Time to roll up your sleeves and put in the groundwork
And so here we are. April, the great transitional month where we’ve not quite shaken off winter’s icy grip, but with brighter evenings and significantly warmer days, its hold is definitely weakening.
For gardeners, this is where the hard work starts; this month’s input dictates output for the rest of the year.
The weekend just gone, gave us time to prepare the ground, assessing and repairing the damage inflicted by a particularly harsh start to the year, taking the time to re-stake trees, secure climbing shrubs, and clear any lingering storm damage.
And then you can get on your hands and knees for some serious weeding, gently turning over ground flattened by heavy rain and snow, and clearing away any remaining dead leaves, twigs and winter debris, as well as dead-heading daffodils, tulips and late-flowing crocuses, and trimming frost-damaged shoots from evergreens.
Once cleared, nourish the soil with compost or well-rotted manure which will add beneficial micro-organisms to the soil, making it richer and encouraging the right kind of insect activity. The wrong kind – slugs, snails and aphids – may be found loitering around the crowns of perennials preparing to wreak havoc so it’s best to deal with them now.
It is also important to prune trees and deciduous shrubs, removing dead and sickly-looking leaves or branches to stimulate new growth and spring flowering. Also add fertiliser while a good organic mulch, laid in a circle around the trunk, will not only provide moisture for good growth but will also conserve moisture and encourage strong, drought-resistant roots, something worth bearing in mind for the likes of rhododendrons, azaleas and camelias where flowering can be severely impaired if allowed to dry out.
Once the warmer days are set in and the risk of a late sharp frost has gone, plant out the flower seedlings you’ve been cultivating since March, and if you haven’t, you can still sow petunias, zinnias, marigolds, purple cornflowers and other seasonals you might fancy in your flowerbeds. Summer-flowering bulbs should also be going in, ensuring the likes of anemone tubers have well-drained soil.
There are also many warm-season vegetables, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, which can be moved outdoors while radishes, carrots, peas and lettuce can also be planted, along with your favourite annual herbs.
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