It’s that strange time of year where we can have all four seasons in a short space of time. It could be a hot and sunny spring day at 20 degrees or freezing cold at -4 degrees! With that in mind, both a watering can and plant fleece need to be kept handy. The traditional April showers can suddenly speed up everything in the garden in April. Flowers will begin to grow at an amazing rate, but they are competing all the time with weeds, so you will have to keep them under control. Mulching is a great solution – it will cover the earth between your plants and will retain moisture. On sunnier days, you can turn your attention to the lawn and vegetable patch. All in all, another busy month in the garden!
If time is limited in the garden this month, here are our top ten tips:
1. Sow sweet peas, wild flowers and hardy annuals such as nasturtium, calendula, lavatera and cornflowers, straight into the garden.
2. Prune spring flowering shrubs once flowering has finished, trim evergreen hedges and shrubs and prune out any frost damage on plants.
3. Prune the less hardy shrubs now like fuchsia, ceanothus, choisya and hydrangea and start feeding shrubs and roses as they start to grow again.
4. Keep weeds under control by mulching the garden with a thick layer (2-3in) of organic material.
5. Attract insects into your garden planting wildflowers and perennials that attract them.
6. Sow garden vegetables like potatoes, peas, broad beans. leeks, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, onions, spinach and lettuce.
7. Now is a great time to plant herbs, we have a massive selection in store now.
8. Start to mow your grass regularly.
9. Cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, peppers and outdoor tomatoes can be sown under glass and runner beans can be started individually ready for planting in May.
10. Plant up hanging baskets now and keep them inside where they’ll get good light and protection from frost. By planting now you’ll have a full basket ready to burst into colour for the summer.
For any cold, rainy days:
With longer light levels, houseplants will start to grow so will need feeding, watering and potentially potting on.
If you have a little more time to spare…
Beds and Borders
Sow sweet peas, wild flowers and hardy annuals such as nasturtium, calendula, lavatera and cornflowers, straight into the garden.
Sow hardy perennials in containers.
Summer bedding plants such as petunia and lobelia can be planted undercover in seed trays, as can half-hardy plants such as marigolds. Only put them outside when the weather is reliably warm day and night. Make sure you label everything up to avoid confusion later on!
You can still plant herbaceous perennials such as geranium and oriental poppies. Check that the plants you buy have strong, green shoots and plant them into well prepared soil.
Don’t be tempted to cut back bulb foliage until around 6 weeks after they have finished flowering or until the foliage has turned brown.
Prune spring flowering shrubs once flowering has finished, trim evergreen hedges and shrubs and prune out any frost damage on plants.
Prune the less hardy shrubs now like fuchsia, ceanothus, choisya and hydrangea.
Plant fruit bushes and trees. Cover early fruit blossom with fleece if frost is forecast. Camellia and Magnolia buds will also need protection from frost.
Apply a general-purpose fertiliser to borders and beds to improve plant flowering and growth.
SOWING, PLANTING AND HARVESTING
Sowing and planting edible crops:
Sow garden vegetables like early (if not already done) and main crop potatoes, peas, broad beans, leeks, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, spinach, lettuce, French and runner beans and beetroot. Don’t miss our seed sowing video guide here.
It’s an ideal time to plant strawberry plants and herbs. We have massive selection in store now. Plant mint in sunken containers to restrict its growth, a bucket with drainage holes or a large plant pot is ideal. For best results, lift, divide and replant the mint each spring. For more information on culinary herbs click here.
Direct sow hardy annuals e.g. marigolds and poppies and start planting out half-hardies such as cosmos, in sheltered spots at the end of the month. You can also plant out semi-tender perennials taken from cuttings last year, e.g. penstemons.
Brassicas: Red and green cabbages, kale, cauliflower, purple and white sprouting broccoli, spring cabbage and spring greens.
Roots: Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and first radishes.
Salad: salad leaves and over-wintered lettuce, pea tips.
Edible flowers: Viola ‘Heartsease’, primrose.
Stems: leeks, rhubarb.
Leafy greens: Chard, perpetual and true spinach.
Herbs: first lovage, fennel, thyme, parsley, chervil, coriander, mint and tarragon.
Anemones, hyacinths, fritillaries, tulips, wallflowers, euphorbias, polyanthus, hellebores, lily of the valley, alstroemerias (under cover), blossom.
OTHER JOBS TO CONSIDER:
Keep weeds under control by mulching the garden with a thick layer (2-3in) of organic material such as composted bark, bark chippings or well-rotted manure/compost as it will carpet the earth between your plants and will help lock in moisture during long, dry spells. It will also insulate the soil and prevent it from getting too cold or too hot for good plant growth.
It’s also a great time to carry out cleaning and repair jobs if you haven’t done so already. Jet wash the patio, clean the greenhouse, stain wooden furniture and clean out water butts.
You could plant up an Alpine trough to display some of your alpine plants as many can look their best at this time of year. We have a fantastic selection here at Coolings.
With April showers, now is a good time to really get prepared for watering in the summer months by purchasing a water butt.
If you have a pond, you might be lucky enough to have breeding frogs.
Plant water lilies or other pond plants once the water starts warming up.
Birds will be getting more active now, and you might spot blackbirds building their nests in bushes around the edges of your garden! Keep your bird feeders and bird baths topped up.
Protect new plant shoots from slugs and snails.
Attract insects into your garden planting wildflowers and perennials that attract them (pictured: Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’)
Its’ time to start mowing your lawn. It should be growing strongly now, so regular mowing, once a week, will be a great tonic. If you are sowing new grass now, try not to walk on or mow it until it has reached a height of 2-3 inches. Remember to feed your grass for a lush healthy lawn (we recommend Evergreen Complete 4 in 1), reseed bare patches, and deal with moss and weed invasion.
In the Greenhouse
Cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, peppers and outdoor tomatoes can be sown under glass and runner beans can be started individually ready for planting in May.
Check that all your potted seedlings are well watered on a daily basis. When seedlings start to appear in the seed trays, thin them before they get too crowded and then pot on into individually pots when they are big enough to handle.
Begin to harden off half-hardy bedding plants that were started off under cover. Place them in a sheltered spot at the warmest time of day and then gradually increase the length of time until they can live outside permanently.
Plant up hanging baskets now and keep them inside where they’ll get good light and protection from frost. By planting now you’ll have a full basket ready to burst into colour for the summer.