As the Mediterranean Gardening Association prepares for the first Spring Garden Fair to be held this Saturday (April 11) from 11am to 5pm in the rural setting of the Quinta da Figueirinha near to Silves, organiser Rosie Peddle writes this gardening checklist for the Mediterranean.
Feed and fertilise – Use a slow-release fertiliser over planted areas. This will be deeply absorbed into the soil when it rains, encouraging vigorous growth and flowering. It is possible to get sheep manure in granulated form for an organic feed. Use the last few rainy days to get food down to the roots with the moisture in warming soils. Fertilise spring bulbs after bloom. Remove dead flowers but not the leaves until they wither. If you can get hold of Fish, Blood and Bone this is an excellent bulb food. Feed citrus and then irrigate if there is no rain.
Mulch – In preparation for summer drought, mulch garden beds and newly-planted trees and shrubs to insulate against the heat. Remove all weeds and encroaching grass first and ensure your mulch is 5cm thick. Top up mulch on all garden beds. Mulch can be organic, such as shredded garden waste, or inorganic, such as gravel. Do not mulch close to the stems of woody plants such as lavender, phlomis or cistus as this encourages rot.
Plant and re-pot – Begin planting seedlings in garden beds, large pots and containers. Re-pot into larger pots if required, trim roots or if you are re-using an old pot, be sure to refresh the potting mix. Don’t forget your indoor pot plants! Give them plenty of attention as well. Finish planting any shrubs, plants, trees and vines. Give soil around plants a bowl shape to catch rain or hosepipe water and then direct it to roots.
Prepare raised beds – herbs and vegetables love the improved soil in raised beds. Use railway sleepers, old logs or blocks to provide a shape to fill with garden compost and top soil. Mulch and protect from direct sun to provide cool root run for plants.
Seed sowing – Sow the seeds of spring annuals that will add instant colour to your garden, find self sowers that will come back each year such as linaria, silene and their varieties. Any seed beds should be kept moist. Consider planting herbs such as basil and parsley in a large trough or pot. Look out for old seed packets and check the dates. It is a well known fact that seed left in packets does not grow. Pinch out tips of new seedlings to encourage strong bushy plants.
Water – If there are windy and sunny days or long periods with no rain, water deeply any newly planted trees, shrubs and plants to encourage deep roots before the summer. Water given early in the year will take advantage of the natural growing season before the summer dormant period.
Weed – Clear unwanted weed growth from around new plants. Competition for water and food will discourage root development and hinder later growth. Try to get weeds out before they flower and set seed.
Clean, mend and repair – Clean outdoor furniture ready for summer, check BBQs, and clean and service all garden equipment. Check irrigation systems for blockages or damage.
By Rosie Peddle
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Photo: In loco compost bin