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  • Louise Mills

In the Swing of Spring

April Gardening Jobs to Do

After what has felt like quite a slow start to spring, our gardens are gradually greening up. I for one am relishing the lighter evenings and enjoying having time to spend in my garden after a day at work, particularly as there are so many jobs to be getting on with!

Below find some suggestions of the more important jobs to be focusing on at this time of year. As always they can be slightly weather dependent and you may have your own priorities based on available time and resources.

Perennials, Shrubs and Trees

● Plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Water the plant well in its pot an hour before planting, then set it in a generously sized square hole so that the top of the compost is level with the ground around it. Mulching around newly planted trees and shrubs will help to lock in moisture.

● Continue planting new perennials and aim to get them into the ground by the end of the month so that they have sufficient time to establish while the weather is mild and wet. You should also finish dividing and replanting summer-flowering perennials.

● Prune shrubs that are grown for their colourful foliage, because the most vibrant foliage will be produced from new stems. This includes Sambucus and Cotinus.

● Prune early-flowering shrubs (Pruning Group 2) when the flowers have faded, including Forsythia and Chaenomeles (ornamental quince). Cut back the flowered branchlets to vigorous young growth lower on the main stem and remove 20-25% of old growth to the base. Next year’s flowers will form on this summer’s woody growth.

● Plant new evergreen trees and shrubs. With the soil now warming up, you can also move existing evergreens to a new location. Keep them well-watered as the new roots establish themselves.

● Start checking your box plants for box caterpillars and moths. Early prevention is key and you can easily remove box caterpillars by hand if only a small infestation. We would recommend spraying your box with Xentari, a natural biological insecticide from early April and repeat every six weeks until September. You can combine with TopBuxus which promotes general health. and

● Prune Lavender to keep it bushy and compact and prevent it from looking sparse. Go over the whole plant, trimming off 2.5-5cm of growth and remember to avoid pruning into older wood.

● Tie in climbing and rambling roses as the new shoots emerge, training them to grow as horizontally as possible to encourage a greater number of side shoots. Shoots of climbers, such as Clematis, should also be tied in.

● Deadhead the last of the daffodils as the flowers go over but remember to leave the foliage intact. Both will help the plant to build energy in the bulb for the formation of next year’s flower bud.

● Plant out all summer-flowering bulbs by the end of the month.

● Pot up dahlia tubers that have been stored to encourage strong shoots before planting in final place.

Kitchen Garden

● Sow celery and celeriac for planting outdoors in early June. You can also sow sweetcorn, marrows, courgette, pumpkins and squashes towards the end of the month with 2 seeds per 9cm pot planted on their edge to prevent rotting.

● Direct sow spinach, chard, kohlrabi and fennel. Dwarf French beans and runner beans can also be sown under cloches.

● Keep up successional sowings of lettuce, radish, beetroot, peas, broad beans, spring onions and turnips. Sowing little and often will help to avoid a glut of produce at the same time.

● Thin out rows of seedlings sown in March to prevent seedlings from becoming straggly. The thinnings of most vegetables, except root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, turnips, can be transplanted. Water seedlings before and after thinning.

● Asparagus crowns and new Jerusalem artichoke tubers should be planted by the end of the month.

● First early potatoes should be planted straight away. Plant second early and maincrop potatoes by the end of the month to ensure a decent crop. They should have already been chitted to give them a head start. Traditional advice would be to plant them in trenches 60cm apart to the depth of a spade, spacing tubers 40cm apart. Why not try the ‘No Dig’ method of planting tubers in individual holes 5cm (2”) deep this will reduce soil disturbance. See for further details.

● Feed blackcurrants, blackberries and hybrid berries with a high nitrogen feed such as chicken manure pellets. Keep weeds under control around cane fruits as they can act as hosts to pests and diseases. All soft fruits will also benefit from a mulch; garden compost, leaf mould, organic manure, straw, hay and spent mushroom compost can all be used.

● Most herbs can be planted outdoors now, whether shop-bought or raised from homegrown seed. Only the most tender will need covering at night when temperatures might drop.

● Repot citrus plants into fresh citrus-specific compost.

● Keep strawberry plants covered with cloches to encourage flowers to form, but don’t forget to remove the cloches in the daytime so that insects can pollinate the flowers.

Other Jobs

● Keep an eye on the weather forecast; cold snaps are still likely so keep cloches or fleece handy for tender plants on frosty nights.

● Be aware that the spring rain and milder temperatures will see a rapid increase in slug and snail populations. There are several organic ways they can be controlled, including nematodes and beer traps. It’s also worth encouraging hedgehogs, frogs, toads and thrushes into your garden, as they will consider those slugs and snails a tasty treat.

● Aphid populations also start to increase at this time of year. Rub or hose them off infected plants to prevent colonies building up.

● Keep on top of self-sown seedlings in beds and borders. Some hardy annuals can self-seed prolifically and now is a good time to ‘edit’ this growth as you see fit. It’s best to hoe on dry days so that uprooted seedlings will die off quickly. Remember to give any transplanted seedlings a little extra water.

● Continue to mow your lawn regularly. Blades should be at their highest setting when you first start mowing and can gradually be lowered each time you mow.

● Sow new lawns on prepared ground. Grass seed should be scattered evenly over a fine tilth, raked in lightly to improve seed to soil contact and then watered with a fine spray or sprinkler.

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