Gardeners warned - don’t be caught out by the cold weather

Target dandelions before they take over.
Target dandelions before they take over.
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Spring may be running at up to 20 days behind but gardeners who get disheartened by the cold weather and neglect their gardens now do so at their peril warns RHS chief horticultural advisor Guy Barter.

There is no guarantee that spring, when it arrives, won’t be warm and sunny and gardeners who don’t get ahead on their plots now could find themselves struggling to catch up when spring finally arrives.

Easter is traditionally a time when the nation heads out to garden centres on masse, shopping for plants and seeds and heading outside over the long weekend to start getting their garden into shape ready for a colourful and fruitful summer. Although Easter is early this year and spring late, RHS chief horticultural adviser Guy Barter has put together some advice on what you can do to get your garden ready, despite the weather, to ensure you have a summer of colour.

What to do in the garden now to avoid being caught out by a quick spring:

Use windowsills as mini-greenhouses to sow seeds in pots in preparation for spring. With luck by May when the seedlings get too big for the windowsill they can be found a sheltered spot outdoors to grow until big enough to plant out.

Check or visit one of the RHS plant centres to see what you should be planting now.

Be prepared for an onslaught of slugs, they will be on the move and ready to munch their way through your plants at the slightest hint of mild weather.

The cold has held back budding roses so there is still time to finish your pruning – invest in a good pair of gardening gloves to keep out the cold and the prickles.

Spike, feed and moss–kill ailing lawns, so that, if need arises, you can over-seed (sprinkle extra grass seed onto turf) to fill in thin spots once the warm weather comes.

Buy and plant hardy trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials – they will still be nicely dormant and as they are cold hardy, can get growing and seeking out water soon as soon as the soil warms.

Dead-head any spent bulbs so all their effort goes into producing bulbs for next year rather than seeds.

Mulch plants with bark chips or other well-rotted organic matter to feed them, suppress weeds and conserve moisture in summer.

Use very cold days to stay in and re-pot house plants now that light levels are creeping up.

Re-pot containerised shrubs and trees outdoors if they are root bound. Just scrape off a third of soil and roots and replace with fresh potting compost if you wish to replace them in the same pot.

Winkle out dandelions, docks and other deep-rooted weeds – their grip is less tenacious at this early season.

Remember, if it’s a very wet day you should avoid walking on your soil as you will compact it, reducing drainage and doing more harm than good.

Instead lay a plank or, better, a sheet of exterior grade plywood on your soil and work from that to spread out your weight.