Flower Garden Management – January to June
Flower Garden Management
This is a summary of the main operations of flower garden management involving annual borders, bedding plants (Spring and Summer),, and throughout the year:
General – This is the quiet month as far as outdoor work is concerned, and every opportunity should be taken to re-plan borders, decide on bedding schemes, and order the necessary seeds, after a careful study of the new catalogues. It is a good plan to obtain catalogues from several different seedsmen, as all contain some illustrations, many in colour, and full use should be made of these in planning the layout and colour schemes in annual borders.
Spring Bedding Plants – After very hard frosts, some of these plants, such as wallflowers, may become loosened, and should be re-firmed if necessary. Polyanthus may be showing some brown or dead foliage which should be picked off and composted. If at this stage, some leaf mould is available, spread a lin. layer over the between these plants, as they benefit considerably from this treatment.
General Garden Management – When flower seeds have been purchased, and each plot or bed is to be labelled (this always makes the flower garden more interesting), the labels can be written now. Painted wooden labels are suitable, and the necessary writing (printing is best) should be done with a thick black garden pencil.can have a label also; those Bins. long are suitable and can be inscribed in readiness for any new varieties not yet planted or for existing plants.
Herbaceous Border – If you are re-planting, or if any new planting is not yet completed, try to get this done by the end of the month. With any such later work, pay particular attention to watering if the weather should be dry in the following weeks.
Although normally done in the autumn, it is still not too late for division of overgrown plants but, again, do not delay this work longer than necessary. Should the soil be sufficiently wet, however, early April is not too late for re-planting.
Lawns, Trimming the Edges – The edge or verge of the lawn should be kept neat by cutting a small slice off with a half moon or edging knife. If the edge is straight, use a line stretched tightly to ensure tidy work, or, for a small area, use a plank laid flat against the edge concerned, and work from this. The grass can be kept neat at the edges later with a hand shears, or a special type of long-handled shears for the purpose.
The Rock Garden – An important point at this time of year is to see that dead leaves are not allowed to accumulate. If some are blown on to theand allowed to lie around low-growing plants, which do not like damp conditions, damage may result.
Remove any such leaves regularly, as damp conditions can also lead to slugs being active. If any plants are being damaged, it may be necessary to put down some slug baits, especially if the weather is mild. Such material should be placed in flower pots standing on their sides, so that it remains dry, and more effective over a long period.
If any plants have been lost, or severely damaged by hard weather, take note of gaps that require to be filled, so that replacements can be planned.
Where the surface soil has become hard or set, as a result of wintry weather, stir the top inch with a small hand cultivator. This makes for better aeration and better growth when roots become active again. Should anyremain, pull these out at the same time. Take the opportunity also, of renewing any gravel chippings that may be needed around the crowns of plants which benefit from this treatment – such as saxifrages and other plants with low-growing foliage.
If birds are troublesome at this time of year, and start to damage polyanthus buds, or other spring flowers, try placing some small, coloured plastic windmills near the plants concerned. Small red, or other brightly-coloured flags, are often effective. Sometimes stringing black cotton over the plants is the best method of preventing bird damage.
Annual Borders – A very colourful display of summer and early autumn flowers can be obtained, at reasonable cost, by setting aside a border or some of the flower beds for selectedwhich can be sown directly where they are to flower. The longer the border the bolder the effect, yet even a small area can be utilised for this type of bedding or border display.
The plot to be used for these annuals can be sown this month. When the soil is dry and easily worked, use a wooden rake to obtain a fine depth. Then, draw drills with a small hand hoe or even with the point of a dibber, 6 ins. apart for dwarf subjects up to 9 ins. high, 9 ins. apart for plants 9ins. to 18ins., and 12ins. apart for taller specimens. Mark out the area into patches of about a square foot, and bear in mind that the drills need not all be the same way.
The depth of the drills should be such that the seeds will have 1/2 inch of soil over them. Sow the seeds thinly, 1 to 3 to every inch of drill. Cover in the rows with an iron rake and firm down the soil with the back of a rake. Afterwards, rake over the plot, lightly. Set small wooden labels in each section, or in the plots containing subjects which one does not know, or which you have not grown before.
If a border backing on to a wall or fence is being used, keep the taller subjects at the back. If planting onto a bed, use tall varieties in the centre and shorter subjects on either side.
In about 7 to 10 days some of thewill be showing. It is then best to hoe between the rows, as soon as they can be seen.
The seedlings should be thinned out when large enough to handle. On average 4 to 5 ins. spacing for the dwarf subjects and 6 to 7 ins. for the rest, will serve very well for ordinary display. Always leave the best plants when thinning and, if possible, do the work in dull, damp weather, or when rain threatens.
Bedding Plants, Spring – When the early subjects go out of flower, i.e. wallflowers, double daisies and polyanthus, clear the plants formaking. Remember that the best polyanthus can be divided if increase is needed.
Herbaceous Borders – This is a busy month for. Hoeing should not be neglected, and a feed of 2 ozs. of bone meal to the square yard will be of benefit, if the compost dressing was not as heavy as one would like. Staking is important and tall subjects such as Helianthus, and Solidago, should have canes pushed in, in threes, or fours, with the shoots kept within bounds by looping fillis string around the canes at half the height of the plants and again at three quarters of the potential height. Plants 2 to 3 ft. in height can have tall sticks pushed in around and between them. The sticks should be slightly shorter than the height the plants normally reach. Whether canes or sticks are used, push them in firmly. Start staking when plants are about half their full height.
Shorter plants need staking with some bushy twigs as supports. Such material should be placed in position when the plants are half grown. Hoe between the plants for as long as possible, that is, until they touch across the rows.
Lawns – Rolling should not be overdone but is often necessary to give firm conditions. It makes for a better level and consequently easier mowing. Do not use a heavy roller when the soil is very wet or it will set so hard on the surface that poor aeration results and moss will very probably be encouraged.
Mowing – Mowing should start this month and continue regularly from now on, unless very hot weather causes so little growth that mowing is delayed. Any very coarse grasses which escape the mower should be cut off with shears. Often, mowing in a different direction will cut off some of these tough growths.
Under dry conditions, it is best not to use the grass box. Allow the mowings to fall on the lawn and stay there, to addas they rot in. This is good practice to follow for one mowing in three at other times, also, particularly on a lawn where it is known the soil is not of high organic content.
Never cut the grass too short; aim at a 3/4 inch “cover” above ground level, which will be springy, tough, and wear resistant.
Wormcasts – Wormcasts can be dealt with by brushing them level with a flexible “besom” type broom, as often as they appear. Avoid leaving the casts undisturbed, or they will give the lawn a muddy surface after wet weather.
Lawns – If it is known that the soil is poor, apply a dressing of the following mixture, at the rate of 2 ozs. to the square yard: 2 parts bone flour, 1 part hoof and horn and 1 part wood ashes. This is best applied in damp weather or when rain threatens. It should not be necessary if a generous amount of compost was worked into the surface prior to sowing but may be needed on a neglected lawn.
Annual Borders – As the plants grow away after thinning, hoe them through once, or more, until they fill up the space available and thus smother further weed growth. Any large weeds that show up later can be thinned out by hand, but take care not to loosen the flower plants when this is done.
Most annuals are self supporting, but taller subjects such as lavatera, cornflower and larkspur, can have a few pieces of bushy, twiggy material, about 2 ft. tall, inserted amongst them for extra support. The sticks should be placed in position when the plants are 9 to 10 ins. high.
Bedding Plants, Summer – About the middle of the month whenbedding subjects from boxes, either those raised oneself or bought in, an easy way to get the plants out of the boxes is to take one of the sides off, and to slide out the whole of the soil and plants in one piece. Individual plants can then be broken out in squares, with soil intact around the roots. Plant firmly, taking out holes with a trowel, and water the plants in after planting. As a general guide, dwarf varieties up to 6 ins. high can be planted 4 ins. apart, subjects 6 to 12 ins. high can be set out 6 to 8 ins. apart and taller plants can be spaced at 8 to 9 ins. Do not plant out the more tender subjects, such as zinnias, bedding and salvias, until early next month.
Remember that in borders or beds the shorter subjects should be kept in the front, e.g., alyssum, lobelia and ageratum. Aim at contrasting colours when making up the scheme for bedding display. A bed of mixed colours of the same subject is very colourful, e.g., antirrhinums, asters, stocks, bedding dahlias or nemesia.
After planting, hoe through between the plants, once or twice, to keep down weeds and prevent the soil from cracking – which causes undue loss of moisture. A soil which has had a 2 in. layer of rotted compost worked into the top few inches of soil will not crack or dry out so readily as one which is not treated.
Herbaceous Borders – If there should be any gaps or blanks these can be filled up with, sown direct. As an alternative, summer bedding plants can be utilised for any spare spaces. Such a border may not then be, strictly speaking, a “herbaceous” border, but a “mixed” border. The effect will in any case be more pleasing than if gaps and blanks were left.
Herbaceous Border, Thinning Surplus Shoots – If the shoots of some of the stronger growing plants, such as, are reduced to 4 or 5 to each plant, better spikes will result. Subjects like alstomeria and phlox, can be reduced to 6 shoots to each plant, and maximum, Michaelmas daisy and lupins, to 6 to 8 shoots. Do not thin pyrethrum, anemone japonica, gaillardia, geum, kniphofia, or paeony. Remove the unwanted shoots completely, when small, and leave the best ones to flower.
Bedding Plants – Early this month, the more tender subjects such as bedding dahlias, salvias, and zinnias, may be planted out. If in boxes or borders, dahlias and salvias can be planted 9 ins. apart, but zinnias need 12 to 15 ins., unless the very dwarf varieties are being grown. Try to give these plants a sunny, sheltered position where they will thrive best.
The plants of other varieties set out last month should be hoed through lightly, or the soil shallowly cultivated with a 3 or 5 prong cultivator. Take care not to loosen the plants.
Bedding Plants for the following year – To prepare for displays of wallflowers, myosotis, double daisies and sweet williams next spring, seed may be sown now. Sow thinly and transplant the seedlings to a spare piece of ground, allowing 6 ins. by 6 ins. of space. Better plants will result if this can be done; if not, thin the seedlings so that they are not overcrowded in the seed bed, i.e. leave them 3 to 4 ins. apart.
Raising perennial plants from seed – Some of the plants grown in herbaceous borders may be raised from seed, the most common examples being lupins, delphiniums, aquilega and pyrethrum. Sow the seeds thinly and water the open drills prior to sowing to promote germination. Transplant seedlings 6ins. by Gins. on a spare plot, as soon as they can be handled, after first watering in a surface dressing of compost. Plants stay in this position until autumn, or next spring, when they are planted out in flowering positions.
Mulching the Flower Borders – Lawn mowings are a most valuable material for mulching and may be used on the herbaceous border, the annual border or between bedding plants. They have many virtues, one of which is as an aid to moisture retention. A layer of mowings also breaks the direct sun rays in a very hot spell and prevents loss of surface moisture. If watering is done in warm weather, and a mulch can follow, so much the better, as the moisture is retained for a longer period.
Do not apply too thick a layer of lawn mowings at one time; lin. depth is ample. If a border is devoted to dahlias, or, both these plants derive benefit from such a mulch. Mowings can be used fresh, i.e. applied as soon as they are cut. Any that are not wanted immediately should go directly into the compost heap, in which they serve to warm up the heap and hasten the rotting down of other material used. Continue mulching into July and August.
Herbaceous Borders – Ifclumps have been in position for several years, they should now be lifted and the youngest portions re-planted. The new site should have some old mortar rubble mixed in with the top few inches of soil and also be given a generous dressing of compost.
The Rock Garden – As the early flowering subjects finish flowering, the old flower heads and stalks should be cut off so that new growth can be made and next year’s flowers built up, as a result. In any case, the general appearance and freshness of the rock garden display will be much improved by regular attention to this feature.
See further details on flower garden management from July to December.