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Gardening | 24th April 2020

Gardening is good for you


A catch-up with E&L gardening columnist Helen Knowles

GARDENING is good for you and never more so than now. It’s a perfect antidote to all that is going on in the world at the moment and a reminder that, no matter how upside down our lives may be, the seasons will still continue in their usual cycle.
Spring is the best season of all as far as I’m concerned.
Having spent months squelching around in ankle-deep mud, it is incredible that the ground is now so dry.
With no rain forecast any time soon, it does mean that any new plantings will have to be well watered but the soil is nice and warm after the mild winter so anything you do plant will quickly establish and get growing.
There certainly is plenty to do at the moment. Congested clumps of snowdrops and daffodils can be lifted now that the flowers are fading.
Separate the bulbs and replant in smaller groups to improve their flowering in future years as well as spreading the colour around the garden.
Large clumps of perennials can be lifted now, too. I have a few big plants of Iris sibirica which have got bare patches in the centres, with all the new growth appearing in a ring around the outside.
These need to be lifted, divided into smaller pieces and replanted. It won’t affect their flowering performance this year and, by next year, the plants will have really bulked up.
There’s a lot going on in the veg garden, too. Taking advantage of the ground being so warm, I sowed a lot of seeds in the veg tunnel and already have beetroot, spinach, rocket, peas and mangetout coming through.
There is still plenty of time to sow veg seeds; anything sown now will germinate very quickly, although some of the more tender crops such as courgette, squash and tomatoes will need protection for quite some time.

To get a headstart on crops, which will go outside, try sowing seeds into modular trays or small pots.
I’ve got sweetcorn, kale, broccoli and leeks coming on nicely in a polytunnel and they will be planted out next month. In the meantime, they’re nice and cosy and growing well.
You may remember from last year that I had sown seeds of a beautiful pure white Trillium chloropetalum in 2012 and was still waiting for them to flower.
Well, finally, my patience was rewarded and earlier this month the whole pot full of young plants produced their gorgeous flowers and are still in bloom.
Every single one of them is a lovely wine red, not quite what I’d expected but I’m delighted with them all the same.
Another surprise has been the Marsh Marigolds which were destined to go to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival and be used in our display.
With the show cancelled, I thought the plants would add a lovely splash of colour planted around the edges of our wildlife ponds and they certainly did, for about two days. It turns out that deer like Marsh Marigolds and have really enjoyed the flowers.
Flower shows may have been cancelled but nurseries around the country are coming together on Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26 for a virtual flower show.

It includes behind-the-scenes tours of nurseries, a Q&A session, spotlight on different plants, practical demonstrations and much more.
The show schedule is available now to view online at
At 2.30pm on Saturday 25th I’ll be going through some of my favourite Truly Hardy Perennials and at 1.30pm on Sunday 26th I’ll show you how to take stem cuttings.
You can also put your questions to the expert panel by going to Like so many businesses, I have had to close the nursery to customers but I do have an online shop so you can still buy plants for your garden at
Mail order, local delivery or collection from the nursery gates are all possible. All the nurseries taking part in the virtual flower show sell online and mail order is a lifeline at the moment because selling plants at shows is the major outlet for most of us.
Another business in Langholm, which can keep you supplied with gardening essentials, including compost, is Dr Grow at so make the most of this lovely spring weather and keep gardening.

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