This Month in the Garden – April 2015

TMITG_ds1Easter is the time for celebrating the mystery of new life and revelling in the wonder and beauty of the natural world. There is nothing like gardening to keep you in touch with that world and enjoying the satisfaction of having a hand in shaping and influencing the growth and beauty of a little bit of the world around you.
I have just been reading a review of a book ( “Landmarks” by Robert Macfarlane) about the way changes in language demonstrate the loss of contact with nature which our society has suffered in the digital age. The reviewer comments on the way that many children have lost contact with nature and a sense of the passing of the seasons. That prompts me to say that April is a great time for introducing children to the joy of gardening; helping you with the jobs you do so they learn how to do things  and giving them a patch of garden for themselves where they  have the satisfaction of being responsible for what they produce. They will also learn the value of a long- term view in a society which puts such pressure on the need for instant gratification.

Now is the time for getting going in earnest with sowing and planting. The instructions on many packets of annual flower seeds tell you to sow in the open ground where the plants are to flower.  I find it is generally better to sow in seed trays, in the greenhouse if you have got one, and then plant out later.  This encourages better germination and avoids confusion with weeds. Many vegetable seeds can be sown directly in the soil. This applies particularly to carrots, beetroot, parsnips  ( which benefit from earlier sowing than April) and spring onions.  I generally sow brassicas and leeks and lettuce in pots or trays . The quantities you will need are small and it reduces problems with slugs and snails. Lettuce are best sown in very small quantities with sowing repeated every couple of weeks. Runner beans and dwarf beans, sweet corn and courgettes  are also best sown in trays or pots and should be  left to the end of the month or early May before sowing  so that plants are not too big  before they can be planted outside when the risk of frost has passed at the end of May. Main crop onions can be grown from seed but I always grow these as  ‘sets’ (miniature onions). Onions like well- manured or fertilised soil while parsnips and carrots should not be sown in ground which has been recently manured.

The Easter weekend reminds some people that they have got a garden and that it will need weeding and tidying. This is really starting a bit late but better late than never. Cutting the lawn can transform the look of a garden and its worth paying particular attention to the edging where it adjoins ornamental beds. The tools you need are   long- handled shears and a half moon edging iron. Where the lawn has a straight edge it is a good idea to use a long plank and cut along it with the edging iron. If there are bare patches on the edge of the lawn where a plant has grown over it you can repair this by cutting out a square of turf which includes the bare bit. Turn it round so that the cleanly cut end of the turf becomes the new edge. Then sow the bare bit or you may have a bit of turf left over from reshaping a border elsewhere that can be put on the bald area.

Once you have enjoyed your daffodils don’t just forget about them. Dead head them and feed them. Growmore is a suitable granular fertiliser or you can use a liquid fertiliser.  I stress again that the leaves should be left to die down naturally for at least six weeks. On no account should they be tied up or cut back when green.  March has been pretty dry and April can also be dry with cold winds  so don’t forget the need for watering.  Where you can, mulch plants with manure or compost but make sure the ground is moist before applying the mulch.

Jeremy Arthern

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