April is a time when warmth starts to fill the air, insects buzz overhead, and the evenings are delightfully longer. It’s a time for admiring Autumn planted bulbs in all their glory, watching birds build their nests and the lime green leaves slowly unveil. Nature is busy, and it’s all hands on deck in the garden too….
Prepare and Maintain…
With so much to do in the garden, it’s important to make sure tools and growing apparatus are ready for the coming growing season. Make sure they are all in good working order, and sharpen or take to the repair shop if needs be. It’s a great idea to give your greenhouse a good scrub down and disinfect too. This will get rid of pests and diseases and let in more light, practical as well as making it look more pleasing- and somewhere you will enjoy to spend time.
Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to prepare beds for the growing season ahead. Dig in a 5cm layer of compost or well-rotted stable manure. Or if you follow the no-dig garden method, simply apply a good layer of organic matter to the surface of your beds. You can also feed the beds weekly with nettle or comfrey tea, compost tea and liquid seaweed. Some other great addictions are calcified seaweed and kelp meal. Kelp is the fastest growing plant in the world, extremely sustainable and plants absolutely love it, as it’s full of essential minerals and trace elements. Feed the soil- feed the plants.
Another tip is to check your container plants aren’t drying out – even though there may be a lot of rain, the warmer weather will quickly affect soil moisture levels and pots can dry out very easily, especially hanging baskets. Now is a great time to invest in a water butt to collect all that April rain! Plants love rainwater so make the most of it now, and catch the downpour from a shed or greenhouse down pipe to use in the dryer months.
Grow and Nurture….
April is prime growing and propagating season. For a garden rich in flowers in the Summer and early Autumn why not invest in some flower seeds, whether they be an easy annual like ‘Cosmos seashells’ or a beautiful pollinator favourite perennial like ‘Gentian sage’, sowing a few different types of flower seeds now will bring so much joy in the months to come, and watching the seed come to life and flower, is a fascinating and wonderful process. Also you will definitely save yourself some money, and the risk of buying harmful neonicitinoid treated plants from large commercial centres, which are so harmful to pollinators. Why not endeavour to grow your own wildlife garden from scratch?
Now is also time to sit back, and enjoy the fruits of Autumn’s labour, with stunning tulips, narcissus and bluebells really putting on a show. Their scent alone is worth every minute spent planting them in the cold months of last year, and the colour enough to brighten any overcast day. In the Spring sunshine they are simply stunning.
Now is a great to multiply your free plant stock, by lifting and dividing plants now. Perhaps that Lupin has become too big for its place, or you feel like that clump of primroses that has finished flowering, would be better separated and left to naturalise in the grass in another area. Hostas can also be divided now before they come into leaf. Lily bulbs can be planted into pots, an environment in which they will thrive this Summer , as well as Dahlias, who’s tubers can be planted now, as long as they are kept in a frost free environment.
For fabulously bushy sweet peas and fuschias, punch out the growing tips now, so growth is encouraged not just upwards but outwards, creating fuller plants. Now is a great time too to tie in climbers such as honeysuckle, clematis and rambling roses. Check all existing plant and tree ties to ensure they aren’t too tight, and rubbing stems or branches which can cause disease. A great tip is to use old tights, cut and rolled up into a circles. They are incredibly strong and won’t cause damage to plants – it’s also a great way to reuse something that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Now is a good time to move evergreen trees and shrubs, make sure you do this when the soil isn’t frozen ( hopefully by the end of April this will not be an issue) or waterlogged.
Remember to give a good feed to your growing plants and trees, fruit trees especially, and roses, which are hungry plants. Liquid seaweed, coffee grounds, nettle and comfrey tea are all great natural and organic fertilisers, the latter of which can be made at home for pennies.
Finally, continue to deadhead daffodils, tulips and pansies. This ensures pansies keep flowering and don’t run to seed- as for narcissus and tulips, take the heads off but do not cut the foliage until it starts to turn brown, as the chlorophyll in the leaves and stem provide vital food for next years bulbs, ensuring beautiful blooms.
Cut off old flower heads from hydrangea now, when new leaves show themselves, which should be now. Also prune penstemon by removing old flower spikes, when new growth has appeared.
A great way to tidy the garden is by cutting back dead foliage on all perennials and also ornamental grasses, which will make way for new growth. NB, try not to do this on a windy day as you may find yourself chasing grass fronds and seeds across the garden! Herbs that have gone woody – such as sage or oregano- can have a good trim too in order to keep them productive.
Forsythia and winter flowering heathers can both be trimmed once they have finished flowering.
Sow these vegetables now in the greenhouse or coldframe; Calabrese, Purple Sprouting Brocolli, Brussel Sprouts, direct sow Carrots, Chard, Spinach, Lettuce, Rocket, direct sow Radishes
Sow these flowers and place in a warm green house, propogator or windowsill; Cosmos, Zinnia, Nasturtium, Salvia, Marigold, Delphinium, Petunia, Sunflower and Scabiosa