Easter We are only a month away from Easter and for many gardens that open to the public this heralds the start of a new visitor season. Draw up the schedule of what needs doing, prioritising carefully.
Attracting the public Consider all things horticultural. Organise demonstrations of seed sowing, show gardeners at work and perhaps even consider a quiz. Use all assets — plants, grounds, atmosphere, gardeners’ skills and knowledge. Then think of the non-horticultural attractions — perhaps a teddy bears’ picnic or bug-hunting expeditions. Never forget that children are future paying visitors and they will bring their families to share in their own childhood memories.
Guiding the way Check all maps, plans, guides and booklets are up to date, informative, printed and ready for sale. They can bring in an income as visitors seek to add value to their day and take something away to remember the occasion, but they can also answer many of the questions that might otherwise take gardeners away from regular duties.
Public arrival Inspect paths, terraces, walkways and car parks. All areas should be clean, functional and welcoming. Make time for a last-minute clean with a blower or pressure washer if needed. First impressions count — that is often what stays in the memory of the visitor. If an event is planned, ensure that car parking duties are allocated to competent staff.
Kitchen garden Carry out any necessary soil tests. They can provide valuable information about health and conditions and will aid decisions regarding soil amendments and fertiliser application. Finalise schedules for fruit, vegetables and flower production, paying attention to crop rotation. Remember that cultivating the ground when it is saturated and heavy can do long-term damage, so be patient. Use cloches and polythene to warm up cold soils and kick-off the sowing season with suitable varieties of beetroot, broad beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, lettuce, radish and spinach. Gardeners in the midlands and north should consider starting plants under protection to give the soil a little longer to dry out and warm up.
Ornamental garden Sharpen the secateurs, loppers and pruning saws. Before growth commences, prune buddleia, Salix, Cornus and Caryopteris. Shrubs that flower on new wood, including Hypericum, Potentilla and Spiraea, will also need to be pruned.