If your garden looks less than perfect, it’s time to give it a makeover. Alan Titchmarsh has some simple tips that will have it looking fab.
He advises being kind to your daffodils this month and suggests planting the extraordinary osteospermum for those with a sunny spot. He also has a great tip for keeping slugs and snails at bay.
1. Make a plan
Keeping on top of gardening tasks can be daunting, especially for the beginner. But there are some easy, no-nonsense tips that can help you to stay on track.
Britain’s favourite gardener shares his tried and tested tips to make the most of your plants, fruit and vegetables.
Alan Titchmarsh is a renowned broadcaster and writer, presenting Gardeners’ World and Ground Force, and he has also written more than 50 gardening books. He’s also presented Songs of Praise and a series on Classic FM, as well as having a long-running daytime show and written several novels.
Ahead of the new gardening season, we asked him to share his hints and tips with our green-fingered listeners. He reveals some of the key steps that everyone can follow to turn their dreams into reality.
2. Get the soil right
With the planting season underway, Titchmarsh gave his green-fingered listeners a list of tasks to tick off that would keep their garden “happy as Larry”. One tip he offered was for those with rhododendrons, to make sure they have plenty of room to grow and spread sideways.
He also recommended soil testing to see if the soil has enough nutrients. He suggested trying a small amount of soil in your hand to test whether it is sandy, silty or clay-based.
He also encouraged people to plant more vegetables, even if they have a small space. He recommends radishes, spring onions, French beans and lettuces. For the sunny spot he suggests the incredible osteospermum (aka African or Cape Daisy) which will add vibrancy to any flower bed.
3. Give your plants a drink
It’s easy to let gardening tasks slide during the winter as the days get shorter. The gardener Alan Titchmarsh confesses that his own four-acre Hampshire plot is a mess at times, with potted plants stacking up beside the shed and shrubs left in their containers for years rather than planted out.
He suggests that you should water your plants more frequently so that they don’t wilt and become less able to fend off diseases. If you’re short of time, supplementing your normal water with a brew made with green tea leaves can help to give plants that extra boost.
For those with small gardens, he suggests planting the colourful Snake’s head fritillary, which he believes would “give you untold pleasure”. You can catch Alan on Love Your Weekend With Alan Titchmarsh and Alan Titchmarsh: Spring Into Summer on ITV.
4. Keep weeds at bay
Weeds can be one of the biggest frustrations in any garden. They steal light and nutrients from the plants you do want to grow, so it’s worth putting in a few weed management strategies.
Start by avoiding tilling your soil, and instead, cover it with grass clippings or shredded leaves to stop weed seeds from finding a home. You can also try spreading a thick layer of mulch or even sand, which will stop any weeds coming through and add nutrients to the soil.
Another trick is to spray bare ground with household vinegar – just aim carefully so that it doesn’t contaminate nearby plants. It may take a few applications, but it’s usually effective at killing the unwanted plants. The TV star also suggests trying snake’s head fritillary (Fritillaria nigricans) as a colourful flower for sunny front gardens.
5. Don’t be afraid to prune
One of the biggest fears that afflicts many gardeners is pruning. It can seem like an intimidating task, but it’s actually an essential part of good gardening.
Unpruned plants can quickly get out of hand and start overtaking a space, crowding out other plants or swallowing up a support. It can also create an environment that encourages disease and pest infestation.
Steve says that it’s important to understand the goal of pruning before you pick up a blade. He suggests spending time observing the plant and working out which areas are best for cutting back, and why. This will help you to avoid a vicious cycle of harsh pruning followed by overgrowth which requires more harsh pruning in the future.