This Month in the Garden – April 2016

TMITG_ds1This is the first time I have ever had daffodils blooming at Christmas and at the following Easter. True, I had only one at Christmas but there were plenty more around in other gardens. This shows what an extraordinary winter and early spring this has been; precociously early and now, as I thought possible in my last piece, back to normal or. if anything, getting a bit late. There are daffodils everywhere but my hopes of getting early vegetables sown outdoors have not materialised by the time of writing in mid-March because the soil is too wet and heavy. Everything was drying out nicely in February and then the day of the floods set it all back.

I have had a ‘wild’  and fairly shady area at the bottom of my garden since we moved here nearly forty years ago. There have always been daffodils and bluebells there and for the last couple of years I have been working to make it more of a spring garden, introducing snowdrops, hellebores and primroses. The snowdrops were disappointing this year and the primroses aren’t showing much at the moment but the hellebores are doing well, although they take quite a while to flower abundantly. I am encouraging them with fish. blood and bone fertiliser and a mulch of crumbly leafmould created over a couple of years with the autumn leaves in black sacks.  I noticed last spring that the daffodils were not as prolific as they used to be so, when the autumn bulb catalogues came out, I had a good time choosing some new varieties. We tend to take daffodils for granted as yellow flowers that brighten up the spring but a catalogue shows just a little of what huge differences there are; in height, in flowering season and, above all  in the colours and shape of the flowers. You can’t control the peculiarities of the weather but you can plan to have daffodils flowering for months by choosing appropriate varieties; Obvallaris (Tenby daffodil), Parcpat, Rosemoor Gold and the wonderfully named Poeticus Recurvus together with my existing varieties should cover me from February to May. My  new daffodils ordered, like babies, nine months ago are now blooming and they have prompted me  to take a real look at the flowers of all the daffodils in the garden and notice their fascinating differences. You can also add to the variety by using the considerable range of dwarf daffodils which is now available.

On Mothering Sunday one of our sons gave my wife a cherry tree; a  real fruiting cherry rather than the common flowering ones. The gift of a tree is an encouraging sign of his expectations of our longevity and I was also pleased to find that it is grown on dwarfing root stock which means that it should never grow more than fifteen feet or so. This is an important consideration when you choose a  tree. So many trees grown in our gardens are just too big and they are much better off in a wood or in a field or on a river bank .  Choice of the wrong tree coupled with the urge to plonk it right on the boundary is likely to upset the scale of planting in a garden and be a cause of annoyance to the neighbours. There are  lots of small and medium sized trees available, particularly those with an abundance of spring blossom and colourful autumn foliage and it is worth doing some research before buying.

April is a busy month for the vegetable gardener. The soil will be ready for outdoor sowing  and you can do this with things like carrots, parsnips, onion,  beetroot, lettuce and radishes. Many others can be started in seed trays or pots in the green house, conservatory or window sill ; for example,  peas, french and runner beans, cucumber, courgette, sweet corn, leeks and brassicas herbs and salad crops. Try to remember to keep up successional sowing of things like lettuce and carrots. Annual flowers to be grown in a border can be started in seed trays.

Don’t forget the continued threat of frost. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to plant tender things outside. Harden off plants grown under glass by exposing them gradually to the great outdoors and bringing them in at night. Have fleece ready to cover anything tender that has been planted out.

Jeremy Arthern

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