Now that the weather is warming up it is a great time to prepare beds and borders for the forthcoming growing season.
Once all our Herbaceous Perennials have been cut back we tidy through all our borders and then apply a mulch which involves spreading a layer of organic material or gravel over the soil surface. Before applying the mulch we always spread a granular fertiliser around the base of the plants to give them the nutrients they need for the forthcoming year. We usually use a fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 which is slow release and contains all the main nutrients plants need, as well as the trace elements that plants need in smaller quantities. We spread a small handful of the fertiliser around the base of each plant, being careful not to get the fertiliser on the foliage of the plants as it will scorch it.
Once the border has been fed we dig through a small area at a time to lightly mix in the fertiliser and to relive any compaction in the soil prior to spreading the mulch (being careful not to damage any of the plants roots). It is always well worth forking over the soil before you apply a mulch as this will ensure the previous year’s mulch is mixed thoroughly into the soil which will help improve its structure. The mulch will be most effective if it is spread in a thick layer over the soil surface, ideally 3 inches thick. This will help prevent weeds from growing, it will also keep the moisture in the soil and it will ensure a high quality to finish to the border.
There are many different types of mulch that can be used, the most popular are materials such as green waste compost and bark. Other materials include leaf mould, farm yard manure (that is well rotted) as well as inorganic materials such as gravel, pebbles and grit. At Hyde Hall we use a 50:50 mix of green waste compost and ornamental bark which gives a fine finish to our borders and helps improve our soil structure.
Borders can be mulched through the early spring months but the task will get harder as the herbaceous perennials begin to grow rapidly so it is well worth trying to do it as soon as possible which will make the job easier and it will ensure we avoid damaging the delicate new growth of our plants.