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Now is the time to plan, prepare for spring planting

Having been off Island for much of the winter, it is obvious that the weather has been undesirable to say the least, especially for plant growth and the landscape in general.

Our weather is always unpredictable at this time of year, with occasional “warm” periods to sit out for a couple of hours and take in the garden in all its windswept appearance. When this happens it is good to take time to think of the garden calendar for the coming year. As time and tide wait for no man therefore planning should be uppermost in ones mind. It is in my opinion a common failure in many gardens to over-plant, wasting time, money and effort, mainly due to the lack of planning or simply misunderstanding the final goal.

A garden can be viewed just from one side or from three hundred and sixty degrees, whatever the design concept; the design should incorporate interest that lasts throughout the year. Such attributes include flower shape and colour, leaf shape and colour, seed, fruit, bark and habitat. Taking the time to know the characteristics of one's choice of plants will result in a more visually attractive garden. Having made that point, one of course needs to consider location as this is often makes or breaks the garden.

I am still amazed by how many people still don't quite get the idea that we have a winter in Bermuda; I arrived back on the late flight on February 19 to be greeted by gale force winds the next day. Many of the softer foliaged plants such as Pigeon Berry (Duranta), Acalypha (Match me if you can), Thryallis (Cloth of Gold) and Sanchezia have their foliage blistered by strong winds and accompanying salt spray. Plants are usually purchased in containers that range in size from one to 90 gallon with a price range average of $12.50 to $500; add to this the cost of delivery and labour to prepare ground and install and the cost increases exponentially.

After completing the above exercise of selecting and installation, the question of maintenance becomes a factor; was there any thought given to the design being labour saving or labour intensive? Maintenance takes time and time is money.

What was the composition of the layout? Did plant selection include a cross section of material, e.g. trees, shrubs, ground cover, bulbs, cacti and succulents, palms? Correct spacing of plants within the bed and the inter-relationship of ground cover and plants with a spreading habit will not only reduce the number of plants required but also reduce the maintenance time required for weed control and pruning etc.

Consider changing your landscape maintenance programme to accommodate the needs of the property and not the calendar; plants and grass grow at various rates throughout the year usually based on climatic conditions. If a lawn is weed free (or relatively so) weekly mowing may not be required if the grass is growing uniformly in height so its appearance is acceptable; it's only when weed growth appears that a lawn can look unkempt. Using ground cover plantings will also assist in reducing weed activity especially in the summer months therefore plant selection correct spacing will add greatly to the appearance of the garden as well as reducing weed growth. Continuing with the maintenance programme, simply by pushing the hoe I prefer the Dutch hoe through the soil will break the surface and knock out any germinating growth, thus eliminating the opportunity for weeds to become established. Removal by raking or hand is advised when plants are seeding or in fruit and fall into the bed, early removal will eliminate germination. Ground covers to consider include Lantana, Pentas, Senecio vitalis, Senecio mikanioides (also used as a climber/vine), Carpobrotus edulis 'vars', Senecio confusus, Trachelospermum sp. (both of which can be used as a vine) suckering forms of Agave and Aloe.

Agave and Aloe will sucker to varying degrees. When this happens, gently remove with a clean sharp knife the desired suckers and replant in other areas as deemed appropriate.

Maintenance is an all year round activity. An overlap netyween summer and winter weeds usually takes place in spring and late summer/autumn. During hot and rainy periods, growth is more rapid and maintenance schedules should adapt to the need whereas long periods of drought have a lesser impact on such growth and attention should be diverted to other areas in need of attention. Timing is important in maintaining a weed free and healthy garden, so consider the needs of your property before spending unnecessary amounts on a weekly service if it is not needed.

March is a good month to start preparing the garden for new plantings; hopefully warmer weather will be with us by the end of the month when planting can be considered.

Time can be wasted or used constructively the choice depends on how you view the garden and its attendant maintenance programme; it takes just as much time to do a poor job as it does a good one, it is the knowledge used to complete the task that is the defining factor.

griffm[AT]northrock.bm

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Published March 07, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 07, 2011 at 7:32 am)

Now is the time to plan, prepare for spring planting

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