With plants growing so fast in the spring sunshine, April is one of the best months of the year to get out into the garden. It’s a great time to plant shrubs and perennials, and for those with heated greenhouses or conservatories, early summer bedding plants are available for planting up in pots and baskets to get them well established for placing on your patio at the end of May. It’s also the time to get out onto the veg plot now and get your potatoes in and seeds sown. So, brave the showers and get gardening!
Top-dress containers. Patio pots and tubs that are filled with permanent planting such as shrubs, patio roses and herbaceous perennials will benefit from a top-dressing of good quality compost such as Miracle Gro All Purpose or John Innes no3. Where there is no space in the pot for more compost, scrape out the top layer of old compost and replace with new. Once every 3-4 years, re-pot entirely, working much of the spent compost out from between the roots before moving into a bigger pot.
Plant seed potatoes. Dig trenches in open ground, adding a layer of farmyard manure compost to the bottom of the trench and plant your pre-chitted seed potatoes with the sprouts pointing up, before covering them up with soil, mounding it up over the potatoes. In raised beds, plant first or second earlies 15cm in from the sides and 30cm apart in a grid formation. The closeness of the potato plants will preclude the need for earthing up as the leaves will shade the potatoes well. In bags and containers, half fill with vegetable growing compost, and plant 3-5 seed potatoes a third of the way down.
Feed shrubs, roses and trees. Using either a slow release plant food, Growmore, or Afterplant (for recently planted shrubs in their first year), scatter around the base of your shrubs, trees, climbers and roses, working it into the soil gently with a hand fork or rake. Do the same with containerised plants after they have been top-dressed. Acid loving plants like Rhododendrons and Camellias will require an ericaceous food to additionally keep the soil acidity up.
Look out for pests and diseases. The warmer and sometimes wetter weather of April and the months to come can help insect pests multiply and diseases take hold. Keep an eye out for infestations and diseased plants as you walk around your garden and treat at the first sign. Aphids are especially prevalent and attack the succulent young leaves of roses, fruit trees and other plants, distorting the foliage.
Sow vegetable seeds. Now is the time to get sowing outdoors, as most vegetable seeds will germinate and grow well in the temperature and moisture levels of April. Sow a short row of early carrots, radishes and other quick maturing root crops every week so that you don’t have a glut, but rather a continuous supply of roots at their best. Protect from birds and prevent cats fouling in your beds by covering with a crop protection net pulled taut and pegged down firmly.
Tie in climbing plants. Clematis, wall shrubs and other climbing plants are growing away fast now. This means that it’s the best time to tie them in where you want them to go, in order to avoid a mess. Use soft twine to attach them gently to trellis, wires or mesh.
Plant strawberries. Strawberry plants are available now, and can be planted just about anywhere, either in traditional strawberry beds, grow bags, patio containers, hanging baskets and even as ground cover underneath larger fruiting plants. Be sure to use a good compost, such as John Innes no.3, and feed well with tomato food to ensure large crops. When planting in containers, go for larger tubs rather than smaller, and no less than a 16-inch hanging basket for best results.
Stay Tuned for next months Garden To’Do’s