A View from the Garden Gate Project: Utilising wood chips, benefits of planting trees and an invite to our Spring Open Day

The Garden Gate team hard at work spreading wood chips

By Nick Condron

As the chill of winter finally gives way to the warmth of spring, March marks the start of a new season for us gardeners. It’s a time to shed the winter blues and embrace the promise of new growth, fresh blooms, and the joys of the outdoors.

Already, there is frog spawn in our pond, whilst fresh green tulip leaves are showing through and the first golden daffodils are beginning to open around the garden. The speckled purple and white blooms of the hellebores are at their best in our sheltered fernery. Whilst in the polytunnel, a table top of containers planted with deep purple irises and pink hyacinths looks and smells splendid.

Hellebores in bloom

Over the winter we’ve been busy using wood chips around the garden in a number of ways. They are excellent for creating our soft pathways, and we’ve extended these so that they connect up all around the perimeter of the garden with our hard-standing areas, in order to protect more of our grass from wear and tear. They also provide us with a very effective mulch for top-dressing our beds by helping to retain moisture in the soil, regulate soil temperature and suppress weed growth.

When dug into the soil they can also improve its structure and fertility. As they break down, they release organic matter into the soil which helps to increase the soil’s water-holding capacity and nutrient content. They can also be useful for creating a physical barrier between the soil and the foliage of plants, which can deter slugs and snails as they are less likely to crawl over the rough surface of the wood chips. We’re also experimenting with adding them to our compost based growing medium for germinating seeds. So far,      our first beetroot and onion seedlings seem to be coming up very well.

Onion seedlings germinating

However, do bear in mind that wood chips can tie up nitrogen in the soil as they decompose, which can lead to a temporary nitrogen deficiency in plants. Therefore, it may be necessary to mitigate this by adding nitrogen-rich fertilizer or fresh compost. Also, remember that some types of wood chips, such as those from coniferous trees, can be acidic and may lower the pH of the soil over time, which can be problematic for plants that prefer neutral or alkaline soil conditions.

Now’s a great time to get started with some new planting. It’s important to prepare your ground by clearing away any debris or dead plants from the previous season and adding compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil. This will help ensure that your plants have the nutrients they need to thrive. Crops such as lettuce, spinach, and peas which can handle cooler temperatures can be sown now and at the earliest will be ready to harvest in 10 to 12 weeks. Around the rest of the garden, container grown perennials and shrubs from the local garden centre or nursery will also benefit most from being planted early in the season.

Tulip leaves amongst the roses

You may also wish to consider the benefits of taking the opportunity to plant a new tree in your garden. They improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants from the air and releasing oxygen, thus helping to reduce your carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of global warming. They increase biodiversity and can create a mini wildlife haven by providing habitat and food for a wide range of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. They add beauty and visual interest to your garden, since they come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colours, and can also provide shade and privacy. They can also give you a sense of connection to nature and provide a calming and restorative space that helps improve your wellbeing. So, what are you waiting for?

Irises and hyacinths

Here at the Garden Gate Project we’re always happy to receive visitors and are open Monday to Friday from 10am until 3pm.

Plus, do please come along to our Spring Open Day on Saturday 1st April from 1-4pm, when we’ll be serving teas and cakes, pizzas and soup, along with a plant stall and a variety of craftwork made by our team.


1 Comment

  1. In planting a tree in your garden, choose wisely. Just any old tree isn’t as good as a fruit tree which is more useful.

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