Out of the Frost...
April can be a changeable time in the gardening world. As we've seen over the last couple of weeks the weather can quickly move from gorgeous sunshine to thick flurries of snow. When the sun creeps out there is warmth to it, but a sudden wind will chill you right to the core.
When the weather warms it's tempting to head outside and get stuck into sowing seeds for your vegetable and cutting gardens. I've definitely gotten carried away in the past and have come out the next day or a week later to find my tiny seedlings have withered away. They do so well when the light is strong and the weather is calm, but the second any frost or chilly winds move in they shut back down again. Patience is key when gardening and sometimes waiting for a week or two is much more beneficial to plant growth. A seed will start off stronger in the warmer weather and stay that way - quickly overtaking the growth rate of any seeds sown a week or two prior.
My top 10 gardening tasks for April are listed below:
Keep weeding. There will be lots of new growth over the coming weeks and now is a good time to keep on top of weeds, pulling out anything that has the potential to take over or spread too quickly. Remember though that some weeds are actually quite useful either as forage for insects or salad leaves for us. Dandelions, for example, are invaluable for our early pollinators and the fresh new leaves can be added as a rather peppery addition to a salad.
Sow hardy annual seed outdoors in readiness to fill any gaps in your borders with some instant colour. When choosing what annuals to sow, always consider their benefit to pollinating insects and birds. What can you plant that will encourage lady birds and hover flies? What will self seed and come back on its own next year?
Plant seed potatoes once you have chitted them. If you don’t have space in your garden or only have a small courtyard, it's possible to plant potatoes in bins, buckets or sacks. Monty Don explains how in this useful video.
In the vegetable garden, sow cucumber, courgette, squash and sweet corn indoors (or in a heated green house). Coriander and beetroot can be sown undercover. Broad beans, lettuce, spinach, peas, early brassicas, parsley and carrots can all be sown outdoors. For more information on what to sow when have a look at the website's of both Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty.
Divide and replant large clumps of hardy herbs and perennials such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), asters (Symphyotrichum) and day lilies (Hemerocallis).
Keep bird feeders well stocked with seeds and fat balls and ensure your bird baths are cleaned out and topped up regularly.
Prune hydrangeas (if you haven't already).
Plant summer bulbs such as dahlias, gladiola, lilies and nerine.
Once all chance of frost has passed, add new plants to ponds and divide established pond plants that are outgrowing their baskets.
Prune evergreen shrubs once they have flowered (such as Potentilla, Mahonia and Rosemary) and cut back any newly sprouted suckers from around the base of trees and shrubs.
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