Head Gardeners' Tips

April 01 2022

APRIL 2022

The buds are a-swelling, the days are a-stretching ever-longer, the dawn chorus is a-calling, it must be A-pril! This is a month of nature gathering momentum in our gardens and I’m always reminded of Dylan Thomas’ notion of a ‘green fuse’ being lit, which sets in motion the fresh growth happening all around us.

It’s a perfect time to stop and take a breath, absorb the new sights, sounds and scents of spring; tune into the depth and breadth of birdsong, or count the number of not-yet-fully-awake bees visiting a particular plant in flower.

These moments of calm and focussed attention are good for the mind and soul, so why not start making it a habit to spend a few minutes doing this every day? I can’t remember any of my New Year’s resolutions so that’s my ‘April ambition’. 

In the garden it’s a good idea to try to keep one step ahead of common plant pests. Slugs and snails home in on the tastiest new shoots of plants like delphiniums, hostas and lupins, as well as all those precious seedlings in the greenhouse, so check regularly and particularly at night when they’re most active. Similarly, checking for aphids on the tender tips of plants now, such as roses and clematis, will prevent larger infestations building up before their natural predators (AKA the cavalry) have a chance to arrive. Our preferred method here at the garden in Oswestry involves spraying them off with plain water applied with pressure.

 

‘April showers’ is a potentially misleading term – frequent, brief showers are a result of the disparity between warming land temperatures and cold seas, but they don’t contain very much water as opposed to prolonged rain. In fact, it might be surprising to hear, April tends to be one of the driest months of the year. Therefore, it is important to water your pots and borders if we don’t have rain, giving them a really good soaking once or twice a week, rather than little and often, to encourage deeper and more self-sustaining rooting. 

 

By now I’m sure many of our windowsills (or greenhouses if we’re lucky) will be filling up with the green haze of new seedlings, and we can continue to sow annuals, perennials and edibles throughout April. It’s interesting how April sowings will soon catch up with, or even outgrow, earlier batches due to the increased daylight and temperatures now, as momentum is on their side (give it a try as an experiment!). At the garden in Oswestry, we’ll be direct sowing a number of hardy annuals and edibles from now on, preparing a fine surface to our raised beds using a rake, then sowing in drills or more creatively with spirals and swirls – you don’t always have to grow in straight lines, why not spell out your name in your favourite salad?

  

As the spring bulbs start to go over, pop off the faded flower heads to divert energy from seed production into stronger bulbs for next year. Forge ahead with plans for summer pot displays by starting off dahlias somewhere light and frost-free, in shallow pots of peat-free compost, building them up (like earthing up) as the new shoots grow, until after the last frosts when they can be transplanted into pots outside or into borders. Begonias and Eucomis can also be started off like this.

 

It’s an exceptionally exciting time to be gardening and taking inspiration from other gardens. Look out for the yellow leaflets in your local area listing National Garden Scheme open days, browse social media to find plant fairs, and make a list of all those places you wished you could have visited over the last two years. Mark the date in your calendar of your nearest Horatio’s Garden open day! Or go one step better and take along a friend, introduce them to the joys of gardening and throw a slice of cake into the bargain – the perfect April day out!

 

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