April is often described as the most beautiful month of the year with bulbs, shrubs and alpines all bursting into bloom. These plants bring fantastic colour and scent to the garden. There is a variable weather pattern of sunshine and showers in April which is great for the flowers. April is a busy month for the garden but as the days length is longer, then there is plenty of time to enjoy your garden.
Essential checklist for April
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs
- Weed borders
- Plant evergreen hedges
- Prune hydrangeas
- Plant out sweet peas
- Take cuttings of tender plants
- Plant main crop potatoes
- Sow winter brassicas
- Sow tender crops (Protect them from frost when necessary)
- Feed blackcurrants, gooseberries and other cane fruit such as blackberries and raspberries.
- Tidy up strawberry beds
- Feed blackcurrants and blackberries
- Sow herbs
Prune spring-flowering shrubs
Shrubs such as Winter Jasmine, Forsythia and Chaenomeles will finish flowering in April. Once their display begins to fade, prune these shrubs by cutting a third of the growth away and then feed. Lavenders and other grey-leaved shrubs flourish in poor, well drained soils and do not need feeding. They benefit from a light trim, cutting about 5cm of growth, to stop them getting leggy and woody.
At this time of the year weeds can multiply quickly so it is best to remove them when they are small. Weeding is a great way of getting to know you garden. After weeding, mulch the borders with homemade compost. It is best to apply mulch over moist soil, ideally after it has rained. The mulch helps to trap the spring moisture in the ground. For shrubs such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, their flowers can be affected by how much water they received the year before so mulching is important.
Plant evergreen hedges
April is a good time to plant evergreen hedges such as conifers and hollies. To plant the evergreens, fork a planting mixture into the soil and water thoroughly. Alternatively, throw a handful of Bone Meal or Fish, Blood and Bone in each planting hole, mix with the soil, then plant and backfill. If the weather is dry, ensure that you continue to water to prevent drought damage.
Hydrangeas are extremely popular for their huge flowers in glowing shades of pink, blue and mauve. To keep them healthy and compact they need pruning each April. First remove all the dead flower-heads so you can see what you are doing. Cut out all dead and crossing branches. Cut back the flowering stems to the first strong and healthy pair of buds from the faded blooms.
Plant out sweet peas
Plant out sweet peas that were sown in autumn and tie them into supports. Ensure that the area of where you are planting the sweet peas has crumbly fine soil.
Take cuttings of tender plants
Cuttings can be taken from plants such as fuchsias, pelargoniums, salvias, diascias and other tender plants. The cuttings should be about 8cm (3 inches) long, taken from the stem tips. Strip off the lower leaves, dip into hormone rooting powder and place the cuttings into Gro-Sure Seed & Cutting Compost. Water gently and keep in a propagator or cover with a polythene bag. The cuttings should root in about two weeks, when they can be carefully removed and potted up into fresh compost.
Plant main crop potatoes
By mid-April you should have finished planting your potatoes. Space the rows 75cm apart to allow for maximum yield. If any potatoes were planted in March, they need to be earthed up. With a soil rake, gently draw soil from either side of the row over the centre, covering all of the tips. This should be repeated until you end up with a low mound roughly 30cm high. This process helps to increase the number of tubers.
Sow winter brassicas
Brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower can now be sown outside in a prepared seed bed. It’s best to sow the seeds very sparingly so that you don’t have to do as much thinning. If you started the seeds off indoors then you can also plant them out now. Be careful not to damage the roots when transplanting. Space the plants 30cm apart to give the plants plenty of growing room.
Sow tender crops
Runner beans, courgettes and sweetcorn are a few examples of vegetables, which can now be sown in pots in a greenhouse. This gives them a head start for when it is warm enough to plant them out towards the end of the month.
Feed blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries
Blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries will appreciate a high-nitrogen feed to encourage healthy green growth. Sulphate of Ammonia is a perfect feed for these fruit trees and bushes. Feed when the soil is moist if possible. If not, water in very thoroughly.
Tidy up strawberry beds
Strawberry beds can be tidied up by cutting off the dead and diseased leaves. Thin out crowns and remove dead leaf litter around them. Feed with a high nitrogen feed such as Sulphate of Ammonia or sprinkle Growmore around crowns and work into soils. Feed with Sulphate of Potash when fruit flower buds appear.
Tender herbs such as basil and coriander can now be sown. The young parsley plants that were sown earlier can now be planted out. Remember to cover with mesh to protect from carrot root fly, and protect from any late frosts.
Grass will really start to grow this month and therefore will need a lot of care. This includes regular mowing and feeding. April is also a good time to tackle moss in the lawn. Aftercut all in one is a great product to kill off the moss. Read our guide on how to get rid of moss in your lawn for more information on this.
Now is also the right time to create a new lawn by sowing seed. Ensure that all weeds are removed from the soil where you are going to sow the seed. Poor soil can be enriched with Gro-Sure Farmyard Manure or Growmore. Apply 4-5 days prior to sowing lawn seed to prepared soil, watering in well.