Yes, the big winter cutback is over and it’s not quite time for planting seeds. But there is still lots to do, and the first thing is to begin to make your beds ready for the summer. I of course mean your flower beds, this is not the sort of blog that would consider being so outré as to contemplate any other sort.
8th February. Things I have been doing lately.
🌱 Weeding and then thinning self seeders. Normally I would weed with a hoe, (no pun intended). But for the first proper weeding of the year you need to do as Jesus requested and get down on your knees. You need to get close to the soil, and using your trowel selectively dig out all the weeds and grasses that you have allowed to creep into your flower beds.
Whilst you are doing this thorough weed you need to begin the process of thinning out any plants you have allowed to self seed. Marguerites and Osteospermums are wonderful self seeders and I happily let them grow away during the Winter until it is time to do the great thinning. The photos below show my flower beds at the beginning of the the great weed and thin. Click on each photo for a larger view.
After thinning out the self seeders I then plant a few more of the plants that I have set aside. The idea is that I am creating clusters of plants that will provide me with early colour, whilst at the same time leaving spaces where I will plant my new seedlings such as Marigolds and Sunflowers when I sow in a few weeks time. The photos below shows some of my plant clusters. Click on each photo for a larger view.
🚜 Adding a compost mulch. Once I have fully weeded the beds and thinned out all the self seeders I add a thick layer of compost mulch from one of my compost bins. This bin is hopefully timed to be ready for Spring, when I use it for mulching the flower beds and providing a thick layer around my fruit trees. The photo below shows me mid mulch.
🌿 Dividing plants and planting out cuttings. Once you have prepared the beds you can consider planting out any cuttings that you have ready, and also looking for some of your existing plants to divide. Dividing plants is an easy way of getting free plants. The only thing to remember is that if you have a plant that is thriving and is ready to be divided, then make sure you plant the new divided plants in a similar environment. If it is thriving in shade then plant the new plant in shade, and vice versa if in full sun.
I have lovely Kaffir Lilies that thrive in quite deep semi shade, including the front wall of my garden which faces North. These plants are slow growing, with lovely deep red flowers, but if they like their environment then they will gradually plump up and be ready for dividing after about three years. Simply force your trowel down between the plant and take off a substantial chunk of growth together with a good amount of root. In total I created 5 new Kaffir lilies this year. The first photo below shows some plants that I divided last year now coming into flower. The second photo shows one of my existing plants ready to be divided, followed by some photos of the new plants ready for planting. Click on each photo for a larger view.
The final plant to be put in my shadier bed is the much maligned Chlorophytum Comosum or Spider Plant. This denizen of many a shady bathroom comes into its own when planted out in a shady area as its striped leaves shine through the gloom. I plant out two or three of these every year from cuttings, but remove the mature plants after 1 year as they get too messy. The first photo shows the removal of last years plants as they head to the compost heap. The next photo shows the strong roots you get from cuttings after a few months. The final photo shows the Kaffir Lilies and the Spider plants ready to illuminate a shady bed during summer. Click on each photo for a larger view.
🌻 Planting new purchases and taking cuttings. Sometimes you will have a gap in your planting that you can’t fill from your cuttings or seed. Or, you may have a problematic area of your garden where existing plants have failed. In my case I have failed on a number of occasions to successfully grow anything up an arch which is in full sun. My latest attempt is to try Stephanotis. I have purchased two plants ready for another attempt.
The secret to buying plants, is where possible don’t, just grow your own or take cuttings. But if you do buy plants, then you need to do two things. Firstly, you need to take cuttings from your new purchases so that you get lots of free plants. Secondly, and very importantly, you need to get them in the ground and growing before the end of March. Here on the Costa Blanca, any new plants put into the ground after the end of March stand a high chance of being burnt off by the Sun before they get established, and you will have wasted your money.
The first photo below show my newly purchased plants waiting to be planted. The second photo shows the Stephanotis newly planted and ready to grow. The final photos show the cuttings being taken and ready to hopefully root and provide me with free plants. Click on each photo for a larger view.