Gardeners’ World 2021 episode 3: It’s the Easter weekend, which means extra time to get out and enjoy the garden. At Longmeadow, Monty Don plants out sweet peas for summer colour, gives advice on what to use for mulching borders and has plenty of ideas for jobs to get on with this long weekend.
Carol Klein is at RHS Rosemoor to revel in the floral spring sensations that epitomise the season. In Scotland, JJ Chalmers explains how important his local park was in helping both his physical and mental rehabilitation, and there’s a look back at how Nick Bailey transformed his back garden in one season from a blank space into a colourful and productive oasis.
Also, enter the world of the daffodil show to find out what serious enthusiasts do to produce the perfect bloom, followed by some of the films that have been sent in by viewers.
Gardeners’ World 2021 episode 3
Growing hardy ferns
Low-maintenance and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, ferns complement any shade plant combination. From tiny specimens grown in walls to the royal fern at six feet tall, there’s room for ferns in every sized garden.
Most ferns are easy to grow and will thrive in any moist, well-drained, shady site in well-dug, humus-rich, neutral to alkaline soil. However, those such as the royal fern Osmunda regalis, require neutral to acid soil.
Ferns do not usually require feeding when planted in the open garden, but mulches such as well-rotted farmyard manure will condition the soil and give a boost to growth. Where soil conditions are particularly poor a well-balanced fertiliser, such as Growmore or fish, blood and bone can be added in spring. Water when necessary, but apply to the roots and not directly to the fronds or crown as this can encourage rot.
Ferns make good companions for other hardy perennials in containers. Use a mix of 3 parts peat-free multipurpose compost, 1 part John Innes No 3, and 1 part gritty sand by volume. When first potting the ferns, incorporate a controlled–release fertiliser. The following year use a general fertiliser such Miracle-Gro during the growing season.
Sweet peas – Gardeners’ World 2021 episode 3
Grow beautiful and flouncy annual sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) from seed each year for their fragrance and for cutting, climbing them over obelisks or twiggy supports in borders or in a cutting garden. Try dwarf varieties as bedding.
Pretty, pea-like flowers come in shades of white, pink, coral, red, violet and blue, some combining two colours. Pastel shades are especially popular and petal edges may be wavy or outlined with a contrasting colour (picotee). Leaves formed of two leaflets combine with tendrils on winged stems. Sweet peas are generally climbing to 2m (6½ft), but some are short and bushy to 45cm (18in).
Bamboos are very desirable garden plants. They can make large clumps that are ideal as focal points or for adding structure to borders. They can look unsightly if left to grow unhindered, and may become invasive. But keeping plants under control and attractive is easy with some simple routine maintenance.
Bamboos thrive in moist, but well-drained soil in a sheltered, sunny spot. They tolerate most soil types, but some, such as Shibatea, require acid soil or ericaceous potting compost. Bamboo will grow in poor soils, but not in constant wet, boggy or extremely dry conditions. Plant in spring so that energy stored in the bamboo’s rhizomes is used to produce strong, new canes in summer. These rhizomes then produce roots before the plant becomes dormant from autumn to spring.
Before planting, dig in well-rotted garden compost or manure to raise the organic content of the soil. This will also improve its ability to hold moisture. Smaller bamboos make ideal container plants grown in a large pot (at least 45cm (18in) across and deep) in loam based potting compost such as John Innes No 3.
When planting, incorporate controlled release fertiliser pellets and water retaining gel in the compost. During summer, water frequently and feed with a liquid feed regularly. Reduce watering and stop feeding in winter. Ensure that bamboo plants in containers do not try out in winter, however, since the foliage is prone to wind scorch. In very cold weather, insulate containers with bubble wrap or move them to frost-free conditions.
Mulches and mulching – Gardeners’ World 2021 episode 3
Mulching is generally used to save water, suppress weeds and improve the soil around plants but it also gives your garden a neat, tidy appearance and can reduce the amount of time spent on tasks such as watering and weeding. Mulches help soil retain moisture in summer, rain to penetrate the soil in winter, prevent weeds from growing and protect the roots of plants in winter.
Mulches are loose coverings or sheets of material placed on the surface of soil. Mulches can be applied to bare soil or to cover the surface of compost in containers.
Non-biodegradable mulches do not boost the fertility or structure of the soil, but they do suppress weeds, conserve moisture and some have the added advantage of looking decorative. Slate, shingle, pebbles, gravel, stone chippings and other decorative aggregates are often used as a mulch across beds. Sea shells, tumbled glass and similar materials can be used on the surface of containers, but it is best not to use any materials made from plastic. Dark coloured material will warm the soil in the sun whereas light coloured mulch such as white gravel will reflect sunlight and keep roots cooler in strong sunlight.
How to grow shallots
Shallots are an easy to grow vegetable with a distinctive flavour that can be used for cooking or pickling. There are many tempting varieties with bulbs in many shapes and sizes. Plants are undemanding and can be grown in any well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny position. They need a long growing period but can be interplanted with faster-growing crops.
Sowing/planting: Shallots can be started from seed or more usually from sets (immature bulbs). Most gardeners prefer to start from sets as they are quicker to mature, are better in colder regions, less likely to be attacked by some pests and diseases and need less skill to grow than seed. Seed was developed for mechanical cultivation and is not usually worthwhile for garden crops. Add up to two bucketfuls of organic matter such as manure or garden compost before planting and take in a moderate dressing of any general purpose fertiliser.
Can be planted through black weed supressing membrane to ease weed control and avoid the need to hoe.