National Gardening Week takes place next week (April 10-16), organised by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), with the aim of encouraging getting non-gardeners to take up the hobby.
Despite the RHS’s assertion that it has become ‘the country’s biggest celebration of gardening’, in my view, it has not.
I’ll bet there are bigger celebrations at your local DIY store gardening department sale.
According to the National Gardening Week website: “Thousands of people, gardens, charities, retailers, culture and heritage organisations and groups get involved and you can too.”
Check out the website – www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk – at the time of writing there is nothing in NE England - the nearest events are in North Yorkshire.
You can register your own event but you’re going to struggle to get one planned, running and publicised in a few days.
My suggestion? Give the kids a packet of cress seeds, or easy hardy annuals that flower quickly, like English pot marigolds (Calendula) - look for kids’ ranges of seeds in garden centres or DIY stores and plant away. Hopefully, you and the kids will get hooked. It can be as simple as that. It was for me.
The timing in the Easter holidays means venue’s websites are chock full of eggs, bunnies and treasure hunts. Tourist attractions are going to go with sure-fire winners, usually involving chocolate rabbits.
I really want National Gardening Week to work - I’m an RHS member and the organisation does do some great charitable work.
However, it misses the mark, despite being well-meaning; if you’re not a gardener, you’ve probably never heard of it, let alone turn up at an event at a large private garden with an entry fee.
Surely a better way to get people involved is to bring gardening to them - city centres, retail parks, public parks - even a tie-in with the dreaded DIY chains.
l One book that might just encourage people came out this week - Urban Flowers: Creating Abundance in a Small City Garden, by Carolyn Dunster with photographs by Jason Ingram.
It is truly inspirational - it gives simple, cheap but stylish upcycling tips to people with no gardening ability. Carolyn urges you to be yourself and reflect your style - after all, we’re quite happy to do this in our interiors or clothes but few of us do it outdoors.
Published by Frances Lincoln, Urban Flowers’ RRP is £20.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
Support peas sown last autumn or earlier this year, using twiggy sticks, or wide mesh netting. Prepare runner and climbing French bean supports if you want to save time later in the year.
Deadhead daffodils, but let the leaves die down naturally, to store food for next season’s display.
Tie in honeysuckle, clematis and other climbers as new growth starts to sprout.
On variegated plants, prune out shoots that have reverted to green. If left unchecked, they will eventually take over from the variegation.
Perennials should be staked early so they can be tied in unobtrusively before they start to flop. Use prunings from around the garden to make your own supports.
Feed the soil. Use homemade garden compost, or well-rotted manure, around established plants, and in planting holes for new plants.
Tear off rose suckers. Cutting leaves a growth bud, but tearing rips it off.
There are lots of annuals you can sow now including Californian poppy, Nigella and poached egg plants, which are good for pollinators.
To prevent algae build-up in your pond, add a small bale of barley straw, available from most garden centres, at £6-£7. As light levels and temperatures increase, this triggers algae growth in the pond, making the clear water go green! Have plenty of plants around the pond’s sides for moist shelter, essential if your pond is set in gravel.
Divide clumps of herbs that have become too large.
Plants, such as bay, that are difficult to propagate otherwise, can be layered now. Refresh herbs growing in pots by scraping off the top 5cm/2” of compost, topping up with fresh abd finishing off with a layer of horticultural grit to retain moisture.