April is the month of showers but with more daylight hours and hopefully lots of sun, it is one of the busiest months in the garden.
By now we should be seeing increased grass growth and it is an ideal time to feed the lawns and treat moss if not already done. Zero Lawn Liquid is simple to use; just mix at a rate of 1 part concentrate to 10 parts water and apply to the lawn using a sprayer or watering can (but not one that you used previously for weed killer!). 1 litre of concentrate is enough to treat 300 sq metres (400 sq yards). Zero treats the moss all the way to the roots as well as strengthening the grass; a stronger lawn helps prevent the moss re-establishing itself. It should be used approximately every 6 weeks throughout the growing season. And remember, when cutting the grass do not have the blades of the lawnmower too low; repeated tight cutting will weaken the grass and let the weeds and moss back in.
The flowers are fading on the winter flowering shrubs, such as Forsythia and Philadelphus, so now is the time to give them a prune. Remember they flower on the previous year’s growth so pruning any later that early April will result in a lack of flowers the following winter/spring. On older shrubs, prune out very old stems completely and trim younger shoots back by about one third. Feed with a general purpose fertiliser, such as Westland’s Fish, Blood & Bone; a natural organic based food to promote strong roots and a healthy green foliage.
If you didn’t get around to dividing your herbaceous perennials in March, now is the time to get the job done. Michelmas daisies are a good example of how dividing every few years prevents the formation of a woody centre to the shrub and little flower growth. Gently lift the plant using a garden fork so as not to damage the roots. Division can be done using two garden forks placed back to back into the centre of the crown allowing you to prise them apart. Plants with a fibrous root (Hosta) can be pulled gently apart by hand, while the fleshy roots of plants like the Delphinium should be cut with a sharp knife or a garden spade. After dividing, replant each section, back-filling the planting hole with good quality compost and water in well.
If you don’t have perennials to divide but would like to propagate a tree or shrub to increase your plant stock, why not try the Cutting Globe. Suitable for use on a variety of shrubs (Camelia, ivy, hydrangea, hebe, climbers….) it replicates the traditional “layering” method of propagation. Simply trim the bark from a small section of a stem, making sure to gently scrap away the thin green layer (cambium) just underneath. Dust the area with Strike rooting hormone and enclose the wound in the appropriate sized globe filled with moist (not wet) compost. Roots will start to form within the globe and you should be able to see results within 6 to 10 weeks. Once you have a good sized root ball, remove the globe and cut just below the newly formed roots and plant in a suitably sized container. Remember to use plant specific compost; ericaceous for acid loving plants, general purpose for all others and water it in well. Simple!
Now is the time to sow your half-hardy annuals (eg. Cosmos, Antirrhinum, Nasturtium) directly into the soil. Make sure the area is clear of weeds and is raked level. Water the area to be planted, sow the seeds thinly and lightly cover the area with a thin layer of soil or compost.
With all the lovely new growth in the garden this April, don’t forget to protect your plants from slugs and snails. Slug Clear Liquid Concentrate is an effective way to treat slugs hiding below the soil or alternatively Slug & Snail Pellets can be sprinkled on the surface of the soil.
Over in the vegetable garden, do keep on top of the weeds; remember when planting that straight lines will make the job of keeping on top of the weeds much easier. If the soil temperature has risen sufficiently (seeds need a minimum temperature of 6°C for germination) you could consider sowing directly into the soil. Vegetables for outdoor sowing at this time would be carrots, parsnips, beetroot, cabbages, broccoli to name just a few. If in doubt, read the back of the seed packet carefully; it will always state the time of year for sowing and specify if the seeds need to be started indoors or can be sown directly into the soil. Remember to plant successively over a period of a few weeks to give an extended harvest time.
If you intend to and haven’t started to chit/sprout your main crop seed potatoes, you should get started. Main crop varieties include King Edwards, Golden Wonder or Records. Place each seed potato in an upright position – old egg crates are great for this – and keep them in a cool, bright location until the shoots are about 3cm long. This should take about 4 to 6 weeks and gives an earlier and heavier crop. Remember you don’t need a huge garden to grow your own; potatoes can be grown on the patio using a Potato Bag. Plant anything from 3 to 5 seed potatoes per bag and simply tip them out to harvest when ready. You could also stagger the planting in a few bags over a number of weeks to enjoy an extended harvest.