Gardening Diary : April

Spring is here and with it comes an increased sense of optimism! Suddenly the hedges and trees are turning green as new growth begins. So now is the time for gardening beginners and experienced gardeners alike to get busy in the spring sunshine (or showers)!

There is so much to do in your plot right now, so let’s take a look at the various areas:

Lawns

Thinking of growing a new lawn or repairing/improving an established one? The best times for doing this are April and early autumn. Good soil preparation is essential to achieve a good surface, so make sure you do your homework!

The first thing to decide is what kind of lawn you want to grow. Do you imagine a pristine ornamental lawn or a hard-wearing surface the kids can play on? This will determine your choice of lawn seed or indeed the turf you order if taking that route. There’s lots of information on-line.

For existing lawns, you can be applying a slow-release lawn fertilizer for ‘summer-long’ performance. You could also use a fertilizer combined with a broad-leaved weed killer.

Finally, mowing can begin in earnest now with the mower blades set at their summer height.

Flowers

It’s a busy time in the flower garden! Early-sown ‘half-hardy annuals’ can be gradually ‘hardened off’ to outside conditions prior to planting in their final positions. Some types, like sweet peas, will benefit from pinching out the main shoot to produce bushy plants and more flowering shoots. Don’t worry though, there’s still time for many varieties to be sown indoors and planted out in May.

Direct sown ‘hardy’ annuals such as candytuft, cornflower, larkspur, nasturtium and sunflowers can be started this month. Try the impressive new Calendula, ‘Bull’s Eye’, with its bright yellow double flowers with an attractive brown centre, or the stunning new Poppy, ‘Amazing Grey’ with its slate grey/blue double blooms!

Herbaceous perennials are pushing their fresh young shoots through the soil at this time, so be on the lookout for slugs and snails. There is still time to divide clumps of established plants to prevent overcrowding.

Towards the end of the month you can be planting up hanging baskets and containers. Again ‘harden off’ before placing in their growing positions.

Finally, don’t forget your indoor plants, it’s time to feed them. Use a slow-release ‘season-long’ fertilizer for easy maintenance.

Vegetables

April is a busy time on the vegetable plot. It's time now to plant second-early and maincrop maturing potato varieties and to plant asparagus plants if creating a special border.

April is also the main month for vegetable sowings in the garden with items such as beetroot, carrots, lettuce, radish, peas, and beans being sown in rotation.

Indoors, sowings of outdoor tomato varieties, cucumbers, sweet corn, courgettes and runner beans can be made. Try new tomato varieties such as ‘Crimson Cherry’, which is resistant to a fungal disease called tomato Blight, which can be devastating in outdoor crops.

Now’s the time to divide overcrowded perennial herbs.

Fruit

You may have to protect fruit trees at blossom time in frosty weather with horticultural fleece. Alternatively, you may have to thin small fruit of peaches and nectarine if the set has been too good to achieve acceptable fruit size on maturity.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer to bush and cane fruit

Garden Ponds

It’s a good time to plant aquatics such as water lilies and irises and to thin out existing plants in baskets.

Make sure you have done your pump maintenance and cleaned your water filters.

Trees & Shrubs

Finish pruning winter-flowering shrubs such as forsythia and likewise prune hydrangeas of last year's flower heads and old wood.

Apply a suitable slow-release fertilizer to encourage balanced growth through the summer.

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