April in the Garden

April is a month of significant growth in the garden, but also it can be a month of cold harsh winds which ‘burn off’ tender new shoots.  So, we must be careful not to get over-excited on a nice warm spring day and plant out our very tender annuals – as the next day could bring biting winds.  Hold on just for a few more weeks, you can always grow them on in a sheltered spot ready for planting out later.

The garden centres are starting to be full of beautiful bedding plants but do take notice of the hardiness.  You will often see ‘this plant is not frost-hardy’ signs up, any plant that is frost tender will also struggle in strong, cold winds which are such a common April occurrence in the Lyn Valley area.  So, if you buy them then be prepared to look after them a little longer. It can be very depressing to have your display cut to the ground by the wind – often plants will recover, eventually, but look a little frilly for quite some time!

If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, planting up your hanging baskets and containers now, but keeping them undercover, will really give you a head start on your neighbours.   Meaning you have large plants and full pots when you do put them in place for the summer. If you have a very sheltered courtyard garden, you can get away with having them tucked away out of the wind, to grow on.  Hanging baskets should be placed on a bucket to keep them upright and allow trailing plants to grow downwards 

It is a good month for taking basal cuttings, these are the new shoots thrown up by plants like Dahlia and Begonia, the shoots can be cut off at the tuber and potted into compost to grow into another plant, the cutting needs a little protection – pop a clear plastic bag over the pot, but be sure the plastic doesn’t touch the cutting or place it into a propagator and put it on a windowsill or greenhouse for the magic to start.  These cuttings always grow very vigorously, producing flowering plants much faster than growing from seed. Taking a few basal cuttings doesn’t damage the mother plant at all and can be very rewarding.

One of the most important April jobs is to keep on top of the weeds.  Weeds are now growing at an alarming rate, but if you get them before they get too big and do a little every week they will not get the better of you. 

Applying a mulch of bark, compost or grit can cut weed growth down significantly and make those that do grow much easier to pull out.  Annual weeds are best tackled on a dry day, by hoeing – either with a long-handled hoe or if you have a small tightly planted plot just scrape them off with a trowel.  They will soon shrivel up and disappear on the surface of the soil. Perennial weeds like dandelions and nettles have a deep root, this needs to be dug out completely as the plant will regrow from a tiny piece.  But don’t beat your self up about it if you can’t dig the whole thing out, simply removing the top growth regularly will weaken the plant – eventually killing it off.  

Remember, every garden has a few weeds, they are good for wildlife and some of them are very pretty!