April Gardening Tips
Frances Hope, Head Gardener at Loftus Garden Village, shares her gardening tips for this April.
This winter was awful, officially the wettest since national records began in 1910. It felt like spring would never arrive this year, but finally the sun’s come out, the clocks have gone forward and here we are in April. At last I can stop using the word ‘mud’ and articulate with the more horticultural term ‘soil’ instead. The gardening season has arrived so here are some things to be getting on with this month.
- For the keen gardener, the green house will be full to overflowing by now, but for those less green fingered there is still plenty of time to get started. One of the easiest plants to grow is runner beans and even the smallest garden can usually accommodate a small wigwam of canes to grow them up. This can even be done in a large tub. It’s as simple as filling a small pot with general purpose compost and poking the seed in about 1 inch deep, keep in the green house or warm window sill and don’t let it dry out. If planted now you will have nice size plants to go out at the end of May when all fear of frost has passed.
- The grass will have started to grow by now so it is time to get on with lawn maintenance. Scarify by raking out the dead grass and moss with a rake and then aerate the lawn by spiking it all over a few inches deep with a garden fork. Over seed any bare or dead patches by scratching a tilth with the rake and then raking in the seed. Finally give your lawn an even sprinkling of spring fertiliser and job done. Remember to water the areas with new seed regularly and then mow once a week.
- Slugs are every gardener’s nightmare but resist the temptation to kill them with slug pellets. The poisoned slugs get in the food chain and also kill the birds and hedgehogs that eat the slugs. Beer traps are a very good way to sort them out. Pots of beer sunk into the ground will attract slugs. They love the taste and will drink until they are intoxicated and fall in. Purpose built ones with a little roof are better as they keep the rain out and so keeps the beer potent for longer.
- Prune spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia and Berberis when the flowers fade and give the base of the plants a good feed with general purpose fertilizer. Be careful that you are not disturbing any nesting birds when pruning, so thoroughly check out your shrubs before you start. If you do find an active nest I’m afraid you will have to abandon the job as baby birds are more important than next year’s flower display. It’s the law, nesting birds are protected.
- On the veg plot the ground should be workable by now but if it’s not, wait a while, there’s no point battling with wet sticky soil. Early potatoes can still be planted out now for lifting in July/August. If you have very little room try planting some in a potato bag, it’s great fun for kids at harvest time as there are flaps on the side of these bags that you just lift up to stick your hands in. It’s like a big lucky dip feeling round for the potatoes. Whatever vegetables you are growing be prepared for a battle against all the little creatures that want to beat you to your lunch. Don’t be tempted to use anything other than organic deterrents and sprays as it’s not just the wildlife food chain that is at stake but your own health as you will be eating it too. Pick caterpillars off plants by hand and put them on the bird table. The nesting season has started so parent birds will be more than grateful with any help they can get.
Remember the best way to a successful garden with bountiful crops that are naturally resistant to pests and diseases is basically down to TLC. Treat your plants as you would your pets, feed and water them well and nip any problems in the bud. Growing varieties that that are naturally resistant to certain problems is also helpful so a bit of homework before hand can be very beneficial.