April has arrived. It is an ideal time to sow many varieties of seed now. Many will still need protection; others can be directly sown. As the garden bursts into life so does the job list to keep it under control. Here are some tips to help you through April.
Mulch to suppress weeds and retain water. Try well-rotted horse manure, shredded wood/bark, damp newspaper, straw, or grass clippings.
Finally time to prune Penstemon and Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips.’
Plants to prune now or AFTER flowering: Leycesteria (Himalaya honeysuckle), Ligustrum (privet), Perovskia, Phlomis, Hypericum, Passiflora (passion flower), Solanum (potato vine), Aucuba japonica (spotted laurel), Cistrus (rock rose), Cotoneaster (evergreen), Erica carnea (winter heath), Hebe, deadhead Hydrangea (mop-head), winter flowering Lonicera, Potentilla, Photinia, Fatsia japonica, Forsythia, Weigela.
Clear away the very last old seedhead & stems of the previous year’s herbaceous perennials & grasses.
Watch out for frosts. Keep tender plants indoors.
Feed plants. Everything is springing into life, using lots of energy, requiring a food boost for new shoots. A general balanced feed will cover all bases.
High nitrogen (N) promotes new shoot development.
High phosphorus (P) promotes new root growth.
High potassium (K) promotes fruit and flower growth.
Fish, blood & bone is a good organic slow release fertiliser.
Bonemeal boosts roots when planting new shrubs. Coat roots of new plant in Mycorrhizal fungi to increase plant’s potential for taking up water and nutrients.
Give acid loving plants, (azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, blueberries) a boost with ericaceous feed.
Feed flowering plants with high potash fertiliser to prolong flowering period.
Increase watering houseplants. Feed when new growth appears. Re-pot or top dress with new compost.
Top-dress containers. Scrape off 5-10cm of old soil from top of pot, replace with fresh compost; feed.
Deadhead daffodils; leave leaves to die back naturally so goodness returns to bulb.
Deadhead, cut back and feed spring containers and bedding displays.
Lift, divide, replant over crowded bulb clumps to increase your stock i.e. snowdrops.
Lift and divide herbaceous perennials i.e. hostas, salvia, sedum, verbena, bergenia.
Tie in climbing and rambling roses and clematis.
Set out fruit bushes, canes and runners i.e. strawberries, raspberries.
Sow indoors annual flower seed: sunflowers, nasturtiums, marigolds. zinnia, cosmos, nicotiana, great to get small succession sows of herbs on the windowsill too.
Sow outdoors hardy annuals: calendula, wild flower seed, poppies, cornflowers, nigella, lupins, sweetpeas, larkspur.
Sow veg seeds under glass: courgette, pumpkin, cucumbers, kale, tomatoes, lettuce, & herbs.
Direct sow veg outdoors: beetroot, broad beans, carrots, peas, spring onion, parsnips, potatoes.
Plant dahlia tubers in pots but keep indoors until frost risk passes.
Repair lawn bare patches with seed. Feed your lawn for wonderful green results.
Check pots for over wintered vine weevil. They will be reaching most destructive larvae stage now; eating plant roots. Organic treatment: try introducing Nematodes.
Ponds: clear excess blanket and duck weed; leave waste on pond side so wildlife can crawl out safely. Pop in a barley straw bale to keep water clear and reduce weed regrowth.
Annual weeds. Gently hoe / agitate soil surface or pull shallow roots. Be careful to avoid new seedlings and existing plants. Deep digging will bring dormant seeds to the surface and actually create more weeds so try and keep soil disturbance to a minimum. Regular weeding will prevent weeds going to seed and reduce spread. Look out for annuals such as annual meadow grass, annual nettles, hairy bittercress, groundsel, chickweed, speedwell, cleavers, fat hen, shepherd’s purse, and creeping oxalis & buttercup.
Tackle perennial weeds such as ground elder & bindweed. They really take off this month. Personally I only use organic methods; help protect wildlife, soil and the environment not to mention yourself! Avoid chemicals if possible; if you cannot avoid them then treat specific area, wrap in a plastic bag to contain it whilst still attached to parent plant so systematic weedkiller can work its way to the roots; otherwise dig out as much as possible, try to untwine from border plant roots. Virtually impossible to dig out completely as even an inch of root left in ground re-grows but new plants will have weaker/unestablished new roots so easier to remove and over time the problem can be managed and maintained. Digging out needs to be regularly repeated.
Remove tap rooted weeds with a specific taproot tool to avoid disturbing soil and plants around the weed. Try to remove entire taproot or it will re-grow. An alternative to glyphosate is pelargonic acid (naturally occurring in geranium leaves) used in Richard Jackson’s double action weedkiller.
Put weeds to good use – make homemade nettle compost tea! High in nitrogen. Great for new shoots.
Look out for slugs and snails on new shoots! Either pick off, use beer traps, copper rings, shingle/egg shells, nematodes ‘Nemaslug’. If using slug pellets try to use organic ferric phosphate (child & pet friendly) I personally use Sluggo Slug & Snail Killer by Neudorff; can be used on edible crops also resistant to rain. Avoid metaldehyde-based products.
Gardens are delicately balanced ecosystems so try not to totally eradicate pests as they will be a food source for other creatures i.e. birds/frogs love slugs & snails! Everything co-existing, with no dominant species, will equal a healthy garden.