At last – Is spring on its way?

There are plenty of snowdrops out now and when the sun comes out so do the crocus.

New shoots are coming through in the garden and the days are beginning to lengthen.

However, this does mean that there will be plenty of work to do in the garden.

 

Stems of plants left on overwinter for protection of young shoots can now be cleared away.

Soil can be prepared where you are to have summer bedding plants. A 50mm (2 inch) layer of mushroom compost or shredded horse manure should be applied to improve the fertility. If the soil is still too wet for it to be forked in, then it can be left as a mulch until conditions improve.

 

There is a last chance to plant out bare root roses and trees.  Try to do this is on a mild day, assuming we will have one.  The soil that has been dug out before planting should be mixed with a soil improver such as mushroom compost or shredded horse manure (four parts soil to one part soil improver). This mix can then be put around the root ball and firmed.

MushroomCompost

Trays of 3-week salad leaves can be sown in the greenhouse now. I try to plant a tray every 3 weeks to ensure a succession of the leaves throughout spring and summer.  They are always so tasty, a bit different from the usual salad leaves and so handy to have at a moment’s notice. The seed can be sown in a good multipurpose compost.

Raised Beds

If you are wanting to start growing vegetables in a raised bed, then now is the time to begin constructing it with wooden boards or better still railway sleepers.  Remember that the sleepers should not have been creosoted. The bed should be filled with a good quality, rich, screened top soil. Woodland Horticulture can deliver a suitable soil enriched with organic compost either in bulk bags or 25Kg bags.

 

Bees

 

There are several reasons why beekeepers keep bees.  The opportunity to observe the intricacies of a complex, thriving and productive community is totally fascinating. Seeing a bee do the ‘waggle dance’ on the comb, a new bee being hatched or the taste of your first pot of honey, are all unforgettable moments.

Beekeeping involves many disciplines – anatomy of the bee, chemistry- involving pheromones, social science – the bees interaction with the rest of the colony, to botany – knowing which are the best foraging plants for them. All of this in your own back garden.

 

I have kept bees for 30 years and cannot imagine my garden without the wonderful buzz of the bees in the spring, as I stand under the apple and cherry trees or seeing them busy on the flowers in the summer, never forgetting the honey harvest in August.

In this series of articles I will take you through the beekeeping year and February is a good month to start in.

The bees have been clustering together in the hive to keep warm over winter – not venturing out much at all. Now on a sunny day a few will come out of the hive.  The queen bee will have been laying eggs since January, so the bees will come out to look for early forage, particularly pollen, from flowers such as snowdrops and crocus.

Their winter stores of honey are now being quickly used up as the bees become more active. There is now a risk of starvation and so one of my jobs next week is to check the weight of the hives.

In my next article I will be able to tell you whether they have enough stores and if not, what I did about it.