April…. The Journey Begins............. (To see any pics please go to www.nikipreston.com ) Thank you

I wandered lonely as a … gardener searching for signs of life, new growth, old friends and a host of tiny seedlings. April is one of the most loved months in the gardening calendar. Blossom aplenty around nearly every corner, with its heady scent, plump Peony buds that look good enough to eat, awakening all the gardener’s senses. Spring is well and truly here. Many a happy gardener makes that welcome return to the weekend garden routine. It will be non-stop from now right through until the end of October. Mind you, if the end of last year was anything to go by, we will still be toiling away in December. I still had Gazanias in flower right up to the end of the year!

Gardening in some ways is very much like driving on a busy motorway. In the beginning there can be a faltering start, lots of stopping and starting before the road ahead clears, giving way to a mad rush with the occasional stop for sustenance. The height of the journey being summer and the mass of blooms, vivid colour, vegetables and abundant wildlife it brings. Then we rush off again towards Autumn and Winter until we get all snarled up, back inside, coming to a virtual standstill, with only the highlight of the enticing seed catalogue study whilst waiting for those signs of movement again and low and behold you are back where you started, and round you go again.

Trying something new

This year I thought that I might try some things that I have never grown before. My first idea was to be a bit more veg friendly and grow more than the usual suspects of onions, garlic and carrots. So I am going to try some Sweetcorn “F1 Sundance” variety which is meant to be easy to grow. Remembering to sow them under glass now as they love balmy weather and I am hoping this will help them grow more strongly when I plant them out. I am also going to try Runner Beans “Prizewinner”. I usually get my bean plants given to me by my mother-in-law, lovingly known to us as Granny P but this year I thought I would try from scratch. I bet you anything hers will be miles bigger, better and tastier than mine, but I shall bow to her far superior garden knowledge, after all she has been doing it for some forty odd years. Granny P knows best.

The other thought I had was to trial an Alpine area, it is only small with six plants in at present, including, Pratia County Park, a ground cover alpine with pale blue flowers and the beautifully formed Mazus which has dainty orchid like purple flowers.
Trying out new plants that prefer dryer conditions might be a useful experiment for potentially changing planting schemes in the future. The inevitable hosepipe ban is just around the corner for many of us poor gardeners so if you don’t have any already maybe now is a good time to think about getting a water butt or two (and hope for April showers) Unless of course you are disabled then the ban (in most areas) doesn’t apply, so for once I am quite happy to be in this category!

Ideas for Pots

As I garden mainly using pots and raised beds, due to not being able to bend easily and there is no way I am getting up of the floor without help, I decided to include some ideas for pots and raised beds. Space can at times be an issue, but it doesn’t need to be. How about companion planting? Not only does this look amazing and adds interest all round your garden, some planting combinations benefit each other and help repel pests into the bargain. Here is a short list of some you might like to try:

Chives with carrots, tomatoes, broccoli or cabbage (Brassicas) can repel carrot fly, cabbage worms and aphids.
Geraniums with peppers, grapes or even roses. Act as a trap crop, attracting pests away from your most prized possessions.
French Marigolds with Tomatoes will emit a strong odour that can repel greenfly and blackfly.
Nasturtium planted with melon, cucumber and squashes (cucurbits) can deter aphids.

April then is a time of pleasure, preparation and forward planning. You can begin to imagine how your summer garden will look and have many hours of enjoyment to come. Yet the worry of “will there be a frost?” “Shall I risk planting out just yet?” still linger in the back of the April gardeners mind. Enjoy the extra hours of daylight; soak up the delights of spring, after all it will soon be June.

Jobs for April

A little list of things to be getting on with in April.

Pinch out Fuchsias …….. this will ensure a lovely bushy plant, pinch out regularly to encourage side shoots to get a stronger stem which in turn supports the flowers. ( on young Fuchsia wait until 2 or 3 pairs of leaves are established before pinching out)
Dead head spring bulbs
Sow hardy annuals directly where they are to flower
Any emerging shoots on Delphiniums and Lupins might need protecting from snails and slugs. Try copper tape or egg shells. If they are in pots rub some vaseline around the pot, the pests can’t crawl over it.
Take any cuttings from new growth on Dahlias, Pelargoniums and Fuchsia (late April)

Greenhouse Jobs

Sow annual climbers such as Morning Glory (Ipomoea)
Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea) and Nasturtium
Pot on any rooted cuttings
Start to feed your young plants..3 to 4 weeks after they have been re potted.
Pop your tomato plants in grow bags or large pots (late April)

Veg and fruit

Sow Sweetcorn…under cover now for planting out in June (not before, it is still too cold for Sweetcorn)
Feed any fruit trees or bushes
Maincrop potatoes can go out now
If it stays warm then here is a list of things to sow..
Beetroot, salad leaves, cauliflower, peas, cabbage and spinach
Feed Strawberries with a high potash feed, tomato food works well (late April)

General garden Jobs

Check for plain leaf growth on variegated plants, snip any plain ones off
If conditions are dry enough mow the grass, on a high setting if it is a bit long or damp.
Clean up your patio so it doesn’t get slippery
Treat moss and weeds in the lawn (late April)
Rake out any dead grass (put the grass in your compost bin)
Why not make a bug habitat out of old branches you may have lying around or even use an old slab, raised in a corner for frogs and toads to shelter under.
Honeysuckle, Leycesteria
Hedges (check for nesting birds first)
Early flowering Clematis such as Montana, needs a prune after flowering to keep it under control.