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JOBS IN THE GARDEN


The big ‘kick–off’!


No-one knows what April will bring in terms of weather but it’s sure to be an exciting month in the garden


Gardeners are very often wary about April.


It may be something to do with the fact that in the lottery which is the English climate, April can be a month of either heat wave or frosts, so planning can be a bit of a problem.


Spring should be in evidence however, with daffodils in flower and blossom adorning trees. Expect the inevitable ‘April showers’ but frequent sunny days and rising temperatures make it perfect gardening weather.


It can be an exciting month, with indoor-sown seeds well into growth, and it's also time to start sowing outdoors. Just watch out for those frosts.


General jobs


Dig in a 5cm layer of compost or rotted manure into beds for the growing season. You can also work in a general purpose fertiliser such as pelleted chicken manure or fish, blood and bone.


Apply a layer of mulch around your perennials, trees and shrubs before the hot weather arrives. Use organic matter such as well rotted manure.


Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced fertiliser by lightly forking it into the soil surface. Roses should be fed with a special rose feed as they come into growth.


Lift and divide perennial plants now to improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden.


Vegetables


Now is the time to sow most seeds and start new crops. April is as good as any month to look at the growing of vegetables because in one way or another it is all go at the allotment or vegetable plot. Main crop potatoes, onion sets, early carrots, parsnips, which have the longest growing season of all our vegetables, celery, tomatoes (in the greenhouse with peppers) can all be started off in warm compost and coaxed along until they start to look like real plants in a few weeks.


Start planting your salads (tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce) indoors on a window sill or out in your greenhouse if it is warm.


Time to get your lawn back in shape


Lawns have taken a real battering this winter- rain, mud, snow and frost have all done their worst. The good news is lawns are remarkably resilient and some hard work now will certainly get them back to their former glory in time for the summer.


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Start mowing once a week, beginning with the blades at the highest setting and gradually lowering them over the weeks. The little and often approach is the rule. Bare or thin patches of grass can be thickened up by raking over the surface and then re-sowing.


Aerate consolidated areas of the lawn with a fork. It’s hard and repetitive work but invaluable for relieving compaction, improving drainage and allowing air into the root system. Also if there’s moss around a good scarifying will get the worst out and allow the grass to reclaim the work areas.


Lastly, invest in a good all purpose lawn feed. Ideally a spreader allows a more even distribution but you can scatter it all over the lawn by hand. You’ll be amazed the benefit a good feed will give to the lawn.


Plant lily bulbs in a pot


If your garden or border suffers from gaps during the summer, why not use lilies to add a temporary, but timely, burst of colour? Plant bulbs into pots in spring and you can simply drop them - pot and all - into displays on the patio, or into the border.


Flower garden and borders


For the flower garden you can start off all your bedding. Calendula, lavatera, marigold, larkspur, cornflower, sweet peas of all kinds and poppies should all be on your list. Plant gladioli in big pots, troughs or in the centre/back of your border. Now the worst frosts are passed it is the ideal time to plant these underrated beauties. Plant the large flowering ones that will produce giant 1.2m flower stems coated with showy flowers in July-September.


The dwarf Butterfly or Glamourglad types are ideally planted in pots and troughs where they will only grow to a height of 60-80cm. Both types make amazing cut flowers.


Plus...


 are encouraged along by a week of warm weather. Keep checking for pests such as aphids and spray if required.


 cut buddleias right down, even if they are in leaf. You can take them to within a foot from the ground. For many the buddleia craze is growing a bit stale now, mostly because they allow them to get out of hand.


Country Gardener


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