Well, this awful wet, cool start to the spring has to stop some time and my guess is that it will after Easter and the transition to summer will just be very quick, so get ready to catch our Tatsfield clay soil when it is dry enough to work. It is now too late to deep dig our clay- this is a winter job. Any deep cultivations this late could quickly become hard rocks in no time! A good tip to help prepare for seeding or planting is to add sharp sand and/or your old compost from last year’s hanging baskets etc. But be careful to examine old compost very carefully for those tiny little curled white slow-moving grubs that are the larvae of the dreaded Vine Weevil. Another tip
for drying out the soil is to cover it with old carpet, black polythene or a similar temporary protective layer. Remember that we can still experience some frost into May although by then it is only likely to be a ground frost. Tender plants will suffer, especially if they have been started off indoors and not ‘hardened off’ before planting. This is a process of gradually acclimatising tender plants to outdoor conditions by moving them in on a cold night for the first few weeks, and then be ready to throw a light cover over them after that if a frost is forecast. Tatsfield’s weather is regularly a few degrees colder
than lower levels so keep an eye on the forecasts. If you are keen on web-based information go to www.netweather.tv and put in your local code; I have found this to be quite accurate.
This month’s plant is Photinia ‘Red Robin’. This a vigorous evergreen large shrub or small tree that can be trained into shapes or regularly trimmed to make an excellent hedge. Remember that the more it is pruned the greater will be the amount of spectacular red young shoots; however, frequent pruning will reduce the chances of seeing the lovely white flowers and the small autumn fruit. Avoid pruning it late in the summer as the re-growth could be damaged by winter frosts. There are many
types of Photinia available but this one is the most spectacular and is also tolerant of alkaline conditions and our local heavy soil, providing some cultivation of the soil is carried out prior to planting. As a hedge this plant makes a refreshing change to other more common evergreens and with firm pruning in March/April it can be kept within the space allocated. If you have an overgrown plant that needs a severe pruning, it will recover well, so that makes it an easy matter to re-shape it even when it
is relatively mature.