A guide to what to do in the garden in April, including removing dead daffodils, controlling weeds, maintaining spring borders and preparing hanging baskets.
With the buzz of busy bees and the chirping of birds in the trees, April brings us moments to savor. But don’t be fooled by sunny days and rising temperatures, as nighttime weather can still bring damaging frost.
So, with plant frost protection at your fingertips, here are 10 tasks you can do right now that will help your garden thrive.
1. Dead Head
Daffodil displays will now begin to decline, so cut them back before they go to seed and let the foliage die back naturally. This will transfer the plant’s energy into the bulb, helping it produce a healthy new plant next spring.
As the plants grow, weeds begin to appear. Therefore, hoe regularly to prevent them from smothering young plants and seedlings. Weeds can also hide pests, such as slugs and snails, which will happily devour your precious flowers. When removed, mulch the base of the plants to suppress other weeds and help retain moisture.
Plants grown in greenhouses, such as sweet peas, will expand. To create a bushy plant, which will produce more flowers, pinch off the growing tips. The plant will develop more side shoots, giving you a healthier plant. At the end of the month, the sweet peas can be planted in their final growing positions. Make sure they have something to hold their tendrils on. As they grow they will also need to be tethered.
Read: How to Grow Sweet Peas, When to Plant & 6 Best Varieties
Around the end of April, you should start hardening off some plants in a cold frame. This is simply to acclimate plants sown indoors to cooler outdoor temperatures. A few weeks of cultivation in a cold frame will ensure their development into strong plants. If you don’t have a cold frame, place your plants outside for a few hours each day. Do this for a few weeks before planting. Don’t forget to bring them in before the temperature drops, or if the weather turns bad.
5. Spring Bedding
Pansies and violas will want to plant seeds, remove spent flowers regularly to encourage new displays. With primroses, now is the perfect time to increase your stock for next season by lifting and dividing. Whether with your hands or a trowel, separate the plants. Don’t worry about damaging them as they are quite durable. Replant where you would like them to appear next year.
Parsnips, carrots and lettuces can now be sown. If the ground is still too cold, sow the seeds in trays and pots. Keep the soil moist and place the pots in a warm, bright place. For outdoor cultivation, two weeks before sowing, cover the area with a cloche or horticultural veil to warm the soil. After the seeds are sown, replace structures to help protect emerging seedlings.
If you sowed seeds in March, seedlings should now appear. By thinning them out, the remaining seedlings can grow unchallenged into healthy plants. Simply hold the seedling by its “true” leaves, not its stem. If a leaf is damaged, it can produce another one. However, if you damage the stem, the plant cannot recover. Seedlings may also be at a stage where they can be transplanted out and potted individually into larger pots to grow.
Wildflowers are a great way to encourage wildlife in your garden. If you have a sunny, bare plot, remove all weeds and stones, dig and consolidate the soil to create a thin layer. Wildflowers can be purchased in pre-mixed packets, giving you a wide variety of different flower types. Scatter the seeds thinly over the growing area, rake lightly and water gently.
9. Hanging baskets
Hanging baskets are an easy way to introduce color to a sunny patio. From trailing petunias to puffy begonias, garden nurseries are now filled with a wide range of plants to choose from. Plant baskets using a good all-purpose compost and a slow-release fertilizer. Add water retention granules to the bottom of the basket as this will help keep the roots moist on the hottest summer days. Once potted, place it in the greenhouse until the last frost has passed, giving the plants a chance to establish themselves. Then harden them and place them in their final hanging positions.
If you don’t have space for an herb garden, try growing in pots and containers. Give the plants plenty of sun and plant them in well-sanded soil to ensure good drainage. Herbs often come from warm climates, so try to replicate those conditions and don’t overwater. Also prune established lavender, sage and rosemary. Remove any dead and diseased foliage, but avoid cutting into the woody parts of the plant.
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