In the April Garden
It's prudent to get as many gardening jobs done now before the onset of the wet months of winter when working in the garden is made that bit more difficult.
A good many jobs that seem best suited to winter can, in fact, be brought forward into autumn when they are more easily executed.
With the late summer border in full flight dead-heading will keep it so for many weeks longer than otherwise.
- Note taking for next season is our most important job for this month.
- New introductions which have proven to be worthy are being propagated while conditions remain warm.
- Behind the scenes , our garden nursery is being cleared of this past seasons' detritus, unused seedlings, excess gap fillers etc., while the weather remains fine.
- Staking continues to be necessary as different perennials exceed their allotted space and threaten neighbours - the borders are not quite ready for the dishevelled winter look.
- Powdery mildew has managed to disfigure many of the Michaelmas daisies this season.(One doesn't associate mildew with drought , but this is the cause) Those varieties worst affected ( mainly Nova-belgii varieties) will be removed and replaced with those from the cordifolius, laevis and macrophyllus groups.
- Depending on the number of varieties you are dealing with, the labelling of the collection can be a pleasure or a chore. Here it is a chore, a chore made easier done methodically now when all plants can be seen to be what they are.
As the bulk of the garden ebbs away what needs to be done to restore balance becomes more obvious.
- Notes on what to do with shrubs throughout the garden are being taken now . In winter when all of the bulk is gone it is all too easy to excuse a shrubs girth ,only to find in Spring that the optimal time to prune has passed and the bully is poised to take over even more of the border.
- We often find we can reclaim large areas of border by lifting the lower branches of shrubs, that's a job for June but now is the time to plot the assault.
- The bedraggled remnants of spring flowering Clematis varieties can be dispensed with over the coming month.We cut them down to 30cm or so and give them a good feed and a heavy mulching
- This summer has seen our hedges requiring an extra clip and they are now ready for another but that amount of growth removed means more feeding to be done this feeding.
Healthy hedges , like lawns need regular feeding
- Whilst it has been too dry on most southern and inland locales this season to have bothered with them now is a good time to clean them of weeds.
- Di-kamba , the active ingredient in most proprietary broad- leaf herbicides is particularly toxic to English Box - be careful with its use near them.
- Having lawn food on hand in readiness for the 'autumn break' will exact the most benefit from it.
All spring flowering annuals should be in their seed trays by the end of this month.
- It has been too hot to sow Iceland Poppies earlier this season but temperatures are just about right now . We sow them in cells and water by capillary to ensure the minute seed is not dislodged - thinning to one plant per cell is easliy done with a pair of mail scissors.
- We sow a variety of annuals in cells that would ordinarily be sown direct over our bulb bedding. This both takes the pressure off with planting the bulbs ( we then have until mid-May) and means we achieve superior germination rates of the seeds we sow. - particularly in a dry autumn.
- Wallflowers sown last month have been liquid fed to keep them on the move.
- If it remains too dry to manage our bulb planting we pot them up in left over pots of any and every size - this takes the pressure off and we can then pop them in at our leisure over the winter.
- Foxgloves seedlings which were lined out early last month will be planted into their final positions later this month allowing plenty of time to establish themselves before the worst of winter.
A succession of elegant flowering pots in spring needs planning . Much can be done this month.
- This month we pot up runners of Parma Violet into shallow bowls so that they make wel rooted plants before winter. Their deliciously sweet fragrance is something to look forward to over the cold days of winter.
- After a number of years of building up stock of the Daffodil Lemon Marvel we are potting up a number of display pots for the nursery. It flowers late well after the main display and makes pots of delightfully scented double Lemon flowers. We always have large pots of N. 'February Gold' for august as well a shallow pans of N.'Tete a Tete' to brighten the earliest days of Spring.
- Our pans of Hyacinth 'Louvre' will need repotting this season. The largest bulbs will be kept for the pots and the smaller bulbs lined out in the bulb yard to bulk up for future seasons.
- Our pots of winter Stocks need to establish themselves well and truly before the cold weather so we keep them well fed over autumn.
- In mild areas pots of Primula malacoides and obconica are starting to become available -buy them early so that the plants are compact and strong. In our neck of the woods we find it easier to use Primula sieboldii which for us makes large floriferous plants with ease.
- Pots of Freesia will be active by now and should be held in a frost free position or cold greenhouse if like us an autumn frost followed by cold rain will make a mush of them.
Chrysanthemums are just starting and this coming Springs' house flowers need to be mulled over this month.
- Our Chrysanthemums are just starting their season and even with a good amount of staking done over the summer still more is needed to ensure picking will be a pleasure and not a Chinese puzzle.
- The Sweet Peas which were sown last month have been planted out and had their tips removed to encourage branching. They will be liquid fed each fortnight while the weather remains warm. In our neck of the woods cockchafers are their worst enemy so the bigger the plants are before the winter slow-down the better.
- Over the next few months we keep young weed seedlings at bay by spraying bulb rows with vinegar
- Putting peonies to bed is a good job to have done before the bulk of the autumn work needs doing. Their foliage has done its work and they are better sitting under a thick blanket of compost building up their roots.
- Lilies can be lifted and divided this month if their stems have withered. We are all for getting as much done in the fine weather as possible.
- Self-sown seedlings of Orlaya are making themselves obvious around the garden. Individual plants with plenty of space to grow make the longest lasting display, we thin them now while small and transplant the thinnings to other parts of the garden
- Autumn roses are the best for us and the dry conditions this year have been perfect for them. The mid-summer pruning, feeding and watering they received has meant a bumper crop. It doesn't take a lot of attention during the worst of summer to reap the benefits now.
- We always try to clear and regenerate a bed or tow at this time before winter wet sets in. Even in dry years it is a good deal easier to do now than when the soil is 5 times the weight in winter.
- In coastal areas Stocks and Snapdragons will be starting get a go on so keep them moving with a little liquid feed, our young plants in the green house are being spoilt with liquid feed to ensure big rosettes of folaige before winter.
We aim to have the following at the ready for autumn jobs
- Potting mix
- Lime, Iron-sulphate, Potassium-sulphate,
- Blood and Bone
- Sphagnum moss
- Snail bait
- Stakes for tree planting
- Bamboo canes in various sizes
- Copper-sulphate to deal with mossy lawns
- Slow release fertilizer
- Keeping the compost bin well watered over autumn means improved decomposition with hopefully everything ready for use in early winter.
- We keep a good quantity aside to innoculate the piles we will be making later in autumn and winter.
- Keeping a balance of fine and coarse ingredients is important all year to make sure plenty of air gets into the heap.