Gardening 101: Spring gardening tips & ideas for the beginner
As spring rolls around each year, gardens are calling out not just to be admired and enjoyed, but for a little extra TLC. While the weather warms, gardens need to be watered, weeded and fertilised. As plants bloom, their performance is improved with regular deadheading and even a little pruning. Where new plantings are occurring, good soil preparation is key to ensure they grow and thrive.
Here is a checklist of spring activities to make your garden grow.
Spring job #1: Watering
In spring, plants grow new shoots and leaves, and many are flowering and fruiting. All this activity needs extra water, so it's time to turn on the hose or watering system, or fill up the watering can. Aim to water everything at least once a week, but when it is hot, dry or windy (which dries out soil and plants), water more frequently.
Plants that are actively growing and flowering also need more water. Containers, new plantings and dry locations may need daily or even more frequent water. To check whether the garden or a container needs to be watered, feel the soil by probing it with your index finger. It should feel moist. If it is dry, water. If it is very wet, hold off. Plants often wilt when they are very dry, so pay attention to what your plants are telling you, and give any dry plant water when it needs it. Do this right away - don’t wait until the end of the day, as plants that are very dry can die. If the soil or potting mix is hard to wet (for example, water pools on the surface or runs off), apply a soil wetting agent. Flower Power recommends Wettasoil.
Spring job #2: Feeding
When plants are actively growing, they need nourishment. For much of the garden an annual feed with a slow-release, pelletised general fertiliser in spring after rain is all that’s needed (Flower Power recommends Supergrow Organic Fertiliser Pellets), but many need additional fertiliser throughout the growing period of spring to early autumn. This can be a liquid feed, manure or compost, or any other fertiliser applied according to the directions on the container. Plants that need extra rations include annuals, vegetables, citrus, roses, hibiscus and other fast-growing plants. For best growth, invest in specially formulated fertilisers for specialist plants such as citrus, roses, azaleas, native plants and lawns. Also treat new plants after planting or stressed plants with a seaweed solution to reduce transplant shock. Flower Power recommends Amgrow Seaweed Concentrate, which also comes in a hose-on applicator if you prefer this method.
Spring job #3: Pruning and training
Many flowering plants benefit from a light prune after flowering to encourage new growth. Plants that repeat flower over many months should be deadheaded after each flush of flowers to encourage new buds or to deter seed formation. To deadhead, cut below the spent flower and above a node (the location of new shoots). For more info on how and when to prune your plants, click here.
Climbing plants also benefit from ‘training’, which is the term used for tying or twisting vines on to a support. Tall plants such as dahlias and perennials may also benefit from the use of plant supports to keep their growth upright. These supports can include stakes, trellises or lattice, to which the plants can be attached with plant ties.
Spring job #4: Weeding and mulching
Weeds don’t just look unsightly, they also rob garden plants of moisture and nutrients and can harbour pests and diseases. Regular weeding is a part of gardening – some people hate it, but others see it as good therapy. Weeds can be removed by hand or by using herbicide (taking care not to damage other plants). When hand weeding, remove all parts of the plant including its roots. After clearing an area, cover bare soil with an organic mulch to deter regrowth. Large weedy areas should be covered with cardboard or newspaper to smother re-growth. Top up with mulch to hide the cardboard or paper layer.
Spring job #5: Preparation for new plantings
Spring is also a great time to plant new plants. Once you’ve decided where to plant the newcomer, make sure you are allowing enough space for it to grow. Consult the plant tag for information on how far apart to space annuals and vegetables or look at the dimensions given for trees and shrubs and allow enough space for future growth. Next, prepare the soil well so that the new plant has every opportunity to thrive. To do this, dig a planting hole that’s as deep as the root ball but wider. Remove any old roots, weeds and stones and break up hard clods. To improve the soil, dig in well-rotted compost or aged manure, incorporating it well into the soil.
Once the soil is prepared, you can start going about planting. Make sure the root ball is moist before planting by soaking it in a bucket of water enriched with a seaweed product such as Amgrow Seaweed Concentrate. If the roots are matted, gently tease them out. Overly root-bound plants may not grow well even if their roots are teased or pruned. Set the plant in its new home, then back fill firming the soil so the plant is firm in the ground and there are no air pockets around the roots. Water well, adding more soil if necessary. Don’t put the plant any deeper in the soil than it was growing in the pot. In exposed areas, plants may need staking. Excessive heat and wind can stress new plantings. To avoid this, shade or shelter plants on hot days with shadecloth or temporary shade.