Wow! What a few weeks it has been. Gloriously warm temperatures, big blue skies, t-shirts and sun hats, winter a lifetime away – spring has really arrived, eventhough it feels like it could be summer. In Switzerland it this year it has been the warmest April for years and years, lucky us no? Or, perhaps not.
I’ve been having an amusing conversation with an Australian friend at the moment, I recently lamented that last weekend was just too hot for gardening (for me that is) and she just laughed and laughed, heat, she suggested, is what it feels like in the Australian desert! It is what we are used to I suppose but for me gardening a few weeks after Easter in 25c is just a little dramatic. I’d much rather a gentle increase in temperatures and enough time for me to aclimatize to the change in the weather. If nothing else this dramatic jump in “heat” leads me to think about the plants. There is a great gardening rule which is “right plant, right place” which means that every plant is a great plant so long as it is placed in its ideal spot, shade for shade loving, sunny for sun loving etc. Baking on my south-facing terrace this week has led me to think that I will give up on the lovely arrangement of cute little pots I’ve had there for the winter and only keep a few of the big ones. I promise to only plant heat tolerant, sun-loving beauties and shall retire the delicate plants and pretty small pots to the shed (sorry, cave) for the summer.
Everything is growing like crazy, there has been tremendous growth on roses and perennials, the magnolias were fantastic, the cherry blossoms are magical at the moment and those pesky birch trees which seem to be everywhere are doing their damdest to make allergy sufferers curse. A direct quote from my daughter “I hate April!”. Birch trees are wind pollinated and spread their pollen far and wide including into the car, bus and train ventilation systems, through the open windows and doors of our homes, onto our skin and hair making life rather tricky at the moment. Often I look at the many magical fields of yellow rapeseed and feel that is to blame for the allergies, perhaps because the fragrance is so present, rapeseed however in its defense is insect pollinated so perhaps not the culprit. Let’s hope this high pollen period is quickly past, a little rain comes and the birch trees pass beyond this sharing stage.
There is so much to do in the garden, start by dusting off and pulling out the garden furniture – it is important to have somewhere comfortable to sit and contemplate the things you need to do. I always like to start with the areas in the garden that I see the most, the view from the dinning room table, from my desk, around the front door, out by the gate. I don’t much worry about the areas that I can’t see well, I try to get to them later. The other area I really try to concentrate on is the veggie garden. The soil is warm and the days are increasingly longer making it the ideal time to get started. All the garden centres and DIY shops are packed with plug plants for the veggie garden, very helpful if you don’t want to grow from seed. Plan your garden, firstly grow what you like to eat, there is no point in growing radishes because they are super easy if no one likes to eat them. Try something you’ve never planted before like lemon grass or kale. Install a drip irrigation system with a timer on the tap if you need to spend hours watering, it will change your life. Keep an eye out for slugs, my little six pack of pak choi plug plants was nibbled away to nothing overnight, and I thought it was too early for slugs, fooled me once. Do keep in mind that we have not yet reached May and the chance of an early morning frost is still with us. Check the forecast for cooling temperatures and protect any tender bedding and plug plants with horticultural fleece, bags or crumpled newspaper. Frost will destroy fresh leaves and the plants may not recover.
Speaking of pests, the dreaded boxwood caterpillar is back. The tell-tale signs include web-like cocoons, black and green caterpillars, small insignificant moths and decimated leaves. Other than replacing your box hedging and topiary you have two options. Firstly check your box frequently and hand pick any caterpillars you find and destroy them. Secondly consider spraying. Andermatt biogarten have developed a drench called Delfin which is mixed with water and then sprayed on the box twice over three weeks, repeated if necessary. This is the most effective solution. It is widely available from all garden centres and DIY shops as well as directly online. There are a number of clear photographs of caterpillars as well as the damage they cause under Delfin above.
As always keep on top of the weeding and enjoy your garden.