Garden tips for spring

It’s April and spring has finally arrived in all her glory, daffodils are in flower and the blossom is on the trees.  It is an exciting time to be out in the garden, even if you have to dodge the ‘April showers’.

Hardy annuals (such as Candytuft, Pot Marigold, Californian Poppy, Cornflower, Nasturtium, Love-in-the-Mist and Sunflowers) can be sown directly outside if the weather is mild.  By sowing in ‘drifts’ of different seeds you will get a more natural look.  If you had already sown seeds indoors in early March or even February, you may now have young hardy annuals ready for planting out.  Sweet peas can be sown outside this month, or if you have plants which were autumn sown in pots they can be also planted out.  Build yourself a wigwam support out of garden canes for them to climb and use a light garden twine to tie in the plants.

Towards the end of the month, as long as the weather is mild and no frosts are forecast, you can start to plant up your hanging baskets in preparation for the summer.

Hoe borders to prevent weeds from spreading and self-seeding.  Apply a general-purpose fertiliser to borders and beds, taking care not to damage emerging shoots.  Your pots and containers will benefit with a refresh of their nutrients.  Carefully remove the top 2 inches of soil from the container and top up with fresh compost, such as John Innes No3 or compost designed for containers.  It is always worth applying a general feed, or slow release fertiliser designed for container plants.  If your plants have become pot-bound you will need to pot them into a larger container to renew their vigour.  Don’t forget to check to see if your pots need water as even at this time of year they can dry out.

Now is also a good time to wage war on slugs and snails.  Pet-friendly slug pellets are available, or drench the ground with liquid slug killer to kill slugs below the surface.

As the grass is now starting to grow, so lawns will need to be mown when necessary, ideally maintaining a constant height throughout the year. Apply a high nitrogen spring lawn fertiliser at the beginning of the month to encourage good, strong growth.  If moss is a problem, and here on the patch we have a lot of shade from the trees, choose a combined fertiliser and moss killer.  Lightly rake over lawns to remove old plant debris and thatch.  This will also remove dead moss a couple of weeks after applying the chemical moss killer.   If your lawn is looking a bit thin then you can over-seed but make sure the soil is not too wet or the weather too cold as germination will be poor and at least 2 weeks have passed since any weed and moss killer has been applied.  If seeding, it may be better to wait until the weather improves and night temperatures are above 7-8 degrees.  You must make sure that once seed is down that you do not let it dry out.  Try to keep off the lawn as much as possible until it has established.

As April rolls into May the daffodils fade and it is now time to lift and divide over crowded clumps.  Also don’t forget to deadhead your tulips and daffodils as this will allow them to put all their energy back into the bulb for next year’s flowers.  Always let the leaves die down naturally, do not cut them off, when they turn brown they should just pull away.

As the days get warmer, harden-off plants raised from seeds and cuttings by leaving them outside for gradually increasing periods of time.  Start with only the warmest part of the day for a few hours and gradually build up to overnight exposure; this will take 10-14 days, before planting them out.  Always keep an eye out for late frosts and protect the plants if necessary. Thin out direct sowings of hardy annuals to between 4-8 inches, using the upper limit for tall or spreading plants, and the lower limit for smaller plants.

Keep tubs and hanging baskets well watered.  Use collected rainwater, or recycled grey water whenever possible.

June is soon upon us and the 21st is the longest day of the year and with the extra light and warmth the garden will be in full bloom, this also means that the weeds are growing fast too.  Keep on top of them by hoeing regularly in dry conditions.

The kitchen garden will be in full swing so start to harvest lettuce, radish, other salads and early potatoes.  Pinch out side shoots on tomatoes if required, however some varieties do not require this, check seed packets or labels.

Regularly mow lawns to keep them in shape, removing ‘little and often’ and no more than 1/3 of the total height, is the key to a good quality lawn.  Another constant task around the garden at this time of year is dead-heading – remove spent flowers from containers, pots, hanging baskets, beds and borders and feed them all occasionally with liquid feed as this will encourage new flowers to shoot on some plants.

Your main job for June is to sit out in your garden with a glass in hand and enjoy it after all your hard work!

If you live on the Medmenham patch and you need help in your garden and feel I can help, do not hesitate to contact through
www.theladygardener.talktalk.net