WOW April already? – We are now past March and the dreaded chance of the ‘s’ word; the weather is looking and feeling more like summer than spring so things are really moving on. April is always a busy time for gardeners, your local plant nurseries and garden centres will have plenty of new season plants in, including the start of some of the summer bedding plants. Having some success last year with my vegetable plants I’m still going to try and grow a few, but Michelle (my wife) wants to re-design our garden after taking a lot of inspiration from garden visits we did together last year. I really cannot wait to start, as this time we will be including more plants into the design. The current one was suited to little (now big) Lewis growing up but now we want a garden for us. To get inspired yourself, look out for the NGS Open Garden booklets. The reason I love the open garden scheme is because these are real gardens that easily relate to our own gardens. Pick up a yellow booklet for dates and locations from any good plant nursery or garden centre and also look out for the yellow posters – the open gardens are a great source of inspiration.
Allotment or Vegetable Patch:
• Still a good time to spread green manure
• Buy vegetable plug plants (approx Easter weekend onwards)
• Fertilise spring cabbage with a high nitrogen feed
• Plant new asparagus crowns
• Potato, shallot and onion sets should still be available to buy
• Feed fruit trees and bushes with sulphate of potash
• Crops to sow directly outside or under cloches are peas, mange tout, mixed salad leaves, radish, cauliflower, turnip, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, sprouts, broad beans, leeks, rocket, swiss chard and spinach.
• Also sow in your vegetable plot tagetes and poached egg plant to attract beneficial insects.
In the Greenhouse:
• Protect any seedlings from cold
• Water any seedling trays or pots with copper fungicide to help prevent damping off disease.
• Remember to increase ventilation on warm days
• If too hot, put up shading to protect plants
• Buy plug plants to grow on for pots, bedding displays and baskets
• Sow French and runner beans in pots
• Sow melons, cucumbers, marrows and courgettes in a heated propagator
• Check plants regularly for signs of peat or disease
• Plant tomatoes in grow bags or large pots
General Garden Maintenance:
• Repair or sow new lawns with grass seed
• Apply moss killer to lawns – or sulphate of iron which is the active ingredient in moss killers
• Take out any dead grass from lawns
• Start to feed the lawn with a suitable lawn fertiliser
• Prune out any green shoots (reversion) from any variegated shrubs
• Check that stakes are not rubbing against trees or tree ties are not too tight
• Put away any ‘suckers’ growing around the base of trees and shrubs
• Last month’s top shrubs Forsythia and Ribes (flowering currants) prune back after flowers have finished
• Sprinkle a handful of sulphate of potash around tulips to improve flowering
• Sow sweet peas outside around the base of cane supports, obelisks or even try a hanging basket for them to trail down
• Give Camelias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Pieris and good handful of ericaceous (acidic) fertiliser
• Sow is the ideal time to start to spray roses as a preventive for mildew, rust and blackspot
• Keep topiary in check by giving a light clip now
Look out for new Varieties of Trees & Shrubs this month – but here are some that are old favourites
Japanese Maples: My most favourite of all shrubs, these stunning shrubs/ trees are ideal in containers and make a great feature plant in the garden. The choice of varieties is vast, with red or green, finely cut or palmate leaf. Pick a variety like Acer palmatum Sango Kaku and you also get colourful stems in winter. Acers like a moist but well drained, neutral to acid soil in a non exposed windy position. Despite what you read in some books, Acers with sensible care are easy to grow. My personal favourites are … Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ (coloured stems), Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ (the best upright red leaf maple), Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Greenlace’ (very finely cut, green leaf maple), Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Garnet’ (very finely cut, red leaf maple) and Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ (bright yellow leafed maple). Spiraea x cinerea ‘Grefsheim’or ‘Bridal Wreath’: currently mine at home is full of flower buds so this will look fantastic at this time of year, long flower racemes of pure white hang down almost weeping. Very easy to grow and likes most soils in full sun to part shade. I wouldn’t recommend this for a pot but planted in a border or a informal hedge it makes a good feature. The RHS has given this plant the Award of Garden Merit. Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’:Might be a bit hard to find this one but it’s worth hunting it out. A beautiful species which is native to China, Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ has bare stems which are studded with pretty, rich purple-pink flowers in late April or early May before the foliage emerges. This variety is mainly grown for its striking flowers but there is also Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ which has beautiful deep plum red leaves and new this year Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’ which has large bright yellow leaves.