April! What a wonderful month!
I'd recommend stocking up on the energy bars and porridge oats this month because it's time to roll your sleeves up and really get cracking in the April garden where all your planning and hard work over winter will now be starting to pay off. There's some tidying up to do behind Spring, as we move toward Summer but you won't be alone in your garden this month because just as we all start coming outdoors again, so do the birds and other wildlife.
Let's start with the basics. Now is the time to feed bare soil between the plants with a general purpose fertiliser and if you have rhododendrons and camellias, they will thank you for the addition of sequestered iron. In the fruit garden, blackberries and blackcurrants all now need a high nitrogen feed and your lawn will also need a good feed. Talking about lawns, after a winter of neglect, if you have one it will likely be in need of a bit of TLC from now on. Start mowing once a week. Begin with the blades on the highest setting and gradually lower them as we move through the month. Then, for a professional finish, trim the edges with long-handled shears.
If you have bare or thin patches of grass, thicken these by raking them over and then re-sowing in those areas. If you have patches of moss or weeds you don't want, treat with weedkiller. April is also the month to plant out your sweet peas. I can't think of a scent more heady than a small jar of sweet pea flowers indoors so it really is worth taking the time and trouble to look after these plants so you get as many flowers as possible - something the bees will thank you for too. You need to plant sweet peas next to a support that they can then climb by wrapping their tendrils around it but you need to give the plants a head start with this process by tying them in with string to help keep them in the right position.
In the veg garden it's now time to sow peas, broad beans, brassicas, leeks, root veg, spinach, chichory, Swiss chard, salad leaves and hardy herbs for cooking. You can also start more tender veg - and half hardy annuals such as cosmos, nicotinana and snapdragons - now, but these will need to stay under cover this month because of the risk of late frosts. If you've already sown salad leaves, now is the time to reap the first of the early harvests but make sure you cut off the leaves, instead of pulling up the whole plant, and you should then get a resprout. Work smart in the salad garden and sow a pinch of seeds every few weeks from now on as this will means you have a continuous succession of leaves to harvest through summer. If you're new to salad growing, I'd suggest starting off with loose-leaf lettuce, rocket, mizuna and mustard.
Finally, it also makes sense to start your war on weeds in earnest this month because the earlier in the season you tackle these pesky plants, the greater your chances of preventing them from seeding and becoming an even bigger problem later in the growing season.
Weekly hoeing of your flower borders through April will help with this unless you are dealing with perennial weeds such as dandelions which will only come back if you hoe them off so you will need to treat these with a commercial weedkiller.
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Tony Richards, MD