What to do in the garden in April
April’s here and spring has sprung at last! As the weather warms up and early flowers start to bloom, all of a sudden there’s a load of jobs to do outside.
This month, there’s plenty to sow and grow in your garden and greenhouse. But there’s lots more to do besides sowing and planting out. Here are your main garden jobs this April:
Start with these four garden tasks this month:
- Order annual plants like geraniums, begonias and petunias online now for summer bedding and hanging basket displays - it's your last chance!
- Give your greenhouse a thorough scrub (if you haven't already) with hot soapy water. This will get rid of pests and diseases and let in more light.
- Prepare beds for the growing season. Dig in a 5cm (or more) layer of compost or well-rotted manure. You can also work in a general-purpose fertiliser, such as pelleted chicken manure, or fish, blood and bone.
- Check your patio plants aren't drying out. The warmer weather will quickly affect soil moisture levels - try mixing water storing granules with compost to improve water retention in containers.
In the flower garden
Here's what to be getting on with in the flower garden this month:
- Lift and divide established border perennial plants now, like Hostas, to improve vigour and create new plants for your garden.
- Pinch out the tips of fuchsia plants and sweet pea plant shoots, to encourage bushy growth this summer.
- Divide primroses once they have finished flowering.
- Move evergreen trees and shrubsnow, provided the soil isn't frozen or waterlogged.
- Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced, slow-release fertiliser, by lightly forking it into the soil surface. Roses, in particular, are greedy plants and will greatly benefit from feeding as they come into growth.
- Tie in climbing roses.
- Check any tree stakes and ties to make sure they’re not cutting into the trunk. Loosen any that are tight, to allow the trunk some room to expand.
- Prune your penstemons now — cut back all the old shoots to the base, provided there is new growth at the bottom of the plant. If there are no new shoots at the base, cut just above the lowest set of leaves.
- Finish cutting back any dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grass plants (if you haven't done so already), to make way for new growth.
- Prune Forsythia as soon as they have finished flowering, cutting back to strong, young shoots.
- Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent plants becoming leggy.
- Tie in new honeysuckle and clematis stems. These plants will be putting on growth now, and you’ll need to train them along their supports.
- Continue to remove faded flowers from winter pansies to stop them setting seed. This will encourage flushes of new flowers throughout the spring.
- Deadhead daffodils and tulips as the flowers finish, but leave foliage intact, allowing it to die back naturally.
- Apply a layer of mulch around your perennials and biennial plants, trees and shrubs before the hot weather arrives. Use organic matter such as well-rotted manure.
In the vegetable garden
Get busy with these vegetable garden tasks this April:
- Prepare vegetable seed beds by removing all weeds.
- Dig a 5-cm (or more) layer of compost, well-rotted manure or green waste into beds.
- Cover prepared soil with sheets of black plastic to keep it drier and warmer in preparation for planting.
- Build raised beds to take the bending out of growing vegetables.
- Harvest asparagus spears when they’re no more than 18 cm tall.
- Support pea and bean plants now. For quick and easy pea supports, push some twiggy sticks around your plants.
- Thin carrot seedlings to achieve good-sized carrots; do this in the evening when fewer carrot flies are around.
In the fruit garden
There's still a chance of late frost, so protect your delicate fruit trees
Image: New Cherry 'Athos' from Thompson & Morgan
Here's what to do in the fruit garden this month:
- Protect fruit blossom from late frosts by covering them with horticultural fleece on cold nights.
- Spray the emerging leaves of peach and nectarine trees to prevent peach leaf curl. Sheltering your plants from the rain will also help reduce the risk of peach leaf curl.
- Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost, taking care not to mound mulch up around the trunk.
- Top-dress patio fruit-trees with fresh compost and a slow-release fertiliser.
- Feed raspberry canes, fruit bushes and fruit trees to encourage good crops this season. Apply a slow-release fertiliser around their base.
- Try hand pollinating peaches and nectarines with a soft-bristled paint brush for better crops this year.
Looking after your lawn
After the winter, your lawn will need some TLC
Image: Paul Maguire
These are your lawn-care jobs for April:
- Sow lawn seed now on well-prepared soil and keep the soil moist while it germinates.
- For an instant lawn, lay new turf this month, and keep it moist until it’s established.
- Repair any bare patches in your lawn — try sowing lawn repair grass seed.
- Apply a high-nitrogen fertiliser to your lawn, for a boost at the start of the season.
- Apply specialist lawn weed killer to your lawn wherever moss and weeds are a problem.
- Brush away any worm casts on dry days.
- Mow your lawn more regularly, as required. Lower your mower blades towards the end of the month.
- Recut lawn edges to straighten them up.
- Install lawn edging to make future maintenance easier.
- Aerate compacted areas of lawn, by spiking it with a garden fork.
Other jobs about the garden
Think of your feathered friends by topping up bird baths with fresh water
Image: Happy Beaks bird bath from Thompson & Morgan
And here are some other jobs to be getting on with this month:
- Check compost bins to see if you have any compost that’s ready to use.
- Improve the drainage of heavy soils by incorporating plenty of organic matter.
- Top up raised beds with compost and good quality topsoil.
- Top dress containers with fresh compost. If your containers are already full, replace the top 5 cm of old compost with fresh stuff.
- Keep on top of weeding now that the weather is warming up. Run a hoe through beds and borders.
- Apply weed killer to perennial weeds in paving and patios.
- Look out for signs of pests and diseases, early prevention is easier than curing an infestation.
- Remove dirt from your paths and paving before summer arrives. Use a pressure washer or special patio cleaner.
- Buy fresh potting compost and store it in a cool, dry place in preparation for the season ahead.
- Invest in water butts. Position them under a downpipe to make the most of rainfall.
- Top up bird baths and bird feeding stations to encourage birds into your garden.
From your armchair
Lastly, here are some of the garden tasks you can do from the comfort of your armchair, while you’re dodging the April showers:
- Keep track of what you have sown and planted in your diary — it will really help you out later in the year.
- Give your houseplants some TLC — the warmer weather and longer light hours will encourage them to grow and they may require more water.
- Buy vegetable plants as plugs to free up window-sill space and avoid the hassle of sowing seed.