This Month in the Garden – April 2019

There are firm historical and theological reasons for having Easter Day on a variable date  but it does mean that sometimes the Church’s celebration of new life  gets rather widely separated from the new life of spring  in the garden. This is one of those years and, by the time we get to Easter, the snowdrops will be a distant memory and the glory of  the daffodils will have faded. That means that one of the jobs for the Easter weekend may well be attending to the daffodils so that they are in good shape for next spring …

Spent flowers should be cut back but leave the foliage to die down naturally. Bulbs grown in containers can be planted out to naturalise in grass or flower beds or, if you don’t need the container, you can  put it away out of sight and let the bulbs grow there again next year.  In due course the bulbs will need to be lifted and divided. Daffodils allowed to naturalise should be fertilised with diluted tomato food or sprinkled with a general purpose fertiliser like Growmore.  Don’t mow the grass in which daffodils are growing for at least six weeks.

Lots of other things in the garden will also need feeding. Well rotted animal manure is excellent for feeding and as a mulch for building up the quality of the soil, but it is not easy to come by in generous quantities and it does need to be stored for at least a year after getting it from the supplier. Regular readers will know that I am a fan of pelleted chicken manure. This can be bought in large sacks and is easy to use sprinkled over a flower border or vegetable plot. It is also a good idea to dig in garden compost in bare soil or use it as a mulch round growing plants. Roses will benefit from a manure mulch or special rose fertiliser  and clematis are hungry feeders.  Many people have had good results with tomato food on clematis and I shall try that this year. Plants grown in containers need a lot of feeding and I use Miracle Grow which comes either in an ”all-purpose” form or ”For azaleas and camellias” for lime hating plants. Seaweed based fertiliser is also good and slow release fertiliser is useful for containers. Many liquid fertilisers come diluted in spray form but these are expensive and it is better to buy the concentrated liquid and dilute it yourself.

I hope you were able to sow some root vegetables in the open ground in March but you can continue doing this together with salad crops and brassicas, although I prefer to sow these in pots or seed trays in a cold greenhouse for later planting out. This speeds things up and helps to reduce losses from slugs and snails. Use successional sowing in small amounts to spread out the availability of your vegetable crops. Large seeded vegetables like courgettes and cucumbers are best sown in late April. These benefit from some heat to encourage germination.  If you haven’t got an electric propagator, a tip that Rosemary Harris gave the Gardeners’ Association is to lay the seeds on damp kitchen roll in a closed Tupperwarebox and put them in the airing cupboard or other warm place. Check frequently for signs of germination and, when they have  leaf, plant the seeds in pots or a seed tray. Grow on in a greenhouse or cold frame or on a window-sill. Don’t plant them out in the open until the third week of May when the danger of frost has passed. First early potatoes can be planted at the beginning of April with second earlies a fortnight later and main crop two weeks after that. Keep the plants earthed up to protect young shoots from frost and keep doing this to put depth over the potatoes to improve cropping and prevent greening.

Sweet pea plants bought or started earlier under glass can be planted out now. They will need some support to cling to.  I grow them mainly as cut flowers, making  bamboo ‘wigwams’ in the vegetable garden with one plant to each bamboo about nine inches apart. As shoots grow they will need some thinning out. Spent flowers should be cut off to prevent seeding and encourage more flowers.

Jeremy Arthern

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