Ruth Hayes explains why we shouldn't let our guard down during these blissful warmer days of early spring

In tabloid speech of yore, the Easter weekend just gone would doubtless have been described as ‘COR WHAT A SCORCHER!’

Four days of almost wall-to-wall sunshine and temperatures up in the 20s were an absolute gift for everyone, not least gardeners with the luxury of being able to escape into their own patch of heaven.

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The gardens weren’t the only ones to benefit. Here in Dorset we spotted the year’s first swallows on Easter Sunday and watched orange-tip butterflies skipping across the garden in search of the patches of ladies’ smock and garlic mustard (food plants for their caterpillars) we left standing for them.

Keep horticultural fleece to hand to protect tender plants on frosty nights

Our young crab apple came into blossom for the first time and we could virtually watch the Clematis montana buds unfurling by the minute.

However, these boon days of glorious weather can have a sneaky back-kick for gardeners and their plants. Lulled into a false sense of security, it is easy to forget that we are still only in earlyish April and that many tender plants still can’t survive outside.

Indeed, the clear blue skies of Easter, fabulously unspoilt by jet trails, gave way to cloudless nights and plummeting temperatures. Jack Frost is still roaming the land and will be for at least another 5-6 weeks (possibly longer the further north you go), so keep your tender charges and seedlings under wraps a while yet.

Ventilate the greenhouse on warm days but close windows, vents and doors at night

The ones that still need protection are pelargoniums, dahlias, cannas, basically anything you lifted and brought indoors last autumn. They should be fine in the greenhouse or a light porch, but cover them with fleece when freezing nighttime temperatures are forecast.

And don’t forget to close greenhouse windows and doors at dusk if they have been opened on warm days.  You have nurtured your delicate plants too well through winter to see them fall at the final hurdle!

Collecting fresh water for watering or the birdbath while the hot water warms up

The stretch of dry days may have also taken their toll on your water butts. We have been steadily watering pots, new additions to the borders and the veggies growing in our raised beds and now a couple of our butts are starting to run dry.

So, earlier than usual, we are back to using ‘grey water’, the soapy residue left in bowls when the washing up is done. We’re also collecting the run-off from the hot tap before it warms up, though this completely fresh water usually goes straight in the birdbath.

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Grey water is fine for plants as long as it has cooled down and isn’t too full of food bits or greasy residue. Water containing bleach should also be discarded.

Harvest grey water collected from washing up

You can also use the water used for cooking pasta and vegetables and this may even contain a few extra trace nutrients from the cooking process. Nothing need go to waste!

What are your tips for reducing waste through gardening? Let us know at amateurgardening@ti-media.com

 

We are here for you

Although many people are coping well with self-isolation, others are really struggling and feeling completely forgotten and alone.

Here at AG we are doing our best to keep connected to our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer withing 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@ti-media.com

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We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello – we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

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Don’t forget to give someone you know or love a call. They might be feeling low and lonely and hearing from you will make their day. Happy gardening!