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By guest blogger BryonyBlog Home
Spring often feels like a long time coming and this spring is more welcome. This year Spring was slow to come around yet by April the bulbs are hitting their stride, your outside spaces have awoken after their long winter sleep filled with daffodils, and the promise of tulips and alliums.
April feels like a month of two halves, the beginning of the month is coloured brown by the bare earth and russet naked branches. By the end of the month there is a display of colour from the tulips in a range of every shade you can think of. The days become longer and warmer, April showers accelerate growth and pave the way for the long-awaited summer.
Some of the most avid gardeners and allotmenteers have been finding jobs to do and preparing for the year ahead; fear not if you have not thought about this yet. We have a list of actions for you to commence in your garden, courtyard, or balcony to make the most out of your space for the forthcoming seasons.
We've already mentioned those happy and hopeful spring bulbs which are a joy, but after the daffodils and tulip heads have faded, they look a little melancholic. The best thing you can do for these bulbs is to leave their foliage to die back naturally, which allows every drop of energy to head back into the bulb for next year. However, snap off the seed heads to ensure all the vitality does go back to the bulb rather than make seed.
If you do not wish to have your bulbs dying back in your borders you can lift both daffodils and tulip bulbs, keeping all the green intact. Very carefully dig up the bulb, shake or brush off the soil, allow to dry out somewhere cool and dark, then when the greenery has died you remove this, and you will be left with bulbs to replant in the autumn. Often after flowering tulips will have a secondary, smaller bulb attached to the main bulb, remove this baby bulb to maintain big strong blooms for the next spring.
Now is also the time to separate any perennials which may be getting a little too big for their spaces such as large hosta varieties, crocosmia and grasses such as miscanthus and stipa. The best way is to dig up the whole plant and divide it into sections by chopping through the root system with a sharp spade and some muscle. It seems dramatic, but ultimately the plants will love you for this…and you have more plants.
For veg growers there are the last of the potatoes to plant. Remember to grow your potatoes deep in rows and ‘earth up’ i.e. cover them up with more earth/compost as you see new growth emerging. Continue to do this three times before you let the potato plants grow and remember to water well. Rocket for a delicious, peppery accompaniment to any meal, may be sown straight outside in April and is quick to harvest. Peas and broad beans can also now be planted outside.
Herbs can also be sown now, tender herbs such as basil should be started off inside, but parsley, fennel, chives, and mint can go straight outside. Lavender and rosemary ought to have another little trim in April in readiness for the summer; be careful to not cut too far down as neither will grow back from old woody growth. April is the ideal time to replenish your lavender stocks if they look a little worse for wear. French lavender in planters are the loveliest as a ‘welcome you home’ when placed by the front door.
Fruit, especially berries would benefit from a covering in netting to prevent being eaten by birds. If you have the space, try to include something for our feathered friends such as a bird feeder or bird bath to encourage garden birds because they help keep on top of the slugs, snails and caterpillars, which will all be emerging now.
With April showers and frosts dwindling, this is a good time to make repairs to your lawn and it really could not be a simpler job. Rake over any winter damaged patch to loosen up the soil, lightly sprinkle grass seed over the surface and rake it in. Then ensure this area does not dry out.
This month is also a great time to move any self-seeded plants into a more desirable location. Flowers such as forget me nots and foxgloves tend to spread over the winter and can pop up in the most random places. Now the ground is warm enough this is a perfect time to add these plants to your borders. Simply lift with as much root as possible using a fork, or hand fork. Make sure you water well when in their new home.
Foliage starts to emerge from your big perennials - like peonies and delphiniums. April is a nice month to place your stakes into position, as prevention is always better than the cure. The stakes prevent the plants from being broken by the wind, and from drooping over when becoming too top heavy. Ideally, you wish to create a ‘cage’ structure, with three or four poles in a triangle or square formation with string or twine to enclose the plant. The plants can still move and will have some protection. Similarly, now is a wonderful time to tie in any climbing plants and fix their supports.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is to keep on top of the weeds. By doing this from the start you stop weeding from becoming an overwhelming task, leaving you to enjoy more fulfilling jobs.
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