In April it is definitely getting warmer and with longer days and more light, the sap is rising and the garden should be growing well. However, the weather can still deliver surprises, so be prepared to cover up tender plants if frosts are forecast.
Some key jobs for April include:
Controlling weeds. The old adage of “one year’s seeding means seven years’ weeding” is all too true. It really is worth trying to get weeds out before they have a chance to set seed and spread. Small annual and ephemeral weeds (like hairy bittercress) spread at a surprisingly fast rate, but are pretty easy to clear if you catch them early. The perennials like bindweed, ground elder and dandelions are all starting to show themselves at this time of year and although clearing these can be a Sisyphean task, regularly digging out the roots will help to weaken the plants.
Hand weeding, hoeing, burning and weed killers can all be a part of your armoury, but pick the right weapons for the right places and if you are using weed killers or flame guns always follow the manufacturers instructions.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) website has loads of useful stuff on all matters gardening and weeds are no exception. This link will take you to the relevant bit of the advice section and not only suggest ways control weeds, but give you helpful pictures to identify what it is that’s causing you problems. Remember though a weed is only a plant in the wrong place, and one person’s weeds could be another’s planned wild garden – each to their own.
This is also a good time to work on lawns to get them ready for the summer. You’ve probably started mowing by now so a few days after a mow is a good time to feed (and apply weedkiller and mosskiller treatments if required, to) lawns. Ideally treat when the ground is dry, but when there is rain in the forecast to wash the treatment in, otherwise you may have to water. After treating it is a good idea to scarify in order to remove thatch and moss, this will help to improve air flow and drainage and reduce competition for nutrients. If you have a particularly boggy lawn, then spiking it; or even hollow tining to remove cores of compacted soil and brush in lawn sand will help you to improve drainage.
As the daffodils begin to fade, remove the flowers so that the bulb’s energy is not spent on seed production. Leave the foliage for 6 weeks to die back naturally, thus feeding the bulb for next year. Additional feeding with an all purpose liquid feed will help to ensure a good show of flowers for next spring.
Now is a good time to cut back plants like Cotinus and Sambucus that are grown for foliage effect, and also finish cutting back Cornus and Salix grown for winter bark.
Finally, be wary of nesting birds if you are tempted to trim your hedges. This is the time of year when hedges can start to look overgrown if they haven’t been trimmed, but it is also the height of the nesting season, so it may be that it’s best to live with a scruffier hedge than you’d really like for a couple of months in exchange for a garden filled with fledgling birds later in the spring.