Gardening jobs for April

Bulbs, corms and tubers

With overnight temperatures on the rise it should be safe enough to plant most tender summer-flowering bulbs directly into the garden. So long as they are planted deep enough - approximately 4 inches or so - they should be more than insulated from the odd mild frost. However should you have a return of the cold weather, rather than try and lift all that you have just planted, give them an additional, good couple of inches of mulch instead. Even a hard frost will have difficulty in reaching that far into the ground.

In milder areas like the southern areas of Great Britain, dahlia tubers can also be planted outside, again about 4 inches deep. However, any further north and you should wait another month to be on the safe side.

To help encourage strong flowering from your daffodils next year, deadhead any old flowers as soon as they begin to fade. That way the bulbs won't waste valuable energy in producing seeds. Allow the leaves to die back naturally as this is an important way for the plant to absorb nutrients back into the bulb proper. You may also wish to give them a periodic liquid feed at this time.
Sweet Peas
Sweet peas can be sown outside this month, although in colder areas they will be best started off in a cold frame. Some types may have a natural dormancy period which can be easily broken by gently rubbing the seed coat with sandpaper or soaking them in water for 24 hours to help bring forward germination. Sweet peas do have a tendency to grow rather spindly so once the have reached about 6 inches or so it’s best to remove the growing tip - only the top couple of leaves are necessary- to allow the production of lateral growth further down. The extra shoots that are produced from will result in far more flowers later.

Lawn Maintenance

Months of wet weather would have caused moss to become a problem in many lawns. The worst affected will be those lawns that suffer from shade, poor drainage and from being grown on acidic soils. The biggest problem with moss - although unsightly - is that it can quickly smother, large areas of lawn and so action is needed as soon as it is recognised in order to remove it and to help improve the growth of the existing grass. Chemical moss killers can be used to destroy existing moss, but this will still need to be raked out, although on large lawns you would be better off using a powered scarifier. Don't be surprised if you find that far more of your lawn has disappeared than you first expected. Afterwards, fork over the whole area to improve surface drainage, although for best results use or hire a hollow tine aerator.
Increase the frequency of mowing to encourage basal growth, apply 'moss, feed and weed' fertiliser and regularly check for perennial weeds - digging out any that you find. For shaded patches where grass has died out through moss, this is an ideal time to start re-seeding. Look out for specific ‘shade’ mixtures of grass seed and apply using manufacturer's instructions.

Salads and Vegetables

Now is a great time to start sowing your new season salad crops, but don’t stop there as you can keep sowing salad varieties every couple of weeks to maintain a rolling crop. The first ones to consider for early sowings are radish, mixed lettuce, rocket salad, baby spinach and spring onions. Sow them outside from March but try and keep them under some sort of protection as this will help to keep the edible foliage sweet and tender. From early April include mangetout, broad beans, beetroot, parsnips, onions, peas, spinach, turnips and hardy herbs. You can sow brussels sprouts, summer cauliflower and cabbage in seedbeds so that they are ready to transplant to their final positions in May.

Onions, leeks and garlic

All things ‘oniony’ can be planted out now but you need to keep a particular eye on their newly sprouting shoots. These will often attract the attention of inquisitive birds – particularly pigeons - and they will lift your juvenile crops straight out of the seed beds for nothing more than a little mischievous fun. If you don't have some kind of protection in place you can end up losing almost an entire crop! Onion sets or seedlings that have already been grown on in pots or trays can go straight into outdoor beds now. Grow them in rows, leaving space between the rows to get your hoe in for weeding. However, always hand-weed any weeds close to your onions as they are easily damaged by garden tools.

Plant out individual cloves of garlic - placing them about 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart – into mounded rows as this will help with the all important drainage. Sow leeks into nursery beds outside, and these can be transplanted out during the summer into their final rows. 

Soft fruit

Although currant bushes, blackberries, raspberries and other hybrid berries would normally have been fed by a good mulch of well-rotted farm manure in January or February, they can still benefit from a further feed with a high nitrogen fertiliser such as sulphate of ammonia. Always look out for the manufacturer's recommendations for application rates.

For related articles click onto the following links:
GUARDIAN: Gardening jobs for April
Gardening Jobs for October
Gardening Jobs for November

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