April is a month when we really start to embrace the potential of the year ahead in the garden. Especially with the freakishly hot few days we enjoyed right at the end of March – we’re all now beginning to believe there’ll be sunny, hot days ahead to enjoy outdoors.
The news tells us that people are buying up new garden furniture in huge numbers – perhaps thinking about hosting more gatherings outdoors with those they’ve not seen in so long. And if you take a trip to a garden centre or nursery any weekend this month – lockdown or no lockdown – you’ll see customer after customer leaving with trolleyfulls of colourful bedding plants.
I’m definitely no exception! I’ve been adding lots of new colour to my collection – new lupins, coreopsis, campanula and senetti. I’m also busy sowing seeds for some summer colour – dahlias, marigolds, cosmos and zinnias.
April is an exciting time in the garden, and there’s so much you can do – but remember, in our area we can get frosts as late as the end of this month… so if you are tempted to start planting out those bedding plants you may just want to wait a few more weeks as a cold snap could kill them.
Here’s a few other jobs for this month:
Sow some sunflowers
If you want to grow a showstopping sunflower this year, you can get started this month. I’ve previously sown the seeds this month and kept the plants in an unheated mini greenhouse (until they get too big, which happens surprisingly quickly!) I usually keep mine in pots for as long as possible – sometimes they stay in a huge container – but when they’re very young plants I’ve found they can fall victim to slugs if they go out in the border too early.
Take back control – from slugs
Talking of our slippery ‘friends’, make sure you keep an eye out for pests like slugs in the garden. They love the tender young shoots of many plants and can decimate a whole border of new growth if you’re not careful. But try to avoid pesticides like slug pellets if you can – they can be really damaging to other wildlife.
In our garden we use ‘beer traps’ to catch slugs out on a late night or early morning revel – they fall in and drown (but they’re happy, I guess). This year I’m also going to try a little sprinkling of gravel at the base of some of the plants I know the slugs just love to destroy – namely my dahlias. The harsh feeling of sliding over the gravel is supposed to deter them. I’ll report back if that works!
We also use nematodes to control slugs in our garden. We have heavy clay soil and they’re our number one pest. Nematodes are a biological (not chemical) treatment for slugs and they’re suitable to be used even in an organic garden. This method uses microscopic creatures (the nematodes) to act as parasites on your target pest. Release them into your soil and they will go forth and eat the slugs – but they’re totally harmless to other wildlife. We always get ours from GreenGardener.co.uk (not a sponsored link – just providing it in case it’s helpful).
Deadhead spring bulbs as they fade – but leave the foliage in place!
As your spring bulbs start to fade, it’s ok to remove the sad looking flowers. You can do this for tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies. But do this job carefully – you need to remove only the flowering part but keep the leaves in place to die back naturally. This allows them to continue to feed goodness into the bulb so that they’ll return strongly next year. In our garden, we’re very impatient to tidy up the leftover leaves of spring bulbs when they’re finished, so I’ll usually dig up daffodils and tulips and repot them into a container whilst they die down. Come autumn I then get all the bulbs our of the container and replant them into the borders. But you can skip out this work and just leave them where they are – removing the leaves once they’re really turned yellow and their work is done.
It’s a great time to grow your own
If you’re growing your own this year, you can really get going this month now that the risk of frost has passed.
It may still be a little early to put tomatoes or chillies outdoors just yet, so keep them in the greenhouse for now. It’s not too late to sow seeds if you haven’t yet – tomatoes are surprisingly easy to grow from seed, and it’s a lovely thing to do with children, too. Pick a good variety and you’ll end up with an abundance of fruit in a few months time. This year we’re growing a new variety – Tigerella – as well as some classic cherry tomatoes, which I love.
Marigolds are a tomato’s best friend
Don’t forget to sow some French marigold seeds now to accompany your tomato plants – not only do they look really lovely in the garden (they were one of the stars of my garden last year, even though I hugely underestimated them) they also give off a strong scent that repels greenfly and blackfly and should help protect your tomato crops.
Grow a never-ending salad supply
Whether you have the luxury of expansive raised beds – or just a few pots on a windowsill, you can now grow your own salad leaves. I love to grow rocket and ‘cut and come again’ mixed salad leaves as they really do what they say on the tin! Keep sowing every few weeks and you’ll have a continuous supply to last you all spring and summer.
Create a herb garden to suit your cooking style
Another easy way to grow edibles in the garden now is to create a herb garden. It’s so lovely to have fresh basil, chives, parsley and coriander on hand when you’re cooking. This year I’m sowing some new herbs which were given to me as a birthday present – part of a ‘cocktail garden’ gift set. They include lime basil and lemon balm. Be very careful where you plant herbs like mint and lemon balm though – they are super-spreaders and will totally take over a border if you let them. Make sure you keep them in a pot and never re-use compost that they’ve been grown in, because they will return, and you’ll probably face a never ending battle to control them.
Get those spuds planted
And if you fancy growing your own potatoes – you can plant second early and maincrop potatoes now. You cannot beat the taste of a freshly dug potato from your own garden! They’re easy to grow in tubs too, no fancy equipment required.
About the author:
My name is Gemma. I’m the editor of Lowton & Golborne News and a very keen but amateur gardener. I mainly enjoy growing flowers in my small garden in Lowton, but I also like experimenting with edibles, too. You can follow my garden on Instagram @gandtgarden.
What jobs will you be doing in the garden this month?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!