The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.
Excerpt from Two Tramps in Mud Time by Robert Frost (1926)
Expect the inevitable April showers this month but sunny days too, when you can turn your attention to the garden. It’s an exciting month, with indoor-sown seeds well into growth; it’s also time to start sowing outdoors. Just watch out for frosts…
- As always the first job on the list is weeding, though it feels like weeds have a knack of growing faster than crops! Remove them while they’re still young or they’ll take all the nutrients from the soil.
- Plant your chitted potatoes outside in the ground or in containers. Also Brussels sprouts, kale, Swiss chard, broad beans, onions, perpetual spinach, summer cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, radish, turnips, and kohl rabi.
- If your greenhouse is heated, plant up your summer hanging baskets with plug plants now and keep them under cover until all risk of frost has passed. Remember to use a slow release fertilizer and a water retaining gel for longer lasting displays.
- Plant out autumn-sown sweet peas that have been raised in pots, and prepare your wigwam supports for them to climb, using a light twine to tie the plants in.
- Top dress spring-flowering alpines with grit or gravel to show off the plants and to help prevent stem rots.
- If we are lucky enough to get any dry spells, you can treat structures with wood preservative and stain. Only do this in a well-ventilated space, to reduce the risks to your lungs and eyes.
- Also, if the weather is warm and sunny, you may need to start damping down the floor of your greenhouse in the morning; splashing water over it will increase humidity levels.
- If April showers turn heavy or persistent, bulbs coming up in your rock gardens or in containers may benefit from overhead protection from the rain – a sheet of glass or perspex placed on bricks will do the job.
- Plant Lilies into pots, this means that as they come into bloom you can move them around the garden to fill gaps and bring colour to any area.
- Deadhead pansies, primulas and other spring bedding plants. Pansies will carry on into the spring and even to early summer if you give them a bit of love and attention!
- Evergreens, such as rosemary, lavender, bay, myrtle, sage and thyme, can be pruned as soon as the winter is over. Never cut into old wood and always leave enough foliage to help draw energy back into the limbs.
- But the most important job is to enjoy your open spaces! Take some time to sit back, enjoy the wildlife and plan your dream garden.