Gardening: The best of the garden and what to do this week

A fern tree. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

A fern tree. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

The Victorians loved ferns and in recent years we have rediscovered them, thanks to their year-round interest, tolerance to shade and perfect backdrop that they provide to bulbs such as snowdrops in winter, or placed next to astilbes beside a pond or foxgloves in a woodland setting.

Fresh strawberries. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Fresh strawberries. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

Most ferns like partial-to-deep shade and the soil requirements vary greatly from those that need damp soil to others which can tolerate dry sites.

Try the evergreen Asplenium (spleenwort) if you want one which tolerates dryness, or Blechnum spicant, a native species, which is easy to grow in moist, acid conditions like a shady shrub border or woodland.

Kitchen garden: Forcing strawberries

Get a head start to summer by planting strawberries under glass now to encourage early fruits.

Plants need exposing to a period of really cold weather to set plenty of flowers, so don’t bring them in too soon.

You can lift and plant them into a pot filled with compost and soil, then bring them into the greenhouse or cold frame, or alternatively cover any plants which are in the ground with a cloche, to encourage an earlier crop.

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Make sure that the plants which are under cover can be accessed by pollinating insects. Throw open the doors of your greenhouse and remove cloches when the weather is mild and sunny, closing everything up again at night.

In the greenhouse, once the strawberries start to flower, take a soft paintbrush and just run it over each flower once a day. This way you will ensure good pollination. You won’t need to do that with the plants you grow outdoors.


What to do in the garden this week:

:: Cut back hedges before birds start to nest in them.

:: Prune large-flowered (Group 3) clematis.

:: In mild areas, start to prune roses, removing dead, diseased and dying stems.

:: Trim back winter-flowering jasmine when it has finished flowering.

:: Top-dress or repot pot-grown camellias when they pass out of flower.

:: Check supports on wall-trained fruit trees or bushes before the new season’s growth starts in earnest.

:: Test the soil in your garden to see if the pH needs adjusting or if it is deficient in any major nutrients.

:: Put cloches in position to warm the soil for early sowings of vegetables next month.

:: Sow under glass slow-maturing bedding plants such as African marigolds, petunias, lobelia and antirrhinums.

:: Prune autumn-fruiting raspberry canes.