Professional Gardener - Bagging repeat garden visits is child's play

Providing activities for children should be part of preparations for the visitor season, says Sally Drury.

Easter

Only one week to go. Final plans should be in place and all staff should understand their role during what could be a busy week for those gardens open to the public.

Repeat visits

Do you know how many of your visitors are in your garden for the first time? And how many of them visited last year, last month or last week?

The sale of season tickets is often sufficient to attract and satisfy those visitors living within a reasonable travelling distance. But what about grabbing the attention of children?

It is important to remember the children visiting today, maybe with their parents or grandparents, will be the adult visitors of the future - and then with their own families. While some large gardens are able to provide adventure playgrounds, it is not something that all gardens can or want to do. Other ideas are only limited by your imagination.

Here are a few to start you thinking: "I spy" sheets where the children find items and tick them on a list or answer a question about their colour or shape; grow a sunflower competitions in which the youngsters plant a seed and label it with their name - and hopefully come back to review its progress; make a scarecrow; hold a teddy bears' picnic; bird watching sessions and butterfly counts.

Clothing

Spring has really sprung now so it is time to fish out the polo-or T-shirts. A team of professional gardeners in workwear with a clear corporate identity not only looks smart but is also instantly recognisable by members of the public and can give a measure of authority.

It need not be as expensive as you might think and you could consider heat-sealed transfers or screenprinting. Embroidered logos are popular with gardeners and might add £3 or £4 per garment, depending on the stitches required.

Lawns

Consider applying lawn fertiliser.

Ornamental grasses

Divide clumps of suitable ornamental grasses such as Deschampsia flexuosa as soon as roots grow.

Herbaceous borders

Finish any planting quickly and consider investing in porous pipe irrigation, which could be laid through the border to irrigate plants in the summer.

Annuals

Thin out any hardy annuals sown outdoors last month. Plant out and stake greenhouse-raised sweetpeas providing they are hardened off or sow direct.

Kitchen garden

Plant out broad beans and onion sets. Sow marrows, sweetcorn, courgettes and pumpkins towards the end of the month.

Continue to make sowings of vegetables and salads including lettuce, radish, broad beans and beetroot. Consider giving fruit trees, bushes and canes a high potash feed.

Shrubs

Old, worn-out laurels can be rejuvenated by cutting them to around 30cm from the ground. Prune forsythias if you want to keep them small or, alternatively, train them against a wall.

Pests and diseases

Keep on top of slug and snail control.


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