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taralissner

An enthusiastic, self-taught gardener, Tara Lissner is passionate about gardening and eager to share her zeal and knowledge with other gardening fans.

In 2012, she joined forces with Hester Macdonald, a British-trained landscape designer, to launch the Swiss Gardening School.

(Photo by Jean-Luc Pasquier)

Swiss Gardening School
www.swissgardeningschool.com

tara april 2018

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

Wow! What a few weeks it has been. Gloriously warm temperatures, big blue skies, t-shirts and sun hats, winter a lifetime away – spring has really arrived, even though it feels like it could be summer. In Switzerland it this year it has been the warmest April for years and years, lucky us no? Or, perhaps not.

I’ve been having an amusing conversation with an Australian friend at the moment, I recently lamented that last weekend was just too hot for gardening (for me that is) and she just laughed and laughed, heat, she suggested, is what it feels like in the Australian desert! It is what we are used to I suppose but for me gardening a few weeks after Easter in 25c is just a little dramatic. I’d much rather a gentle increase in temperatures and enough time for me to acclimatize to the change in the weather. If nothing else this dramatic jump in “heat” leads me to think about the plants. There is a great gardening rule which is “right plant, right place” which means that every plant is a great plant so long as it is placed in its ideal spot, shade for shade loving, sunny for sun loving etc. Baking on my south-facing terrace this week has led me to think that I will give up on the lovely arrangement of cute little pots I’ve had there for the winter and only keep a few of the big ones. I promise to only plant heat tolerant, sun-loving beauties and shall retire the delicate plants and pretty small pots to the shed (sorry, cave) for the summer.

tara white crocus

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

There is a softening underfoot, a warmth in the air and dare I say that feeling of spring abounds! It’s true we’ve been fooled before; a lovely gentle week in February followed by lots of snow and a wind chill that felt like -16c. But it will come, that light in the day, that stretch in the evening and that warmth in the air that means below zero temperatures are just a memory.

I do so love the optimism of March. Every DIY catalogue that comes through the letter box is packed with the promise of spring with bunnies and daffodils in almost every picture; lawn mowers and garden tools to make every job a breeze. Furniture catalogues encourage us to enjoy outdoor living with new patio furniture, parasols, coffee tables and sofas, to plan dinners and parties with friends. We the gardeners know that this is all just a sales tactic for it is far too early to even begin thinking about outdoor living, we are all preoccupied with outdoor working; beds to dig, mulch to spread, plants to grow, shrubs to prune and seeds to sow.

tara onions

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

This perfect light, golden tones all around and cooler temperatures gently ease us into this new season of Autumn. The summer bedding is fading but trying to hang on continuing to perform in the sunshine, the summer veggie plot is almost at an end with the soft herbs going to seed and the green tomatoes fooling us into thinking that they may ripen on the vine (they will not), the lawn is showing signs of worm casings and a scattering of colourful leaves greets us ever morning – a time of change.

It has to be said that this summer was really fantastic, long days of warm sunshine, almost enough rain to keep the lawn green and that perfect blue sky. A hot summer like this reminds me to take a closer look at my garden. It brings to the forefront the areas I will need to concentrate on when the guests have departed and the rosé is finished. And so the list begins; add even more mulch to keep greater moisture in the beds, explore even more fully hardy but drought resistant perennials to reduce watering, reconsider the choice of planting for the vegetable plot when a holiday is planned – goodness I’m beginning to see a pattern, all of these issues revolve around water, the lack of rain and the need to irrigate. This may have something perhaps everything to do with the fact that I have a south facing garden on a hill with clay soil. Oh the work!

tara spinach leaves

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

I guess it is fair to say that the April drought is behind us – so much rain! Not that we didn’t want or need it of course just not all in the same week. To keep us on our toes the ice saints “saint glace” have also been busy working their magic with really chilly overnight temperatures frosting the new growth on everything from grape and fruit tree crops to eager gardeners with their tomatoes and basil already planted. Local advice from everyone, including the nice lady in the queue at Landi this week, dictates that nothing tender should be planted outside unprotected until after the days of the ice saints These ice saintsSaint Mamertus, Saint Pancras and Saint Servatius, celebrate their feast days on 11, 12 and 13 May each year. This past week I saw early morning commuter cars covered in snow heading towards the autoroute – I remind you we are in May – keep an eye on the forecast and cover up your seedlings and tender summer bedding with horticultural fleece on nights when the forecast is for colder temperatures. The fleece should be removed in the day to harden off the seedlings and tender plants so they become accustomed to the temperatures.

With the arrival of May the plant market season is quickly upon us. From the small village “marché des plantes” to the bells and whistles of the wonderful “Jardins en Fête” this weekend in Coppet now is the time to get out and about and see what is on offer this year. Keep your eyes peeled for small posters advertising local plant markets, often short on notice they enliven village squares on a Saturday morning at the beginning of the season, Versoix, Trélex and Mies all are regular locations. The town greenhouses of Divonne will be open to the public on Saturday morning 20 May 09:00-12:00. Get a behind the scenes tour of the work that goes into making Divonne such a beautifully floral town. Click Divonne for more information.

I’ve been busy in my vegetable garden dodging the torrential rain. The beans and beanpoles are in, the potatoes are almost ready to be earthed up, the strawberries are flowering and will soon need their fruit lifted from the soil with straw, the raspberries are mulched and I’m waiting to buy my tomato plants at Coppet this weekend. I fear with all of this rain the slugs will be back in force very soon. The most effective way to deal with slugs is to use a nematode drench; a powder-like substance containing tiny nematodes which is mixed with water and applied to the soil, once in the slug the nematode releases a bacteria into the hosts which kills them. An effective product on the swiss market is made by Andermatt Biocontrol and is called bioslug. If you can’t wait to order by all means use whatever system works for you.

On to more pleasant subjects. I’ve been very happy to see my wildflower meadow is coming gently back to life, not least because our puppy decided to dig a trench through the middle of it. As it is on a slope I hadn’t noticed the damage until it was too late – a repair job of refilling the trench has now been completed and the area concerned reseeded, needless to say puppy is being more closely supervised in the garden.

Things are really taking off in the perennial borders. Peonies with their tight buds eager for the sun to reappear to help them open, the delphiniums are reaching for the sky ready to impress. While you still can still get into your borders give some support to your perennials, with days of rain and wind the new stems can be damaged and may well snap. Wire stands and supports are ideal, bamboo and string also works very well. It is best to do this staking before the plants get too big especially if you are using a cage, I’ve recently wrapped a delphinium in newspaper, secured with tape and carefully placed a tall wire cage over it, pushing the cage into the soil and then very gently removing the newspaper. The delphinium survived.

The good news about lots of rain is that the weeds come easily out of the ground. The bad news about lots of rain is that there are now lots of weeds! I’ll be busy this weekend pulling weeds and buying plants at Coppet. Enjoy the weekend and perhaps I’ll see you there.

What's On

Les Jardins du Château de Vullierens - until 18 June
The wonderful iris garden above Morges is now open for the season until 18 June from 09:00-18:00 every day.
Jardin des iris

Jardin de cinq sens, Yvoire
This delightful walled garden has now reopened for the season, always a delight, see their website for full details.
Jardin de cinq sens

Arboretum du vallon de l’Aubonne - until end October
If you have not yet discovered the Arboretum now is the perfect opportunity to do so. Their new website is packed with activities from three family brunches, Sunday guided visits and other special events and activities. Well worth a visit.
Arboretum

Courses
Our new look website is up an running with a number of garden visits and courses before the end of June. Don't forget to sign up and register via the website.

Garden visit – Jardin des Vullierens, Wednesday morning 17 May
Expore the iris garden above Morges with us.
Garden visit

Perfect Pots & Clever Containers - R. Jaggi, Tuesday morning 23 May
Learn how to get the best from your pots this summer and go home with one.
Perfect pots & clever containers

Author's bio

taralissner

An enthusiastic, self-taught gardener, Tara Lissner is passionate about gardening and eager to share her zeal and knowledge with other gardening fans.

In 2012, she joined forces with Hester Macdonald, a British-trained landscape designer, to launch the Swiss Gardening School.

(Photo by Jean-Luc Pasquier)

Swiss Gardening School
www.swissgardeningschool.com

 

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SGS cherry blossom

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

Well, we’ve had snow, sunshine and rain and with the time change this weekend it really is beginning to feel like spring. I’m enjoying the flashes of colourful bulbs in bloom everywhere I go with the scent of hyacinths heady in the air, the garden filled with birds chirping before dawn and the massive bumble bees defying gravity with their flying skills – it feels like spring.

With this change in seasons comes that irresistible urge to get back to the garden, long gone are the lazy afternoons with gardening books open for inspiration, now is the time to work.

I spent hours outside this past weekend fixing up the vegetable plot, assessing the state of the compost bins (I have four), trimming back errant rose branches and carefully clearing out the perennial border. I also had some time with my mulch. I love mulch – a curious statement perhaps but not when you realize what magic it works. I keep a large bin of leaf mould and once decayed, after at least a year, I spread it on beds in the garden which need an improved soil structure, perhaps areas where I’ve noticed the beds drying out in the summer. Leaf mould does not bring much in the way of nutritional value to the soil however it really does improve the structure. By adding a layer of at least 6cms to the earth, weed growth is discouraged, humidity is retained and the insects do all the work by working the leaf mould into the soil. I use well composted garden material as mulch in areas like the vegetable plot and perennial beds where I want to add nutritional value as well as improving the soil structure.

I planted a green manure of spinach this winter in two of my raised vegetable beds and this weekend turned them into the soil – I’ll wait another couple of weeks before I plant something in them. My herb bed is showing signs of life with the tarragon coming along nicely and the unstoppable chives reaching for the sky. I’ll be moving the beans into a new position this year and have just moved the structure that they will climb up from one bed to another – now all I have to do is choose a variety. We have had snow over the Easter break in the past so if you are thinking of sowing vegetable seeds directly now do consider buying some fleece to protect your young seedlings – better safe than sorry.