Last year blossom went into overdrive following a hard and prolonged winter. It will be interesting to see how it performs this year given that it’s been so damn wet and mild – practically the opposite conditions. April is prime blossom season and a good show not only gladdens the heart but, in the case of fruit trees, leads to the promise of good things to come.
I know what has gone into overdrive and that’s the slug and snail population. I am not an organic gardener (“boo, hiss”) so allow myself the occasional use of slug pellets. A prophylactic application to the borders, when it it mild but not pouring with rain, reduces the population of molluscs at the beginning of the season when they will be starting to get romantic thoughts into their evil little minds. As with all garden chemicals the secret is to read the instructions on the product. Slug pellets have been proven to be safe to other wildlife (by which they predominantly mean birds) when used as directed. A VERY THIN scattering is all that’s required – not piles of them. I think that if they are obvious to the naked eye then I’ve probably scattered them too thickly.
I remember that in the potting shed of the first garden I ever worked in there was an old printed packet of ancient, first generation, slug pellets. These were based on bran laced with the molluscicide and were clearly not rain-proof because the instructions stated that they were to be left in piles around the garden and then covered to keep them dry. I wonder if it is the distant memory of this early product which leads some current gardeners to use the modern pellets in the same way? As with so many things, today’s product has evolved to minimise the dangers of the original concept. I wonder if those same, backward, gardeners drive around in cars without windscreens and with friction brakes acting on the transmission? I certainly hope not!
Having digressed I should now get on with some hort content as April is a busy month in the garden. Tidying, feeding, mulching and titivating needs to be completed in herbaceous borders before the emerging plants get too big. It’s a good time to make a note of which plants require support so that the necessary peasticks can be inserted for them to grow through as the season progresses. The sooner these go in the sooner the perennial specimen will obscure them and gain support at the same time.
Now that soil temperature is on the up, promoting root growth and establishment, pot grown plants, evergreens in particular, should be planted out into their allotted positions. Rising temperatures, and the reduced likelihood of damaging frosts, also means that hardy annuals can be direct sown into their flowering positions in the border or dedicated cut flower beds. Regular readers (do they exist?!) will know that I’ve jumped on the “cut flowers from seed” bandwagon and, with the help of a gardening buddy from up north, Jane Corbett, I’m having a go at growing my own bouquets this year. If it works I’ll be using them to decorate my shop and will sell any surplus, fingers crossed.
Elsewhere in the garden the gathering pace of spring will be encouraging grass growth so regular mowing, whenever it’s dry enough, will help to maintain a healthy sward. Spring ‘feed and weed’ type preparations can be used if desired on lawns which are beginning to lose their vigour. Which segues neatly into dying down spring bulbs; do not cut the foliage off these because they need their leaves to build up the bulbs for blooming next year. If you haven’t fed them already then an application of ‘fish, blood and bone’, before they die down, may still have some chance of feeding the bulb.
If you’ve been overwintering tender plants in a frost-free place, or you took cuttings from them last year, then these will need potting into new compost around now. They should be kept almost dry during the winter, as this guards against them rotting while inactive, but now the greenhouse will get very warm during sunny spells so they will need new compost to grow into and increased watering. Once repotted they should be kept under cover as their root systems develop. Acclimatising them for moving outdoors can wait until there is no chance of them getting shocked by low night-time temperatures. Houseplants are best refreshed with new compost in much the same way. If they need to stay in the same pot then removing as much exhausted composted from the rootball and repotting using new compost, into the same pot, will suffice. This is often the case when the plant sits in a decorative pot holder on a pot stand or trough. These are strangely out of fashion, nowadays, but a lovely display of potted houseplants, in a long wooden trough, deserves to be a feature in every home!
Looking ahead; potting up summer flowering bulbs, for inserting into gaps in the border, is a good idea if not done already. A visit to the garden centre, or an online trawl, will yield a myriad of ideas for summer bedding and container displays in the form of small tender plants bursting with potential. It’s too early for these to go straight outdoors but, if you have room in a frost-free place, potting these up now, to grow-on a bit, keeps you one step ahead of the game. Sowing a succession of annuals, into ‘cell trays’, is another good idea so that they are waiting in the wings for planting out into bigger containers, or into borders, as spring morphs into summer.
It’s all “go, go, go!!!” from now on…..