For most gardeners spring is a truly amazing time of year, bursting forth with new life and new promises of beautiful blooms and bountiful harvests. The soil is warming up, there are new leaves on the trees and the sun is less of a stranger and what makes this particular spring so special is that it follows one of the worse winters in 30 years.
Everywhere there are signs of life, the daffodils look spectacular and the forsythia is in full bloom bringing back much needed colour into our gardens. If you can dodge the showers and brave the wind, now is the time to get back out into the garden and re-discover the joy of gardening.
First of all give your lawns a much needed treat. Already they are starting to throw off their winter yellows as the grass starts to grow but give them a boost with a lawn feed and weed treatment. You can get these from any DIY store or garden centre. Just remember not to cut your grass 3 days before the treatment and not to cut if for a least 3 days after and if doesn’t rain it will need watering in. This gives the treatment time to work and reduces any possibility of scorching. After a fortnight any moss will go black and start to die so rake it out, re-seed any bare patches and the remaining grass will turn green again. If you don’t want to use chemicals on your lawn, just rake the moss out but leave some of it in piles for the birds to use for lining their nests.
You can probably mow the grass every 10 days or so now and reduce to weekly cuts as the month goes on.
While we are talking about the grass, we always think it’s a good idea to get the edging sheers out or a sharp spade and re-edge the grass as this keeps the edges nice and neat and shows off the flower beds to better effect.
As the herbaceous perennials are finally starting to move in the beds and borders, you may want to put any plant supports in place now so that when leggy plants grow they grow through them and give invisible support. If you leave it until later then the plants can look ugly and unnaturally trussed up.
As the soil is starting to warm up it’s a good time to indulge in some spring planting. Evergreen shrubs and perennials can all be planted out now as can summer bulbs such as lilies and freesias and why not pop some spring bedding in to add colour and interest. All the garden centres have primulas and violas in stock at the moment and many have miniature daffodils such as the marvellous ‘Tete-a-tete’. Plant in blocks of colour to give an imposing elegant look or mix them up to give a riotous explosion of colour.
Have a go at sowing some annual flower seeds straight into your flower beds. Buy a few packets of cornflowers, nigella, larkspur, escholtzia, calendula or candy tuft. These all grow readily from seed. If you want to try some sweet peas you can either sow the seeds direct into the soil or buy young plants from the garden centre but remember they will need support as they love to climb.
If you’ve got a rough area of uncultivated soil that you don’t know what to do with, why not sprinkle on some wild flower seeds and roughly rake them in. Wild flower seeds are widely available in packets or cardboard tubes in garden centres and they grow particularly well in poor, infertile soil. They look fab and are great for insects.
There are also lots you can plant in the vegetable garden this month. It’s a great time for sowing lettuce, beetroot, carrots and radishes outside and tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and French beans inside, ready for planting outside next month. Keep on with planting your potatoes. Second earlies such as ‘Estima’,‘Charlotte’ and ‘Maris Peer’ can be planted out from now until mid April and your maincrop varieties (ready Sept-Oct) such as ‘King Edward’ and my favourite ‘Desiree’, can be planted out towards the end of the month.
Keep an eye out for emerging weeds and hoe off them off as they come through but be careful not to chop off any newly emerging hosta shoots. Bear in mind that not every seedling is a weed there may be one or two garden plants such as hellebore, alchemilla, geranium or Jacob’s ladder that have seeded themselves around the garden and you may want to keep them.
As it’s been a bit wet recently look out for slugs and snails and either pick them off or add organic slug pellets. A new find for us last year is an organic slug pellet based on ferric phosphate, sorts the slugs out but is harmless to everything else.
Avoid heavy pruning of certain trees and shrubs such as acers and silver birches, the sap is rising and they can bleed very heavily. If in doubt check a good reference book or go online.
Now that the weather is changing there are lots of things to do this month. Finally, we can reclaim our gardens and inject a little Spring Fever.
Did You Know: Certain plants such as eucalyptus, rhododendrons and conifers secrete chemicals into the surrounding soil to prevent other plants from competing and growing near them. This process is know as allelopathy and means mutual suffering.
Saying of the Month: ‘April showers bring May flowers’