Tips on what to do in the garden in April
The amount of time and energy spent in the garden becomes much more crucial in April as the days grow longer and warmer. Plants, vegetables and lawns require more attention and if the work is put in now you will reap the benefits later. But although the sun is out, there is still the chance of frosts so make sure you have some horticultural fleece at hand just in case, otherwise all your hard work could be wiped out.
Flower beds, borders and pots
Any pot grown shrubs or perennials can be planted out in early April when the soil begins to warm up. Young plants are excellent for making new borders or just to fill in gaps. Water the plants in their existing pots before gently removing them with a Trowel and planting in the Soil. For best results mix the topsoil with some garden compost or manure. Plant the plants in a hole approx twice as wide as the pot and with the crown of the plant at about the same level as it was in the pot (if planted too low they may rot) fan out the roots and press down firmly, fill the soil in and around the root ball. After planting apply a layer of mulch around the plant to help retain moisture, it also helps to get the plants established faster. Be sure to water them until they become established.
Lift and divide perennial plants now to improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden and divide Hostas before they come into leaf.
You can still prune or trim back lavender, spiraea, buddleja, dogwood, hardy fuchias, cotoneaters, potentilla, mahonia, flowering currant and winter flowering jasmine by cutting them back just above any fresh new shoots. Prune back forsythia once it has finished flowering.
Try to finish pruning your roses by early April and feed them with rose fertilizer by hoeing it into the surface of the soil. Tie any rose stems as near to horizontal as possible as this will restrict sap flow and will help to encourage more side shoots to grow along the length of the stem resulting in more flowers.
Climbers will start to grow quickly now so ensure they have enough support and are wired up well.
Weeds will start to appear as the weather warms. The ideal time to hoe your flower beds and borders is on a sunny day as hoeing will also expose the weeds roots to the sun. An additional benefit of hoeing your borders/beds is that the surface soil will be loosened up which helps to prevent water loss from the soil (through capillary action). Adding mulch to these areas will further help to retain any moisture in the soil; and with the hose pipe ban in place your garden will need all the help it can get. Dig out any perennial weeds (such as dandelions, thistles) as soon as you see them.
An alternative way to suppress weeds is to plant lots of ground covering plants such as bugle (ajuga), hardy geraniums, hostas, tiarella, pachysandra, pulmonaria and lambs ear (stachys).
You can still sow new lawns or seed over dead patches right up to the start of May, but just bear in mind that without rain or watering, they may not take as well and could take much longer to establish.
Months of wet and cold weather will have caused moss to become a problem on many lawns. Thick moss will quickly smother grass, and so tackle it with a chemical moss killer. Once you’ve killed the moss in your lawn, de thatch and rake out all of the dead moss, fork over the entire area to improve drainage and then seed bare areas with new grass seed, and keep it moist. It is also a good idea to trim back trees and shrubs if possible to allow more sunlight into the area.
Fruit and Vegetables
Many seeds will not germinate outside until the soil temperature has reached about 7 degrees centigrade, but if the weather has been warm you can start sowing the following outside, including carrots, broad beans, parsnips, spinach, beetroot, peas, mange tout, lettuce, radish, broccoli.
When planting carrots you are advised to cover with a fleece and ensure the edges are buried in the ground to stop carrot root fly from gaining access to your carrots and laying their eggs.
Less hardy veg such as tomatoes, french beans and pumpkins can all be sown in pots or trays and kept inside on a window sill ready to be planted out later in the year (around early June when all signs of frost have passed). Towards the end of the month start sowing sweet corn, cucumber and courgettes, which can all be planted out at the end of May.
Later in April your tomato plants should be can be planted in grow bags or large pots and put in the greenhouse, but be sure to keep an eye out for whitefly and fumigate if necessary.
Strawberries can be planted out now. They are best suited to a sunny location and should be planted with a good multi purpose compost and spaced about 10 inches apart.
A good layer of compost around fruit trees will ensure they have the nutrition they need to provide another good crop.
Have you considered making up a raised bed to grow vegetables? There are a few clear advantages over growing veg directly on the ground, namely they allow you to improve the soil easily because it is easy to add and mixing in compost, they require little effort to dig over, they offer good drainage and after the initial construction process raised beds require less maintenance than conventional garden beds.
Carrots, onions, beetroot, strawberries, lettuce, garlic, parsnips and radish all grow well in raised beds
Protect first early potatoes shoots against frost by earthing up as they break through the soil. Second earlies and main crop seed potatoes can now be planted.
Slugs and snails will start to emerge in April and are very partial to fresh young growth. One of the easiest ways to control slugs is with slug pellets, although these are harmful to a number of garden visitors such as hedgehogs, voles and shrews. A number of alternative methods include scattering eggs shells, sand and/or grit around your plants or leaving out pots/saucer of strong beer for them. Apparently they too are partial to Carlsberg special brew ! Bury the pot in the ground so that they can get in (but not out) and check daily for other visitors who may need rescuing.
Keeping your garden watered could well be a real problem this summer. So why not become less reliant on the water board and catch rainwater in a water butt. We have all you need at the nursery to set up your own system.
Set up a compost heap in preparation for all your summer mowing and pruning. Composting is really very easy. Start a very basic compost heap simply by piling up leaves and grass clippings. You can either buy a plastic bin or build one from odd pieces of wood or recycled pallets. Leave it open on one side for access – adding, turning and digging out compost from the bottom – and do not cover the top.