With longer days and milder weather, now is the perfect time to get outside and refresh your garden for Spring! From mulching borders to tidying and pruning - there are plenty of tasks to keep you busy in the gentle April sunshine.
Mulch Beds & Borders
One of the most satisfying jobs and the quickest way to warm you up and give your garden a ‘cared-for’ look is to mulch your borders with compost or leaf mould - Leaf Composting Sacks are a convenient way to gather leaves and can be left in a corner to rot down into a nutrient rich Spring dressing. Avoid mulching on top of frozen ground as you’ll lock the cold in a defeat the object, but tender plants and emerging bulbs will appreciate the insulation and in the longer term the mulch will cut down on the need for watering and act as a slow release fertiliser.
Whilst mulching you will no doubt find that the bulbs are stirring and you can take the opportunity to mark them to avoid the risk of damage under foot - garden stakes will remind you where to tread carefully and a Elegance Bell Cloche or Grow Through Frame will also provide useful support for herbaceous planting later in the season.
Tidy & Divide
Trim back the old leaves of Hellebore plants down to the ground to reveal the spectacular flowers and to help prevent problems with leaf spot use an extra padded garden kneeler will help you get down to ground level in comfort! Winter aconites and snowdrops both transplant best ‘in the green' so once they have faded divide any congested clumps to promote good flowering next year.
Divide large clumps of hostas before their leaves start to grow. Dig the clump up, then use a spade to slice your clump into several sections, replanting them at their original level. Get your plant supports in before your perennials start to grow, this way your supports will be covered before your plants are performing at full tilt.
Prune & Train
Pruning at this time of year, before birds start to nest, can introduce some structure back into hedges and climbing plants and is best done now before the sap begins to rise - Hedges planted now will establish well and make good growth in their first season. Prune winter flowering shrubs after the blooms have faded and cut back the stems of dogwoods and willows hard to ensure bright stem colour for next winter.
If you have a wisteria growing against your house or on a garden structure you should now shorten sub-laterals (previously cut back in the summer) to 2-3 buds from the main framework to guarantee an abundance of fragrant flowers - A dressing of Sulphate of Potash around the base in the spring will further encourage flower production.
Climbing roses should be cut back to the main structure and any crossed or awkward stems removed. Strong stems can be tied in to the trellis or structure that supports the rose removing dead or diseased stems - you might like to add an early flowering clematis to extend the display and create a welcoming pop of Spring colour on a Garden Arch.
This is a good time to plant new roses in the borders or against an arch or structure – dig a hole twice the width of the root system and the depth of a spade and include a generous amount of well rotted compost or manure to get the plant off to a really good start.
Add Structure & Definition
Whilst trees and shrubs are dormant it is a good time to look at where you might consider adding more structures to support vigorous plants for the coming year - maybe a pergola or a gazebo could help add height to your garden and create a focus to your planting or create a seating area to enjoy in the Summer.
Plant Containers For All Year Colour
A pot of bulbs bought into the greenhouse or kept in a protected porch may be encouraged to flower a week or two early and enjoyed on a terrace or beside a doorway - try sinking the pots into a Decorative Zinc Planter for a spectacular display that can be removed once the flowers have faded and replaced with summer flowering annuals.
If you have had forced Hyacinths or Paperwhites inside over the winter it’s worth planting them outside - with luck they may establish and flower again in a year or two and reward you with wonderful early Spring scent.
Organise Tools and Equipment
Keep off the grass during frosty weather, but your lawn will benefit from raking, feeding and weed treatment if the weather is fine – a first cut with the mower blades set high will invigorate the grass and transform the look of your garden. Sort through your tools and garden equipment and repair anything that needs it now - a tool rack will help you keep track of your tools and avoid you hunting for your trowel or rake!
In the Kitchen Garden
Fruit cages should be checked for damage ahead of the new season and any holes fixed with string or new protective netting ordered so that the plants are protected from bird damage when they come into bud shortly.
Autumn fruiting Raspberry canes can now be cut down to the ground and the older darker stems of Blackcurrant bushes removed to promote the growth of the lighter coloured new growth - adding a Telescopic Raspberry Support allows you to tie in the long fruiting wands and promotes air circulation to avoid mildew and disease to maximise your crop as well as making harvesting easier.
Rhubarb can be forced using a traditional forcer or even an upturned bucket - anything that will cut out the light to encourage the light tender stems of early rhubarb.
If particularly severe weather is forecast it would be sensible to protect Autumn sown Spinach, Peas and Broad Beans and more delicate shrubs with an Easy Fleece Jacket or Cloche either for the entire winter or in case of especially hard or late frosts.
In the Greenhouse
Even in an unheated greenhouse sowing can start now - Sweet Peas like to develop deep root systems so thrive in Rapid Rootrainers and early sowing will enable you to pinch out seedlings and have really robust plants flowering strongly throughout the season - An Elegance Runner Bean Tower can double up as a fantastic Sweet Pea Tower in a border or Kitchen Garden.
Peas sown into lengths of guttering ready to slide them into position in the garden later this month will give an early crop and are ideal for succession sowing – consider what plant support you are going to use for your peas and beans this year –a purpose built pea or bean frame can be used year after year.
Potatoes can be placed in a light, frost free place to ‘chit’ to enable them to grow on well after planting out in a couple of months - If you don’t have room to grow potatoes in the garden you could have a go with a Patio Potato Planter - there’s nothing like the taste of home grown new potatoes!
The days are getting longer and Spring is on the horizon. If the weather is too bad to get out and about, it's a great time to plan your sowing and order some seeds.