Professional gardener - Prepare for cold, drought and jubilee fun

Get organised to make the most of both work and play whatever the weather, Sally Drury advises.

More cold forecast

April has been an interesting month, with temperatures reflecting summer then falling dramatically to give frosts and deposits of snow in northern regions. Meanwhile, gales hit south-west England, with 80kmph winds felling trees in Cornwall and cancelling the ferry service to the Isles of Scilly. And after the driest March for almost 60 years, 18 April saw more than 20mm of rainfall in a matter of hours in parts of Devon.

Now the Met Office is warning that the first two weeks of May will remain "unsettled". Some forecasters are suggesting we could have the coldest May for 100 years. Don't put the woolly hats away just yet and carry on monitoring greenhouse and conservatory temperatures where necessary - and especially at night.

Water wisely

Although most parts of the country experienced rain, sometimes heavy and prolonged, towards the end of this month, much of the water has literally run off to leave the ground relatively dry. Drought restrictions are still a concern for many gardens and new plantings must be planned carefully.

Consider drought-resistant plants such as those from Mediterranean regions. When watering from watering cans, remember that a good soak can do more good for the plant that several light applications that evaporate if and when the sun comes out.

Let's celebrate

The Queen's diamond jubilee is a time for putting out the flags and revving up the festivities. Opportunities abound for publically-open gardens during the celebrations. If you have nothing specific planned, then it is time to get moving. It may not be too late for a small concert of local musicians and certainly a celebration tea should be considered but get working on the details now.

Bedding

Thompson & Morgan managing director Paul Hansord advises against growing any Impatiens walleriana because downy mildew is likely to lead to disappointment. Recommending alternatives, Hansord reports that New Guinea busy Lizzies 'Divine' and 'Sunpatiens' Mixed are proving popular as alternatives because they offer the same robust garden performance and all-summer colour as the walleriana types but are resistant to disease. Also selling well are Begonia semperflorens 'Lotto Mixed' and Petunia 'Ramblin'.

Beneficial Fungi Kit

New from Harrod Horticulture, the Beneficial Fungi Kit brings together the best of the company's natural plant strengtheners to give an organic, fungi-based cocktail to boost plant growth and root vigour. The kit consists of a 20g sachet containing water-soluble concentrate of Trichoderma fungi suited to watering on to seedlings, and a 60g sachet of rose, shrub and fruit-tree friendly granular mycorrhiza and bio-stimulants. There is also a 40g sachet of Trichoderma granules for planting or transplanting brassicas or use in hanging baskets.

Lawns

Consider spiking any hard areas of lawns and grass walkways so any falling rain has a chance of getting into the ground rather than being lost as run-off. Reduce mowing height on fine ornamental lawns to 12mm unless conditions are very dry. Other amenity areas can be cut between 12mm and 25mm depending on conditions, location and function.


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