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Things to do in the Garden in Spring

Spring has now sprung! There is blossom on the trees and hawthorn hedges are leafing up, along with the cheery blooms of daffodils and primroses enjoying the sunshine between the rain showers. Now is a great time to start sowing and planting outdoors but be mindful there is still the risk of occasional frosts.  Here is a list of things to do in the garden at the end of March and through April:

Keep weeds under control before they get a hold

Weeds can be controlled with the help of weedkillers or by cultural and organic control measures that rely on killing or restricting the weeds physically.  This can be done by removing them manually, smothering weeds with plastic, burning or by using weed barriers.

Protect fruit blossom and non-hardy plants from frost

Most top fruit and soft fruit are very hardy but once they start spring growth the flowers and buds are particularly vulnerable to frosts.  You can protect frost sensitive plants by wrapping in fleece or by using a cloche.

Sow hardy annuals and herb seeds

Many vegetables, annuals, biennials and herbaceous plants can be grown from seed sown outdoors. The secret to success is to prepare a good seedbed, free of weeds and with a crumble-like soil-surface texture.

Sow new lawns and repair any bare patches

Patches in lawns can appear for a number of reasons and when they do, it is always advisable to repair them. Re-seeding or turfing these areas will prevent weeds germinating in the bare patches, and of course, it will look much better. It is best to repair these areas in the spring or autumn.

Top dress containers

Growing plants in containers is a great way to bring life and colour into otherwise dull spots in your garden such as patios, balconies and even window boxes.  Almost any plant can be grown in a container.

Plant summer flowering bulbs

Bulbs are great for adding colour to your garden. Planting summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies and gladioli can provide dramatic, tall blooms that are scented.

Put up some bird boxes

Birds will be looking for suitable places to nest and bird boxes increase their choice of nesting sites. Bird boxes hung on walls tend to be safer from predators such as cats than those hung on trees.  A north or north-east facing position is best as strong sun can make nest boxes too hot and uninviting.



Seed Potatoes

Our new season’s range of seed potatoes are now on sale, and are certified Elite Basic Scottish Seed grown from healthy stock and produced in areas free from pest and disease.

Choose from:

1st early, 2nd early and main crop varieties depending on when you want to harvest them.

You can grow-your-own on a small scale every bit as easily as in a larger garden or allotment.

Container growing has some great advantages – you can get an early crop when prices in the shops are high. Container growing produces spuds with loads of flavour and almost non-existent skins so no need to peel.

All you need is a pot or growing bag of some sort, a vegetable or multi-purpose compost and a sunny spot in the garden.

Potato Chitting 325x325All seed potatoes do best if they are given a start by ‘chitting’. This simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. To do this you need a cool but frost free place with some light where the seed potatoes can be set out and allowed to make shoots of about 2 or 3cm long [that’s an inch]. An egg box or similar works well to hold them upright,

Plant out when the shoots are formed and the weather has improved; traditionally Good Friday was always seen as the best day to plant!

Container growing can start earlier and will give you an earlier crop.

We have loads to choose from:

2kg bags of First early, Second Early and Maincrop varieties at £3.99

10 potato ‘Taster’ packs £1.99

10 potato ‘Special Varieties’ £2.49

The Great Autumn Clear Up!

The Great Autumn Clear Up!

Glorious autumn leavesWhilst we may not want to let summer go, there’s no denying that autumn has arrived and is comfortably settling in around us. Known as the ‘season of harvest’, we’ll soon be reaping the bounty that we sowed in spring and glorious colour will be coating the trees and paths as the leaves turn and tumble.

Although the colder nights and shorter days will naturally bring plant growth to a halt, there’s still plenty to do in the garden. A little bit of effort before the winter kicks in will go a very long way!

Tidy up pots, planters and borders

Time to clear out summer bedding. Divide & reposition any perennials that need it. Remove as many weeds as possible. Clean up foliage from roses, peonies, and any plant with diseased foliage. Remove and dispose of dead plants. Only compost healthy plants, if it showed any signs of disease, it should be disposed of to reduce the risk of re-infecting your garden next year with the same disease.

Mulch the beds

When the beds are tidy, mulch them with a thick layer of well-rotted garden compost or bark chips to keep the soil in good health and protect any slightly tender plants.

Protect from frost!

Wrap tender plants to protect them from harsh winter conditions. Fleece is cost-effective and can be bought by the metre, or Orchard Park stocks a great range of cloches and tunnels.

Inspect your trees

Remove any broken branches, making a clean cut close to the trunk. Orchard Park stocks a great range of long handled pruners, secateurs and pruning saws that are perfect for this task. Remember this is just a tidy up and major pruning should not be done until trees are fully dormant. Check tree ties and stakes on young trees.

Compost sack full of leavesClear the ground

Remove all fallen and rotting fruit from the ground around trees—they will attract pests and diseases which may last through the winter. Don’t leave autumn leaves on the lawn. Instead, rake them up and add to the compost heap in thin layers mixed with other material. Leaves will make good compost quicker if they have been shredded. Use the mower to chop them and pick them up. Give your lawn a final cut before winter and an autumn feed to strengthen roots.

Don’t forget your equipment…

Clean and store away your tools. Remove all traces of soil and if you’ve been trimming diseased plants, disinfect pruners and dry fully before storing away. Spray a little WD40 or light oil on steel tools. Scrape the old lawn clippings off the mower.

Late spring: May at Orchard Park

Garden Planting this May

So far, so good! Spring in North Dorset has been kind to us all, gardeners and outdoor lovers alike. The weather was a bit on the cold side at first but has stayed relatively dry and is warming up nicely with no serious frosts to spoil plants.

You’ll have noticed that blossom has been absolutely glorious this year. Cherries started off with the early flowering Myrobolan, then the purple-leafed sand cherries before the more ornamental Japanese cherries started their display. Not to mention the magnolias and the ornamental pears!

At the time of writing, all looks well and we are hoping that the pear trees blossom will escape harm from frost along with the plums and bush fruit, especially gooseberries and blackcurrants. That would mean a substantial fruit crop later in the year, so it would be worth investing in a little protection, such as a fruit cage, to keep the birds off.

Our Dorset Farm Shop

We had a lovely visit from the reception class at St Mary the Virgin CE VA Primary School in April. Following their current theme, ‘On the farm’, they enjoyed a veggie workshop, tour of the farm shop and a sausage making demonstration from our butchers Chalky and Phil!

Regulars to the farm shop will have noticed some tasty new treats on the shelves, including these, quite frankly, marvellous Honeycomb Dips from Mighty Fine Chocolate.

If the words ‘Honeycomb’, ‘dipped’ and ‘chocolate’ haven’t already grabbed your attention and you’re a little more visual, check out how delicious they LOOK here!

Stylish Garden Entertaining

With the Bank Holiday looming, have you thought about how to get your garden set for the summer? If the thought of getting prepared leaves you trembling at the knees, never fear! We have the perfect guide to getting your garden summer ready.

We have wonderful ranges in store to really give your garden the magic touch, whether you’re looking for a reliable Weber BBQ with innovative accessories or a sturdy yet stylish Alexander Rose dining set, we can suit any budget.

Dorset Events

We’re counting down the days until Weber join us for an unmissable opportunity to see their 2 hour live cooking show, with fantastic barbecue recipe demos and tastings! The shop will be open afterwards for you to shop if you wish, and ticket holders will get a special discount on Weber products on the evening. Click here to read more about this event.

Job Vacancies at Orchard Park

Would you like to join our friendly, hard-working team? We’re on the look out for brilliant people to join our cafe and office. Come and take a look at the positions we have available!

How To: Grow summer bedding plants

Summer Bedding Plants

Summer Bedding Plants for sale

Bedding plants provide a wonderful splash of colour and create a decorative seasonal display for relatively little effort. They brighten up a border, fill gaps between plants that haven’t yet flowered, and look wonderful in pots, tubs and hanging baskets throughout the summer.

Bedding can be grown from seed, bought as young seedlings (plug plants) or purchased in packs or pots ready for planting out. Most bedding plants are annual, which means that they complete their whole life cycle, from seed to flower, within one year, and then die. They are discarded at the end of the season which gives you the freedom to change your bedding displays every year!

Getting Started

Pansy seedlings growing in trays

Pansy seedlings


Bedding plants are easy to grow from seed and don’t require anything too fancy. They will thrive in a seed tray or pots covered with a polythene bag on a windowsill, which means that you don’t need a greenhouse. Seed packets all have sowing dates on them.

If you would prefer established plants, seedlings or plug plants, these are readily available at your local garden centre or nursery. Seedlings will need pricking to ensure their roots have room to grow. Keep potting on your plants to larger containers when they outgrow their current ones until they are ready to be planted out in the garden and the weather is warmer with no risk of frost.

Growing and potting your summer bedding plants

To pot up your seedlings and plant plugs, first water the plants well and then lift them gently out of the soil. It is very important when handling them that you do so by the leaves rather than the stems. If you damage a leaf, it will grow back, but damage the stem and you’ll lose the plant.

Plant them into their new home to the same depth as before and firm down the compost. Use a liquid feed to water them in.

It is important to acclimatise new plants to the outdoors before they are planted into their final spots in beds, borders or containers. To do this, harden them off by moving them to a cold frame, an unheated porch or a sheltered spot outside.

How to plant out your summer bedding plants

Petunias in bloom

Petunias in bloom


It is important to wait until the risk of frost has passed before you plant out your new bedding plants to their final positions, usually mid to late May.

A few hardy varieties can be planted out earlier such as calendula (pot marigold), pansies, violas and primulas. These add colour to your garden in early spring, and can then be replaced or added to for the summer.

Caring for your summer bedding plants

Pink begonias growing in a border

Begonias in flower

It is important to water daily during dry spells using rain water from your water butt where possible. Continue to use a liquid feed each week during the flowering season.

Pay most attention to the plants in containers and hanging baskets as they are at most at risk of drying out. There are many products to help retain water in the soil such as gels, crystals and pellets that can be incorporated into the compost before planting to reduce the amount of watering needed, but you must remember to check the soil regularly.

The plants will be encouraged to keep flowering by regular deadheading, so keep an eye out for any fading blooms, which will also keep your displays looking wonderful throughout the summer!


Image credits: Seedlings © Brian Pettinger, Petunias: © PARSHOTAM LAL TANDON, Begonias: © cobalt123

Gardening Jobs for the month: April

Gardening month-by-month

Lawn Care

Lawns need attention early in the season if they are to look any good. Some can be full of moss at this time of year, with the actual grass is looking a bit thin. Use a mosskiller now, either liquid or lawn sand, let the moss die back and rake it out. If the grass has grown much give it a close cut first so you can get to the moss, and box-off the clippings.

Once the moss is out, if there is a lot of bare soil then rake to loosen and create a seed bed. Sow at about 35g per sq m, rake over lightly and firm in. Water if the soil is dry and germination should take place within 10 to 14 days depending on soil temperature.

A lawn that is not too bad will benefit from a complete lawn treatment such as Evergreen Complete which will kill the moss, kill the weeds and feed it! It is a good investment which should last most of the summer; you might have to feed a little later on depending on how close you cut the lawn and how much hard use it gets.

Pruning, feeding and mulching

Hopefully all the pruning is out of the way by now, so your next step is feeding and mulching climbers, roses and other shrubs and perennial plants. This is vital if you want them to perform well this year. Slow release feeds are best, and the magic mulch can be anything from well-rotted garden compost or manure, to bought in compost or bark chippings.

Prepare to prune the early flowering plants (Forsythia and the like) as soon as they have finished flowering so that the new growth has time to form and produce new flower buds for next spring.

Rose Care

Roses may show early signs of black spot so keep a treatment handy – the choice is not great but both Rose Clear and Multirose are both good and will knock any early greenfly problems on the head at the same time. Then get the sprayer out – fungicide treatment is almost unavoidable if you want to keep the plants free from disease. If you grow without chemicals, then the really important thing is to keep the soil in good heart with plenty of good organic matter and bonemeal or seaweed meal as a supplement.

Check all trees and shrubs – including roses – are firm in the ground. The high winds of the past month may have caused windrock and the damage to the roots can mean a plant will suddenly fail later in the summer.

Pest Control

We didn’t get much in the way of deep penetrating frost this winter so the indications are that slugs could be a real challenge this year, meaning your precious seedlings could soon disappear. The choice is slug traps filled with beer barriers such as copper or wool pellets that dissuade slugs from approaching, or slug killers that will solve the problem on a more permanent basis.

Grow Your Own

The grow-your-own veg is really worthwhile and you can start from either seeds or seedlings. The garden centre now offers young vegetable plants that are ready to plant out as well the fantastic range of seeds in packets that excite the eye with visions of perfect produce.

Vegetable gardens do need to be prepared, forked over to remove the tough perennial weeds and kill the fresh weed seedlings. Manure and the lime should have been added over winter, but it’s not too late if you good composted organic matter available. Best not to do this in seed beds as you can attract the slugs, but fine where you are planting out potatoes, onion sets or transplanting vegetable plants or sowing larger seeds such as peas and beans.


Herbaceous borders will be showing growth, so make sure that you have plant supports ready for taller growing varieties. Grow-through supports such as the large metal circles or cut hazel twigs, need to be in place before the plant grows through! Other systems such as the curved wire frames, link stakes, or canes can be used as needed.

Fruit trees and bushes

These will now be in blossom, and vulnerable to late frost. If they are small enough to cover with fleece then it could make the difference between crop and no crop.

Hanging Baskets and Containers

You can start to plant in April but it is usually far too risky to set them outside; wait until the risk of frost has passed. Worth bearing in mind that early planted tubs and containers will mature early with those planted later still be going strong in late August when the others have expired.

All containers need to be watered. Rain water is best but can be an unreliable supply if we get a drought. Tap water is mostly hard meaning it contains a large amount of Calcium carbonate, so to keep ericaceous plants growing well in pots it is important to add a special ericaceous liquid  feed and dose it with sequestered iron at least twice during the year.

Lastly – once the plant is established, top dress with appropriate fertiliser (specialist Azalea/Rhodo feed or even Rose Fertiliser) in spring to encourage growth and in late summer to encourage flower buds for the following spring. You will probably need top up the compost as well.

Plant of the Month: Pansies and Violas

Pansies & Violas

These are terrific, versatile plants that make a great impact in spring time, with abstract splashes of colour they have one of the widest colour ranges and can brighten up any garden space by being planted in beds, borders, containers and hanging baskets. Recommended varieties include: Viola ‘Aspasia’, Viola cucullata, Viola ‘Jackanapes’ and Viola ‘Moonlight’.

When planting pansies and violas in the garden it’s worthwhile considering some contrasting companion plants like shrubs which can complement their mix of colour and lower height. Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’, also known as Nepalese paper plant, is an evergreen medium-sized shrub with highly fragrant deep pink and white flowers that are followed by black berries. While, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, also known as Mrs Robb’s Bonnet, is a spreading evergreen perennial with dark green leaves from which arise large rounded sprays of yellow-green flowers.

Broadcaster and gardener, Esther Rantzen CBE, the celebrity champion for the month has a great love for pansies and violas. She says, “I love pansies for their soft colours, all the shades of blues, purples and golds, and for their faces, turned down, as if in contemplation. As Ophelia said, ‘There’s pansies, that’s for thoughts’ – and indeed the name comes from the French, pensees. They look fragile, but in fact they are tough, they can survive anything except the burning summer heat, and they seed themselves and return, year after year. And outside the garden wall their little wild cousins, the violets, send out their fragrance to reassure us that spring is on its way”.

Some of the winter and spring bedding has taken a beating but pansies and violas are so resilient that they quickly recover with a few days good weather. March is the perfect time for a garden spring clean after the winter, re-vitalising up existing flower beds, borders and containers. Pansies are the perfect spring plants – along with primulas, forget-me-nots and wallflowers and are perfect contenders for patio pots, hanging baskets and window boxes, ideal and easy to plant.

Pansies and violas are two of the most popular bedding plants and are great for filling the gaps in borders once you have cleared away bedraggled or dead plants. Their names are often used interchangeably. Plants considered to be pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down while Violets have three petals pointing up and two pointing down!

Both are hardy annuals that offer colourful flowers in your garden; they both need watering regularly and need to be planted in moist, well-drained soil.

Pansies and violas like sun and cooler temperatures. Make sure you remove fade or dead flowers to prolong blooming and encourage more flowers to grow bringing a joy of spring to a garden following cold winter months.

Gardening jobs for the month – March

Gardening month-by-month: Jobs for the March

In a nutshell: clearing, pruning, weeding, feeding and mulching!

In the flower beds, the dead growth from last year should be cut back before the new growth gets too far ahead, especially with ornamental grasses and clumps of perennials.

Spring flowering shrubs should be left until after they have flowered but any overgrown summer shrubs could be thinned out by removing old wood (take out about a third of the plant) or cutting back low the fast growing Spiraeas and Buddlejas.

Perennial weeds usually need to be dug out unless you can apply a systemic weed killer such as glyphosate, without touching other plants. If you do use a weed killer then be sure to let it do its job properly; don’t apply it if it is going to rain in the next 6 hours, and let the plant die back before you tidy it away,

Feeding and mulching are the best way to make your garden ‘grow’, a slow release multipurpose feed such as Vitax Q4, TopRose or Miracle-Gro Granular is ideal, or if you prefer a liberal dressing of Blood Fish and Bonemeal.

The best mulch would be your own well-rotted garden compost from your carefully tended compost heap, bagged re-cycled green waste or bark mulch. All work well to keep the weeds at bay, retaining moisture and feeding the soil over a longer period of time.

Summer flowering bulbs and corms such as lilies, gladioli and dahlias can be planted out later in March, and overgrown perennials lifted, divided and replanted.

In the edible garden, fruits trees and bushes are budding up nicely, but the soils may still be too wet to cultivate. It really does need to dry up a bit but from experience it will happen and when it does it will happen quickly.

The soil can be improved with addition of grit and organic manure. If you have time, energy and the materials then raised beds are worth making. They don’t have to be too big, even 1m x 50cm would make a useful space, and raised beds are very much more productive as they are easier to cultivate and maintain.

If you are working on small beds then sow some early leaf crops indoors to get a head start, quick maturing salads and spinach are usually successful. Root crops such as early carrots and beetroot are usually best sown direct as they don’t transplant quite so well.

Potato growers should have their selected seed potatoes set out in a light frost free place to chit (letting the shoots start to grow). The early varieties can probably be planted out early to mid-March if the weather is good and the soil temperature is rising. A soil thermometer is useful as ideally the temperature should be over 7°c.

Onion sets and shallots can go in now as they are quite tough. Birds love to pull them out as they start to grow so either firm them in really well or protect them with a layer of fleece until, they have put roots down.

A few other jobs to tackle: if you have a pond, check the plants in baskets before they start to grow. If they need dividing and replanting use aquatic compost. Well-established pond plants can be fed with a special aquatic plant tablet that is formulated for pond use and doesn’t encourage the growth of algae.

Finally the lawn; give it a light trim on a dry day and see what treatment it needs. A complete weed, feed and mosskill will sort most problems especially if used alongside a good raking over and aeration using a fork, then reseed bare or thin patches or re-turf as this is often an easier and economic option.

March at Orchard Park

March at Orchard Park

March is the beginning of the busy season, the job list lengthening with the daylight. It can be a month of contrasts, too, with wind and frost set to challenge the first of spring growth. Knuckle down and complete winter work to make way for the tasks that are targeted at the growing season. Time spent now getting things into shape is amply rewarded later in summer!

Finishing the pruning, tidying areas before they get overgrown again, removing perennial weeds, feeding and mulching are all essential tasks. Ignore them at your peril! It is also essential to lift and dive overgrown clumps of herbaceous perennials, and take out shrubs that are overshadowing and starving more interesting plants. As usual, we have written a full list of jobs for the month here.

The garden trade associations are working on a campaign this year entitled ‘Love the Plot You’ve Got’ which encourages us to look at what we have now and find ideas to make the very best of that space, our plot! Even if you are thinking of moving house, it makes an awful lot of sense to make sense to improve front or back garden or even chose areas of the garden such as the patio or terrace which will make that part more useful to you and your family in the ‘outdoor’ days to come. Any estate agent will tell you how the value of a house improves with the care and attention given to the garden. The starting point has to be a clear up so that you can see the bare bones of what you have and start the plan.

Around the garden centre the spring colours are blooming, with ranunculus, camellias and heathers looking wonderful! Those of you visiting over the last couple of weeks may have noticed a photographer at work as we prepare for the exciting launch of our new-look website.

Elsewhere in the garden centre, Lagan Farm Shop are just about ready to launch a brand new meat box delivery service at the end of the month, and Orchard Florist are gearing up for the launch of their new online shop! Watch this space for all of the exciting details!

Beware of late spring frosts!

Here at Orchard Park we’ve noticed from the latest weather reports that there could be some frost at the end of the week. Gardeners are often surprised to note that frosts can happen so late in the season, and they can be very damaging to the new growth that you can now see beautifying your garden.

Frost… what are the facts?

  • Temperatures do not have to drop below freezing for frost to occur, frost can occur even at 38oF or 40oF if the night is clear and the winds are calm.
  • White frost generally occurs when temperatures are above the 32o mark and is usually less damaging to plants than a black frost.
  • Black frost occurs when temperatures fall below 32oF – down to around 28oF or lower.
  • Black frost is always a killing frost because it damages plant tissue causing a blackened appearance to the foliage.

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