Jobs to do in April
What an April this has been so far? All over the country the weather has been very mild and some have been fortunate to have long spells of warm sunshine – which has been great for the garden.
In my own garden in Cheshire tulips are flowering 4 weeks earlier than last year; pear blossom is fully out and the apple and quince are not far behind; my Akebia quinata or chocolate vine (below) has never flowered so magnificently and the wisteria is covered in fat buds promising a great display in May. Other trees in blossom include the weeping pear – Pyrus salicifolia, and the red maple Acer rubrum.
Because the winter has been so very mild and wet, with hardly a frost to speak of, slugs and snails have been multiplying gleefully so it is vital that young shoots are protected from them in the next few weeks. Whatever you decide are the appropriate controls (chemical or natural) you need to do so with a vengeance. Special attention should be given to Hostas, Delphiniums and Clematis as young green shoots are particularly tempting to a fat slug.
Other jobs to do in the garden in April include dealing with perennial weeds such as dandelions with very long tap roots, and ground elder which can break into loads more plants if dug up. These weeds should be sprayed with a weedkiller containing Glyphosate such as Roundup. This type of weed killer works through the growing foliage of the weeds right down into its roots where it kills it. It has no effect on the soil but it will kill anything it is sprayed onto, so be careful with surrounding plants, hedges and lawns. The treatment needs to take place on a dry, non-windy day and will start to work in two to three weeks, so a little patience will be necessary. It does work really well though, so worth the effort.
On a dry April day too paths should be sprayed with a product such as Path clear, preventing weeds from taking hold in cracks or in gravel. This type of weed killer works by drenching the soil with poison so again it is important not to spray on any plant that is needed, including lawns and flower beds. The soil can take a considerable time to recover and nothing will grow in the meantime.
Of course these are chemical methods which you may not wish to use, but they are undoubtably effective.
If you have somewhere sheltered, some cold frames or a greenhouse, bedding plants can be bought now from garden centres and fattened up before planting in pots and hanging baskets. It is important to remember though that the vast majority of these plants are not frost hardy, and can die if left exposed. In Cheshire frosts can occur as late as the end of May -although this is much less likely further south, but it’s best to be watchful of weather forecasts. If a frost is due and the plants have no other protection, bubble wrap, newspapers or horticultural fleece can be put over them and removed the next morning. Although this can be a bit tiresome it is worthwhile to have the best pick of bedding plants available, and your hanging baskets and pots will have a head start and romp away when the hotter sun comes
For more photos of spring flowers take a look here.