Spring into action: Get your garden back into shape in seven simple steps

Garden whisperer Charlie Albone reveals how to revive your flower beds for spring

27 September 2020 - 00:02 By Charlie Albone
Get growing!
Get growing!
Image: 123RF/Alexander Raths

Spring is a fantastic time in the garden as all the plants wake up from their cold winter slumber. It's a time when things can easily get away from you so I suggest starting your spring gardening campaign with a blast and follow my get-into-spring maintenance regimen:

1. REMOVE WEEDS

Start by pulling out all the weeds that grew over winter. It's amazing how all your ornamentals slow down over winter, however there's no stopping weed growth. The most effective way to kill weeds, roots and all, is to get under them with a fork and pull or lift them out of the soil. For larger areas, you can use a natural spray by combining salt and vinegar and spritz on to kill the foliage.

2. PRUNE PLANTS

After weeding, you need to do a basic prune and cut back if you haven't already done it in late autumn. This includes removing dead wood, crossing branches and overgrown shrubs. Most shrubs can be cut down by a third and they'll bounce back with renewed vigour and dense growth.

3. FERTILISE THE SOIL 

Enrich your soil — no matter the type — with compost and slow-release fertiliser. This will help retain moisture and nutrients in the soil and give the plants some long-lasting food throughout the season. For new beds, dig it through the soil and for existing garden beds, apply it to the top of the bed like a mulch.

4. ADD NEW PLANTS

Now for the fun part where you see fast results — plants! Fill in all the gaps and empty spots, remembering to allow enough room for the plants to grow. There's nothing worse than overplanting and having to take things out. Getting some seeds going for late spring planting in the veggie patch is also a good idea, and you can get an early jump on things like tomatoes and soft salad leaves if you germinate them inside on a warm window sill.

5. GIVE YOUR GARDEN A DRINK

After all the hard work of weeding, digging and planting, giving the garden a good soak is a great way to start the season off on the right foot and help settle the new plants in.
I apply a soil wetter as winter can be deceptively dry and the soil can become hydrophobic (where water finds it hard to penetrate). While it's also good practice, liquid feeds often have tonics added to them. Enrich your soil — no matter the type — with compost and slow-release fertiliser.

6. ADD MULCH

After a good soaking, apply a layer of organic mulch, such as pea straw or sugar cane. This helps water to infiltrate the soil more slowly so the soil is better able to utilise it. It also prevents evaporation and soil erosion — and it looks good. Mulch helps keep weeds in check and breaks down over time to help feed and add organic matter to the soil. I apply mulch to a depth of 75mm — any more and water struggles to get in. Any less, and there will be too much evaporation and the weeds will push through.

7. INDOOR LOVE

Put your indoor plants outside and soak them. I submerge the pot in a big bucket of water with half-strength liquid fertiliser. This gives the plant a great soak that it won't get inside, plus a dose of food too. — Bauersyndication.com.au/Magazinefeatures.co.za