusiasts, all keen to get their hands dirty to brighten up the area.

As springtime slowly creeps up on us and our attention turns away from our cosy living rooms to our gardens outside, who better to get some gardening tips from than the chair of South West in Bloom Melksham, who championed the team to their Gold award, Kathy Iles.

The Melksham News caught up with Kathy to hear about what she’ll be getting up to in her garden this month; her love of wildlife gardens; and the disastrous time she invited an Australian into her garden.

What will you be doing in your garden this month?

“I have a big garden, with lots of pots around a patio. I’ve left the pots over winter, so now is the time I will start to tidy them up. The pots can be tidied up, their compost levels topped up and given a feed. Maybe a new top dressing of gravel as well, to smarten them up.

“I’ll start looking at what needs doing to some of the plants. For example, the rose bushes will have ‘hips’ on them, so they should be removed and I’ll start pruning my buddleia.

“The borders around the garden will need some attention too and fallen leaves removed. I tend to leave the leaves over winter as they act as a mulch, so there’s plenty to tidy up. By removing all the mulch, the daffodils and tulips will be able to come through and brighten up the garden.

“Now is a great time for me to start tidying up the greenhouse and prepping my seed trays to start growing some veg. Because of the bad weather, I have some broken glass panes to take care of.

“If it ever stops raining I’ll do some work on the lawn; feed it some weed and moss killer and let the light back in. Also aerate the lawn with a gardening fork. It just needs to stop raining so I can get on with it! If we get a few dry days, it might be a good time to treat the fences and clean up patio furniture.”

Describe your ideal garden.

“My garden has changed as I have got older. Ten years ago it was manicured to within an inch of its life, no blade of grass was out of place! It was like a show garden, but I had a lot more time on my hands back then.

“Gardens tend to evolve and change as your own life changes. These days, my garden leans more towards a wildlife garden, with areas for wild flowers and overgrown areas where birds can nest and hide. I love attracting wildlife to the garden, especially birds.”

What’s the biggest mistake you have made in your garden?

“One mistake I made was planting a eucalyptus tree in my garden. It was a tiny thing that I felt sorry for when I bought it from the garden centre; it was barely as thick as my thumb, but it was beautiful.

“I planted it in the garden and then the thing started to grow. And it grew, and grew and grew; so we cut 40ft off the top of it. Then it grew, and grew again! So another 40ft was chopped from the top of it. It got to the point where it was lifting up the path and sucking all the moisture out of the garden, so it had to be cut down. It was a sad day when it went, but it was the wrong choice for my garden.

“The remaining trunk is about half a metre in diameter and has a bird bath on top it.

“Eucalyptus trees aren’t native to this country (they are from Australia) and grow ferociously. They suit large gardens that are quite boggy – so with all the rain we’re having, it would probably come in useful now!”

Any final words of encouragement for the budding gardeners of Melksham?

“Get out and garden! Seriously, if you have a garden, you need to be able to use it, so it has to suit your needs. The coming weeks are a big time for the garden, so I encourage you to speak to staff at your local garden centre, they are always happy to help.

“Also, pick up some pansies and get some colour into your garden, you can’t go wrong with pansies.

“And don’t forget the community seed swap at the Town Hall this Saturday (17th March at 2-4pm). It’s the perfect place to meet other gardeners and swap some seeds & tips.”

Nine ways to make your garden more wildlife friendly

The way we look after our gardens really matters. There are an estimated 16 million gardens in the UK, according to The Wildlife Trusts. Together they form a huge potential refuge for species that are declining in the wild.

Here are nine ways you can bring more nature to your backdoor:

Bird box and feeding: Birds are an important part of garden ecosystems. By installing bird boxes and feeding birds you can make sure they thrive. Put your bird box up high in a sheltered site. In spring, provide protein-rich feed, such as fat balls. Seeds are best in the winter. If cats are around place your feeder near a dense bush to provide birds with cover.

Let the grass grow: Leave your mower in the shed. Long grass is one of the rarest garden habitats. By letting some or all of your lawn grow you will make space for many plant and insect species, including butterflies and wildflowers. Leave the grass long over winter and cut it again in the spring.

Grow climbers: Ivy is a very useful plant for wildlife. Both the flowers and seeds are good sources of food and pollen. Plus, it provides year round cover for birds and insects. Clematis and roses are also excellent climbers for wildlife.

Insect hotel: Leave piles of rocks, twigs and rotting wood in your garden. This will create shelter for all sorts of important insects, such as beetles and spiders.

Pond: A pond is a real boost for wildlife. It doesn’t have to be huge. You can use a buried bucket or trough. If you do want a big pond, make sure there are stones or branches to help wildlife get in and out. Ponds are best filled with unchlorinated rainwater from a water butt. Waterlilies will help prevent it from becoming stagnant. Avoid locating it in full sun or full shade.

Compost: A compost heap is a win-win. Making and using your own compost will naturally enrich your soil. It will also provide a habitat for worms, woodlice and many other insects, including frogs and slow worms. To avoid attracting rats, only use raw food.

Fence: Don’t lock out hedgehogs and frogs. Make sure your garden fences have some gaps at the bottom. This will allow wildlife to move through from plot-to-plot. It will also help link different habitats together.

Flowers: Flowers look beautiful and bring colour and scent into your garden. They also provide food for many insects. Grow as many varieties as possible to ensure colour from spring through into autumn. Go for native species, if possible.

Weeds: Learn to relax about weeds. Plants such as nettles, daisies and buttercups are important sources of food for many insects, including butterflies and moths. They flower for a long time, whatever the weather. And so provide food when other sources might be absent.

For more information visit the National Trust on www.nationaltrust.org.uk for more hints and tips about your garden this Spring.

RHS top ten tips for your garden in march

Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks, says the Royal Horticultural Society. It’s time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs and generally tidying up around the garden.

1. Protect new spring shoots from slugs.

2. Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes.

3. Plant summer-flowering bulbs.

4. Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials.

5. Top dress containers with fresh


6. Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed).

7. Cut back Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow) grown for colourful winter stems.

8. Hoe & mulch weeds to keep them under control early.

9. Start feeding fish and using the pond fountain;  remove pond heaters

10. Prune bush and climbing roses.

…and april

1. Keep weeds under control

2. Protect fruit blossom from late frosts.

3. Tie in climbing and rambling roses.

4. Sow hardy annuals, herbs & wild

    flower seed outdoors.

5. Start to feed citrus plants.

6. Increase the water given to houseplants.

7. Feed hungry shrubs and roses.

8. Sow new lawns or repair bare patches.

9. Prune fig trees

10. Divide bamboos and waterlilies.

The RHS is a UK charity established to share the best in gardening, aiming to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. For details visit www.rhs.org.uk

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