April: to-do list

1. Once the final frosts have passed, it is time to plant your summer-flowering bulbs outdoors. This year, I have selected nerines, nectaroscordum, white agapanthus and alliums. If the soil isn’t warm enough, keep the bulbs, stored in paper, somewhere dry. The last thing you want is them to get damp and rot. I lost some nerines and tulips last year because I kept them in a hessian bag in my (very) damp shed.

2.Plant out your sweet pea seedlings. Provide support by making a wigwam of bamboo canes or similar.

3. Towards the end of the month, plant dormant dahlia tubers outside. I’ve just ordered these beauties from Sarah Raven for my white border. Fingers crossed they’ll get enough sun in my shady little garden.

4. As your hellebore flowers fade, the new foliage starts to push through from the base. Once a fortnight, feed with a fertiliser high in potash until mid June.

5. Your Christmas amaryllis has probably flopped and died back by now. When the foliage has withered naturally, cut it back, shake the bulb free of soil and place the pot (and in it the bulb) on its side to rest in a dry, airy place. In late autumn, repot the bulb and water lightly to start it growing again.

6. Spring is the best time to feed your borders. Even if you have a very low-fuss garden, it’s worth investing in a general-purpose organic fertiliser now.  Dust a light dressing over any bare soil between shrubs, trees, roses and particularly greedy clematis. Lightly fork it in. This ensures they start the season with a good meal. You can use the same fertiliser between perennials and on beds where you are preparing to put your bedding plants. There’s no need to buy anything special for particular plants unless you really want to. A little really does go a long way.

7.Primroses and polyanthus can be split and replanted now in ground refreshed with bonemeal and compost.

8. Deadhead your daffodils – this stops them putting all their energy into seed production and diverts it  back to the bulb, making it stronger for next season.

9. Time to plant the potatoes that were chitted last month. Set them about 6 inches (15cm) deep and twice that distance apart. If you didn’t chit potatoes last month, there’s still time!

10. You can plant/sow hardy herbs now, such as parsley, chervil, fennel, coriander, dill and marjoram but it’s still way to early to plant or sow frost-tender herbs such as basil.

11. Plant strawberries. Most people don’t have room for a traditional strawberry bed but strawberries can grow very successfully in containers. It is also easier to protect the fruits from hungry birds. Plant half a dozen young plants in a 15inch pot or large tub filled with John Innes No3 compost and you’ll have a lovely ornamental display for a sunny spot in June. This year, I am planting mine in a hanging basket – five plants around the edge of a large basket – allowing the runners to cascade down over the sides. By the second year I hope to have a waterfall of fruit. A really excellent return for a small amount of space.

12. Fruit trees can also be planted in containers. Most need a fairly dwarfing rootstock to be sufficiently compact for a pot. These are the best to try: Redcurrants (cordon trained), patio peaches and nectarines (these are genetically dwarf plants, trained as bush or standard trees), figs (grown as bush or standard), apples (trained as upright cordon or a small standard), and cherries (trained as a tree, best to buy a self-fertile variety as unlikely to be another nearby for cross pollination). Tie the tree to a stake with ties at the top and bottom. Place it in a sheltered, sunny spot. Your house and patio walls reflect heat thereby creating a natural sun trap. Happy, warm tree, thriving fruit.


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