It's time for cutbacks... especially when it comes to hedges, ivy and shrubs
First of the must-dos this month is the trimming of deciduous hedges before the birds start nesting.
Vines such as ivy, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy can be cut back now to keep windows, gutters and roof tiles clear, but don’t be too brutal as birds may be using them for shelter.
When the weather is good, and towards the end of the month, cut back shrubs such as Cornus and Salix cultivars (grown for their colourful winter stems) down to their bases. Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins – clip them to within a few centimetres of the ground – and prune overwintered fuchsias back to one or two buds on each shoot. Prune winterflowering shrubs such as Mahonia and Viburnum x bodnantense after their colourful display has finished. Trim winterflowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent plants becoming leggy, and lift and divide snowdrops while they’re still “in the green”.
Tip of the Month
Shred or finely chop woody prunings first before adding them to the compost heap. This will help speed up their decomposition.
Q: Is there an easy way to find out what sort of soil I have so I can pick plants that’ll thrive in it?
A: Yes, simply add a handful of soil to a large glass jar, fill with water, stir well, then leave to settle for a couple of hours.
If your soil is sandy, most particles will sink to the bottom, leaving the water pretty clear. If your soil is clay or silty, you’ll see a thin layer of particles on the bottom.
Peaty soil will leave the water cloudy with bits of soil floating on the surface and a small amount on the bottom.
A layer of white, gritty fragments on the bottom and grey-coloured water means chalky soil.
Finally, if your soil is loamy, the water will be fairly clear with sediment on the bottom and fine particles on top.
Got a gardening conundrum? Ask Andy by emailing email@example.com
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