What plants should I be planting and when?


In Bloom is about getting the most from your garden and creating something that you can enjoy and take pride in. In order to have your garden in peak condition, it is important that you make sure you care for it properly. This involves sticking to a plan and preparing your garden to achieve the results you require.

Here is a mini guide to help you through the ‘Bloom’ months. What should I be planting in:

April

You can plant gladioli and acidantheras now. If you have any herbaceous perennials then you should thin their roots. Sow hardy annuals in situ and prick off those sown earlier. Remove any dead flowers from narcissus and other spring flowers.

As the weather begins to get a little milder sow new lawn areas, but make sure you protect them from birds. Mow your lawn at medium height.

Plant evergreen coniferous trees and shrubs now. You should apply mulch to roses and trim over lavender. Trim all winter-flowering heathers and remove dead flowers from rhododendrons. Prune early flowering shrubs such as ribes and forsythias and cut down hardy fuchsias to soil as new growth appears.

Prune newly planted bush fruits. Use nets to protect flowers on fruit trees from frost. If the weather is dry then water the newly planted fruits and spray against pests and diseases (do not spray if the trees are in full flower).

If you have a greenhouse then sow seeds of outdoor tomatoes, melon and courgettes. You should space out growing plants and watch for pests and diseases. Bedding plants should be moved into cold frames.

If you have a vegetable patch then you should start successional sowing of radish, lettuce, peas and beans. You should also sow your main crop of carrots.

Cauliflower and calabrese should be planted out raised in cold frames. You can plant late potatoes earth up the early ones.

May

As the threat of frost should now have passed you can plant your half-hardy annuals. Dahlias raised from cuttings should also be planted now. Tall growing herbaceous plants should be stalked and bedding plants should be moved to frames.

You can sow the following plants:

  • biennials
  • canterbury bells
  • foxgloves
  • wallflowers
  • sweet williams

The sowings of hardy annuals should be thinned.

Mow your lawn regularly and in different directions. If it is dry make sure you water newly turfed and seeded areas.

Wall-trained fruit trees should be given plenty of water, as should bush and cane fruit. When you can see that the fruit is swelling give the trees a light feed. You should be on the look out for goosebury sawfly and spray if it appears. You should place straw or other material around strawberries.

If you have a greenhouse keep a close watch on ventilation and humidity. You should remove side-shoots from tomatoes and train cucumbers and melons, removing surplus growth and stopping where necessary. The greenhouse should be fumigated at regular intervals to control pests and you may need to provide shading for some plants.

If you have a vegetable patch continue to make sowings of peas, beans, carrots and lettuce. You can also plant out Brussels sprouts towards the end of the month.

Make sure you protect early potatoes from late frosts and stake peas and beans as required. Pinch out the growing points of early sown broad beans after flowering and plant out tomatoes, marrows and melons.

June

With summer upon us most gardens will be bursting into life. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden make the most of it, if you haven’t, remember just how much colour, pleasure and food you can get from pots, containers and growbags.

It’s now time to complete the planting out of all bedding and half-hardy plants. Gaps in flower borders can be filled up with quick-growing annuals such as such as sweet peas and morning glory. In hanging baskets use pansies, petunias and black-eyed Susan for an instant splash of colour.

If you get tiny pests such as aphids on your plants, it’s best to avoid spraying, as pesticides will also kill ladybirds and other helpful insects. Many birds will eat insect pests and if you are fortunate you will see them out in the evening gathering food for their fledglings. Greenfly or aphids can be washed off with a dilute solution of washing-up liquid.

Flowering shrubs such as lilac and forsythia should be pruned as soon as they finish flowering to encourage late flush of flower and you should also be removing seedpods from rhododendrons and azalea. While you are at it, spread compost or shredded bark around trees, shrubs and roses when the soil is moist to help contain valuable moisture during the hot weather. Clip your hedges and topiary and feed them well.

Vegetable gardners should hopefully be harvesting early summer cabbages and cauliflower this month. Now’s the time to sow vegetable crops, such as a lettuce mix, or courgettes directly into the soil and don’t forget you can grow a range of tasty vegetables in large pots and growbags. Most lettuces can be planted from until the end of September or October. Spinach, beans, rocket, and courgettes all take minimal effort to grow and are great beginners' plants.

July

By now your garden should be full of colour and your summer bedding should be at its best, so while looking after your garden also take some time to sit back and enjoy your garden!

In the hot weather your plants will be needing plenty of water so make sure that you are saving all your ‘grey’ water (old wash water etc.) and water either early in the morning or evening to ensure that the plants receive as much of the water as possible without it evaporating.

You should cut back half of all perennials that have flowered, such as lupins and delphinums. If you are lucky this should persuade more flowers to grow later on in the season. You should also weed and deadhead regularly making sure that you check for any pests. All faded heads on the annuals should also be removed and cuttings can be taken of non-flowering shoots of shrubs and climbers.

Ideally you should be mowing your lawn at least once a week, however with the dry weather it is advisable to leave your lawn a little longer than usual to enable it to retain moisture from the dew.

All fruit trees should be pruned and fruit should be protected from birds using netting, however, check regularly to make sure no birds get trapped.

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse make sure you keep an eye out for pests and diseases such as whitefly, fumigate or spray the greenhouse. Continue to feed flowering pot plants. You should take cuttings of fuchias, abutilions and heliotropes. In preparation for spring you should sow cinerarias and calceolarias.

For those with vegetable patches you should lift shallots and autumn-sown onions and complete the planting of broccoli and autumn and winter cabbage. Spring cabbage, spinach beet, lettuce and Chinese cabbage should be sown now.

Don’t forget to order your bulbs for Autumn planting!

August

Now August is here you should be able to take some time to relax in your garden, as there is less to do than in previous months. You should still be weeding and deadheading regularly and make sure your plants receive plenty of water while remembering to be water wise. If you have planted any new trees and shrubs this year it is particularly important that they get sufficient water because if their roots fail to take hold they will die. If you break up some of the earth around the base of the tree this will allow water to break through the soil where it may have become hard.

Plant colchicums this month that will then flower in autumn. Spring flowering bulbs can also be planted along with lilies and it’s also time to start sowing biennial seeds. If you have rambler roses make sure you prune them back this month. More vegetables can also be sown now including spinach, beetroot, carrots, lettuces, turnips, late cauliflowers, Japanese onions, winter cabbages and leeks.

You can start preparing plants indoors ready for spring. Spring flowering plants such as cyclamen should be potted into final pots. The greenhouses in Holland Park have plenty potted up ready to be distributed later in the year around the parks and open spaces in the borough.

Cuttings can be taken of herbs such as sage and rosemary, remove their lower leaves and root them in a half peat/half sand mixture and put in a cold frame (mini greenhouse) over winter. By the following spring they should have taken hold and produced a strong 60 centimetres plant.

September

With the relaxing summer period drawing to a close and the kids all back at school there’s a lot to be done in the garden. Having enjoyed wonderful summer blooms for the past few months your summer bedding will no doubt be looking past its best. It’s time to complete the pruning of summer shrubs and remember to continue to deadhead roses. As with last month, give more thought to spring bedding.

Winter and spring flowering bulbs such as snowdrops, bluebells, daffodils, tulips, crocuses and anemones should be planted. Biennials and perennials sown earlier can also be transplanted and sweet peas and hardy annuals can be sown in pots. Make sure that the beds are thoroughly dug and fertilised before you plant.

Your lawns should be thoroughly raked with a springbok (wire) rake to remove any thatch. They should also be spiked, fertilised and re-seeded if necessary. If you have any damaged areas you should cut out the offending area and loosen off the soil beneath it. Fill the hole with sieved soil, pressing gently to firm it as you go, and sow 30 to 40 grams of seed per square meter. Then sift a mixture of soil and peat over the seeded area and make sure you protect the area from birds by criss-crossing black cotton between short pegs.

Harvest any fruit and vegetables as and when they become ripe. Prune existing fruit trees and begin to prepare sections for the planting of new trees. New trees, however, may have to be planted slightly later this year due to the reduced rainfall.

Don’t forget about houseplants that you may have had outside during the summer months. Make sure you bring them inside when the evenings get cool to avoid the first frost, which, depending on the weather could be later on this month.

October

Here we are again, not knowing whether to wear our sunglasses or our rain macs. Yes, you have got it, it’s October. As the weather changes, your gardens will change too.

As the rain situation is improving now is the best time to start planting new trees. It is important that there is sufficient water in the ground for the trees to take hold. Herbaceous perennials such as delphiniums, hostas, lupins and primroses should be lifted, divided and replanted.

Summer bedding should now be removed, in order to plant winter and spring bedding before severe weather begins. Winter hanging baskets and window boxes should also be planted now using plants such as pansies, heathers, primroses, dwarf conifers and dwarf hebes.

For those of you that have ponds in your gardens, it is recommended that you place a net over the pond to catch any falling leaves. Clear the leaves from rock plants and lawns and place them in a compost bin if you have one. For offers on compost bins and tips on home composting please see the Royal Borough's Rubbish Recycling Litter - Home composting web page. See Home composting

As we have been experiencing mild weather winter protection around vulnerable boarders has not yet been needed, however, you should make sure you are prepared for when the colder weather comes.

November

November is often one of the wettest months of the year, but like the previous month, it often relents slightly for a few days to give us the last glance of the summer sunshine. The general weather in November is similar to that in October, but the shorter days and weaker sun result in lower temperatures.

Good gardening days are rare this month, so full advantage should be taken of the few dry days we have. This is the best time to tidy up your gardens. Any fallen leaves should be removed and diseased leaves should be burned, to prevent an outbreak in the summer.

Geraniums, Fuchsias and Begonias should be lifted and taken inside, and the empty spaces should be left rough for the frost to break down. Any areas where the soil is heavy should be covered in lime (1/2 lb of lime per square yard), this will help the breaking down process. Plants and trees arriving from nurseries should be planted, however if the weather is not fit for planting, heel them in. Herbaceous plants should be cut down to18 inches above soil level.

Dwarf shrubs, especially conifers, can be used with good effect. However, they should be carefully chosen as they could grow to be too large. The smaller the bed or garden, the more care is needed.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Plan ahead; make a list of materials required.
  • Continue making compost heaps (detailed in October's column.)
  • Carry on with winter digging.

December

With Christmas celebrations just around the corner, and New Year shortly after, the garden can sometimes be forgotten about. The shorter days also make it more difficult for gardening as the daylight hours are limited.

The weekends are usually the only time when it is possible to truly get some gardening done, and even these may be hindered by the onset of severe winter weather.

Now is the time to prune back rose bushes by about half. You should remove any cross cutting branches to create a vase shape bush and cut back all stems to approximately 15cm from the base, cut at a 45 degree angle. You may need a saw to cut off thicker branches. Finally cut out any diseased wood and remember to disinfect the blade after use.

Ideally you should have already planted your spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, however, if you still have some left to plant they should go in now before the first frost.

Hardwood cuttings should be taken from a wide range of shrubs, including deutzia, wisteria, dogwood and Virginia creeper.

Take winter hanging baskets undercover before they get exposed to severe winter frosts. Either put them under the porch or in the greenhouse if you have one.

Plants kept in a greenhouse should be watered sparingly, as with the temperature drop less water is needed. You should also make sure that the inside of your greenhouse is insulated to conserve heat and save energy.

Don’t forget to order or buy seeds of plants that should be sown mid to late winter.

January

With Christmas and New Year out of the way, there now is the time to give more thought to the garden. January is usually the coldest month of the year, so not much outdoor planting can be done, however, general garden care and preparations for when the weather warms up can still take place.

Seeds should be ordered now, if you haven’t done so already; study various catalogues to plan your spring planting program. Also, in preparation for the spring, you should make sure that all your tools are in good order, checking to see if they need to be repaired and carry out any maintenance as necessary.

Out in the garden, you should make sure that all your borders are kept tidy and fork between perennials. If there are any severe frosts, you should check on newly planted perennials and biennials and firm them back in.

All ties and stakes on shrubs should be checked and replaced if necessary, and dead branches should be removed.

If you have a greenhouse, clean it down thoroughly; if the roof has become dirty, then make sure you clean it to ensure that light can be let in. Leeks, onions, lettuce and cabbage can be sown in boxes now.

Towards the end on January, you may see the first snowdrops beginning to appear, letting you know that spring will soon be on its way.

February

As St Valentines day draws upon us and the snow begins to fall, are our gardens ready for the weather that February will bring?

By now, a few more snow-drops should be appearing along with some daffodils, towards the end of the month. Primroses should also be appearing as the weather becomes milder.

Make sure that any vulnerable plants are protected from frost and knock off any snow from plants and shrubs to prevent any damage.

Hedges can be cut back this month along with overgrown shrubs.

You can lift and divide perennials as the weather improves, towards the end of the month, also start preparing borders for the planting of hardy annuals. Roses along with deciduous shrubs can be planted now providing there is no frost or snow on the ground.

In the greenhouse, develop seedlings up to the light. Fuchsia cuttings can be potted along with cuttings of Chrysanthemums.

As with last month, continue with the repair of any tools and machinery that you will need later on in the spring; you do not want to wait until it is too late.

Summer flowering bulbs should be bought or ordered now in preparation for planting later on.

March

By now you should be seeing several spring bulbs flowering in your garden as spring begins to take hold. Daffodils should be blooming in abundance, brightening up their surroundings.

As the days begin to lengthen slightly, you are now able to spend a little more time out in the garden. With the sun shining stronger, its warmth can be felt and the plants respond according; sadly so too do the weeds so you need to make sure that you remove them before they take hold.

Deciduous trees and shrubs can be planted until the end of the month. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be top dressed with compost or manure. If you are able to use your own home made compost then do so.

For tips on how to make your own compost, visit the Home Composting web page. See Home Composting. Beds and borders can also be mulched now in order to retain moisture and ward off weeds. Remember to prune any shrubs damaged by frost and to prune all roses ideally before any new growth appears.

Some seeds of summer bedding plants can be sown now. Some will benefit from first being started off in pots or trays in a greenhouse, whereas, others can be sown directly into the open ground.

In the greenhouse, also pot up young bedding plants. You can start to grow French and Runner beans in pots. Dahlia tubers can also be started in pots, remember to take cuttings as they begin to grow.

Planting of fruit trees should also be completed during March.