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Gardening Spring 2009
A series of articles on gardening in London Colney by Anne Kitchener
Now is the time of year to look at all the notes I so diligently made last year listing all the changes I planned to make in the garden. Most of these notes involved moving plants around and replacing bare areas with new plants. I have always had most success with new planting in springtime, so I must be getting on with this.

I will also be carrying on with my small vegetable patch. I made lots of mistakes last year, most of which went in my notebook, so hopefully I should not make the same mistakes again. I lost a whole pot full of cosmos seedlings to slugs, but found that using copper tape around other pots gave some protection. I will use it around all my pots this year. I have planted some raspberry canes, Autumn Bliss, for the first time, so will have to exercise great self control and not allow them to fruit this year which should improve the yield in subsequent years. However, I will be able to start picking and eating rhubarb this year.

I have had more success with seeds both for annual bedding plants and vegetables by sowing in trays or modules, rather than directly into the ground. My soil is rather heavy and stony and germination can be quite erratic. This year I plan to sow tagetes, sweetpeas and cosmos which I will start off in the conservatory in March. Later on in the season I will be sowing tomatoes, courgettes and french beans before planting them out in late May. Herbs such as parsley, basil and chives can all be sown now. I sow these directly into a decorative pot and then thin out the seedlings. Parsley can be slow to germinate, but last year I was successful with a flat leaved variety which I much prefer in cooking, and have been able to keep it going in the conservatory over the winter.

I have now quite a collection of perennial plants in containers, both in the conservatory and outside. As spring progresses these will need top dressing by removing the top few inches of old compost and replacing it with new compost. If pot bound they will repot them. Any cuttings taken last summer will by now also need to be repotted. At the same time I will also cut back pelargoniums that have been over wintering in the conservatory, using the off cuts to make new plants for summer containers.

As April progresses supports will need to be put in for those plants which tend to flop over. I try not to have too many plants that need this as the supports can look rather ugly, but if put in early enough, before the plant has started to fall over, the support should become hidden as growth progresses. I have several clematis and honeysuckle plants which are growing up permanent structures and these will need to be regularly tied in to these as they continue to grow.

Spring flowering shrubs benefit from pruning after they have flowered and I have several. I try to prune these most years as it keeps them in good shape and encourages improved flowering the following year. Kerria japonica, Choisya and winter flowing Jasmine will all be getting this treatment. I have several lavenders which benefit from a trim in the spring by trimming off the top inch or so using shears, avoiding cutting into old wood as it is likely that there will not be any new growth from old wood.

On a dull, wet winter day such as today it seems a long time before I will be able to get outside and start on all my plans for the new season. Hopefully spring will not be too long in coming and that the weather will be much kinder to us over the coming seasons then it was last year.

Anne Kitchener