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Spring Gardening Tips

Spring is an exciting time in the garden with everything coming back to life. Most spring flowers will be bulbs planted the previous autumnbut you can get some early annuals such as cornflowers started in containers in the greenhouse. As the end of February approaches, your garden will need a clear out ready for the new vegetation, it is a good time to make sure you clear out any perennial weeds. Roses are better if they are given a good prune to encourage new growth. When you are pruning autumn raspberry canes in February/March cut most down to the ground but you can prune a few to a couple of feet and they will fruit earlier in the summer.

One of the simplest vegetables to grow are potatoes, if you are thinking of growing potatoes now is the time to buy the seed potatoes and put them to chit in a light cool place. Egg boxes are good containers for this. They can be planted out from the end of March. Charlotte is a good all round variety to grow.

Broad beans can be sown now. The best way is to start them is in small pots or root trainers in the greenhouse to plant out later. Salad leaves can also be sown now in the greenhouse in large pots or boxes to be harvested from direct.

Asparagus is an eagerly awaited crop for the chefs. The first shoots should appear during the first half of April and as soon as they appear we spread salt over the beds to kill any emerging weeds and slugs. The asparagus likes the salt.

A classic garden food in spring is rhubarb. If you have rhubarb in your garden and are thinking of cooking it, a simple natural sweetener instead of adding sugar is to cook the plant with the leaves of Sweet Cicely.

Perennial spinach is very welcome at this time of year. It will have been sown the previous May and harvested through the summer and autumn. It then grows again in spring until it goes to seed in May.

Micro herbs and pea shoots can be grown throughout the year on a sunny windowsill.

If you grow bowls of hyacinths to enjoy in the house the multi-flowered ones make a better show than the single ones.

A classic spring flower that you will be seeing almost everywhere are snowdrops, these pretty little white flowers can be divided up and transplanted straight after they have flowered. They should be planted in an area of the garden that has constant moist soil as the bulbs are vulnerable to drying out. The soil needs to free draining as snowdrops don’t grow well when there is too much water surrounding the bubs.

Tulip bulbs need to be planted in the autumn. Some will last more than one year but if you want to be sure of them it is better to plant some every year. A good early tulip for cutting is ‘Double early tulip Monte Carlo’.

If you are thinking of growing any plants that haven’t been mentioned, then a simple tip is that the majority of seeds that have to be planted before April are best started in the greenhouse.

Susan Cunliffe Lister is the garden supervisor. Over the years she has learnt many tips and tricks to do with gardening to ensure her garden is always flourishing. She turned Swinton Estate gardens around after the family returned to the Estate in 2000. Everything was run down and overgrown and a great deal of cutting down and clearing out needed to be done. The hotel now has a walled kitchen garden that provides over thirty different vegetables and twenty fruits for the restaurants as well as cut flowers for the hotel and there are lovely walks in woodland gardens around the lakes.