Julie Ann Shead- Stradbally Library
April is an important month for the vegetable garden. Now that the days are longer and warmer plants grow stronger and faster. Sowing outdoors can now take place. Be aware that mild days can still have night frosts, so it is important to protect plants from late afternoon with cloches, horticultural fleece or newspaper.
April is a good month for lawn care. It is the start up of regular lawn cuts so make sure your lawn mower is oiled and has a good service. Once your lawn has had a couple of cuts on a high setting you can apply a combined moss killer and a lawn fertilizer.
April is also the month to sow a new lawn and repair a patchy one. lawn edgings can be repaired by cutting a ragged edge and turning around to make a neat edge.
Dig over area to be seeded to a depth of 15cms. Remove any large stones and debris. Turn soil, break up clods and rake to a rough level. Allow soil to settle for a week or so. Rake over once again removing small stones and any weeds that have appeared and rake to a fine tilth. Firm soil with a light roller or by threading over with heels of feet. Rake lightly once more and apply seed at a rate of 35grms by m2. To scatter seed evenly, area can be divided into m2 with string and canes and seed can be broad cast moving up and down and left to right. Lightly rake once again to bury seed. Don’t forget to water in with a fine water setting so as not to displace seed. Once grass appears in 14-21 days be sure to keep it watered using a fine water setting. Once it reaches a height of 10cm you can begin cutting, gradually reducing the blade height.
Continue to dead head spring bulbs so energy is not wasted producing seed. Allow daffodils and other spring bulbs to die right back before cutting off any green growth. This is what provides food for the bulb to store. As soon as all danger of frost has passed, summer flowering bulbs such as crocosmia, dahlias, ornamental lilies, gladiolus etc can be planted. As a general rule, plant to a depth twice the size of the bulb and plant in clusters for a natural effect. They don’t need a fertilizer in their first year, but they do need a sunny spot with a free draining soil and will not tolerate being waterlogged. Be aware that some bulbs are not hardy and may need to be lifted and overwintered in a frost-free shed.
Primulas and Polyanthus can provide color in pots. Plant up dahlia tubers now in pots. Plant summer flowering bulbs in pots or border.
Watch out for pests in the garden such as slugs, snails and green fly. Either remove by hand or use slug pellets, beer traps, a spray or a soapy solution for aphids. Continue to hoe around plants in the border. If you haven’t already done so, a layer of well-rotted manure or homemade garden compost can be incorporated into your beds now. Mulching around trees and shrubs is very beneficial, as is a good multi-purpose fertilizer. Check all tree ties and loosen any that seem a bit tight, to allow the trunk to expand.
Plant new evergreen trees and shrubs. You can still move evergreen trees and shrubs but do not allow to dry out.
Check roses for aphids and fungal diseases such as rust, mildew and black spot. Spray if necessary, with a fungicide. Allowing air to circulate around the plants by thinning the center and removing fallen leaves and debris can prevent fungal diseases. Apply a rose fertilizer if not done previously. Tie in climbing and rambling roses.
Tie in new stems of all climbing plants. Late summer flowering clematis need cutting back to about 3ft, just above some new growth.
Mature clumps of hardy perennials such as hostas, daylilies and asters can be divided and replanted. Check stakes for tall plants are secure.
Divide clumps of herbs such as chives, lemon balm, sweet marjoram, mint and replant. Choose a sunny well drained spot or plant in containers or raised beds. Trim lavender but don’t cut into old wood. Popular annuals such as basil, coriander and dill can be sown on a warm windowsill or greenhouse for planting out once all danger of frost has passed. Sow herbs such as parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, tarragon, fennel and marjoram outside.
Tender crops such as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, cucumber and aubergines still need to be planted under glass and planted out once all danger of frost has passed. Marrow, courgettes, squashes, cucumber and peppers can all be sown in individual 5cm pots before planting out. Seeds sown in March may need to be potted on into larger pots once the two true leaves have appeared. Handle seedlings by leaves and not stems. Harden off seedlings started indoors by placing outside on calm afternoons before bringing under cover in late afternoon.
Fork over and add a generous amount of well-rotted manure or homemade garden compost to the vegetable garden if not already applied. As long as the ground is not too cold or wet, a wide selection of seeds can be sown outdoors now at intervals to keep a steady supply. Otherwise start seeds indoors and plant out once conditions allow. Seeds such as leeks, brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, spinach, beetroot, cauliflower, swiss chard, peas and broad beans can be planted outdoors, although it is wise to protect seedlings from night frost. Plant batches of onions, shallots and garlic at intervals to keep a steady supply.
Sow radish seed in a well-prepared seed bed every few weeks. They can be used to fill in temporary gaps. Thin out seedlings and water regularly
Check seeds planted out last month for diseases, watering and thinning out.
Put up pea supports. Dig a deep hole and add some well-rotted manure. Tie in seedlings to base.
Cabbage plants planted outdoors will need brassica collars to protect from cabbage root fly. Carrots can be protected from carrot fly with a low screen around plants.
Don’t forget to keep earthing up new growth on early planted potatoes. Plant second-early potatoes at the beginning of the month and the maincrop potatoes at the end of the month. Do bear in mind crop rotation when planting the following year. This basically means not growing the same plant in the same spot year on year as a buildup of pests and diseases occur. Changing crops annually reduces the chance of soil deficiencies and a host plant for certain pests which deprives them of a chance to build up spores, eggs and pests.
Protect fruit blossoms from late frosts with fleece. Traditionally March is the last month for planting bare-rooted fruits berries such as blueberry, gooseberry, the red, black and white currant and fruiting canes such as raspberry and blackberry. By April they have started to bud and root and you are looking at container grown plants. Choose a permanent spot with plenty of summer sun but shelter in the winter. Dig a trench and dig in plenty of rich manure and horticultural grit for drainage. Check for planting distances as they can vary. Provide supports and tie in as they grow. Blackberries can be trained onto a good bamboo support. Strawberry runners can be planted 18 ins apart in well prepared beds to which rich manure has been dug in. A fertilizer high in potash for flowering and fruiting is very beneficial.
As Rhubarb doesn’t tolerate soil disturbance it should be planted in a permanent, well drained sunny bed, that has been well prepared. Dig over bed and remove any large stones. Dig in plenty of organic matter. Dig a deep wide hole. Add some multi-purpose fertilizer. Place roots in the hole and continue to back fill, making sure that the buds end up an inch or two below soil surface. Plant about 3-4 ft apart. Keep well-watered for first couple of years and add some compost each spring around the crowns.
Container grown fruit trees such as apples and pears can be planted in a well-prepared hole one and a half times the width and depth of the container, with plenty of rich manure added to planting hole. Two or more varieties may be needed for cross pollination. Trees should also be staked and watered in. Some Plum trees are self-fertile so don’t require others for pollination.