Home LifestyleGardening What to do in the garden this April
Red tulips in bloom in a raised bed in a garden

What to do in the garden this April

by Gemma Melling

April is a month when we really start to embrace the potential of the year ahead in the garden. And if you take a trip to a garden centre or nursery any weekend this month, you’ll see customer after customer leaving with trolleyfulls of colourful bedding plants.

I’m definitely no exception! I canot wait to add lots of colour to my collection – on my shopping list include lupins, coreopsis, campanula and senetti. I’m also busy sowing seeds for some summer colour – dahlias, marigolds, cosmos and echinacea.

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

Sunflowers against a blue sky with whispy white clouds

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

Box of nematodes used to control slugs in the garden

Nematodes can help you control unwanted pests, without using any chemicals.

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 have heavy clay soil, and the slugs are absolutely the bane of our lives. We have tried everything! 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). I also tend to sprinkle a bit 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 can’t say it always works though.

Our main weapon against slugs is nematodes. 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!

Pink and purple tulips

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

Seedlings growing on a windowsill

If you’re growing your own this year, you can really get going later this month when 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. I always grow both some big plum tomatoes, which are my husband’s favourite, as well as the sweet cherry tomatoes that I love.

Marigolds are a tomato’s best friend

Closeup on French marigolds

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 also give off a strong scent that repels greenfly and blackfly and should help protect your tomato crops.

Grow a never-ending salad supply

Pot of rocket growing in a garden

Rocket can be grown in a small pot outdoors

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

Basil seedlings in individual pots

Basil is easy to grow – smells lovely and really gives a boost to many dishes.

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. 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

Chitted potatoes in a cardboard egg box, ready to be planted out.

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.

Sow some peas direct into the soil

I’ve sown my first peas in this zig zag pattern.

Peas have become one of my favourite things to grow. I particularly love sugar snap peas, and peas which can be easily eaten straight out of the pod. And so do my kids!

I’m giving quite a bit of space in my raised beds over to peas this year, and I’m also trying to do successional sowing, so that I can prolong the time when I’ll be harvesting delicious fresh peas for as long as possible.

To do this, I’m making my first sowings of peas in April, and I’ll continue sowing a few more every couple of weeks.

Peas are really easy to grow, just create a bit of a trench and pop them in. But make sure to take heed of my next tip (below)!

Protect young crops from greedy pigeons

Fleece laid on raised bed

I’m using this fleece to protect my first sowings of peas from birds.

If, like me, you’re growing things like lettuce, peas, onion and garlic, then you need to be proactive to stop opportunistic pigeons feasting on your young plants.

Netting or fleece should keep them away – you can also try hanging old CDs from string – the idea is the movement and the reflection scares birds off the beds. I’ve also put in some colourfun children’s windmills, which are supposed to have the same impact. And apparently, it’s a good idea to move them regularly, otherwise the birds get used to them!

About the author:

My name is Gemma. I’m the editor of Newton-le-Willows News and a very keen but amateur gardener. I mainly enjoy growing flowers in my garden in Golborne, 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!

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