Hurray! It’s April and the clocks have gone forward, giving us a realistic expectation of evenings light enough to get out into the garden after a day at work. It’s a busy month with lots to get stuck into, now that the soil is (at last!) warming up. Here are a few ideas….
DEALING WITH THE DAFFS
As your daffodils start to go over, please don’t chop off the leaves, or, perish the thought, tie them up. Yes, yes, I know they look messy as they gradually brown and die off over the next six weeks or so, but the foliage and indeed the flower-stalks themselves are earnestly photosynthesising to build up the bulb below for next year’s display. Take off the nasty dead flower-heads by all means, so the plant is not channelling its energies into seed production, but grit your teeth and tolerate the leaves for a while longer – next year, you’ll be glad that you did!
Your mixed borders will be bursting into life this month, and now’s the time to sprinkle some fertiliser over them. I sometimes use pelleted chicken manure or Growmore…. anything like that. The recommended dosage is 1oz per square yard, but I am afraid I don’t get too particular about that. Growmore is what they call a balanced fertiliser, with Nitrogen (for leaves), Phosphorus (for roots) and Potassium (for flowers and fruit) in equal parts – the plant-health equivalent of an avocado and blueberry salad sprinkled with bran and nuts. Yum! Hoe the granules in lightly, and let them replenish all the goodies that this endless rain has washed out of the soil.
It’s spud-time! I’m lucky enough to have a veg patch, and in April, I put the chitted seed-potatoes (I hope you read my earlier blog about how to do this, but don’t worry if you didn’t!) into a shallow 6 inch trench with their stubby little shoots uppermost. The soil doesn’t need to be very rich for potatoes but do keep them well-watered. As the shoots develop, keep piling up the soil around them and don’t let the light get to the tubers underneath which will turn them green and poisonous. I expect you will have heard of growing potatoes in bespoke sacks, but did you know that you can even grow your own little crop of spuds from a couple of seed potatoes in an old wastepaper bin, as long as you’ve drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage. Put at least 6inches of compost in the bottom, put in your two seed-potatoes, and keep piling compost in as they grow. Wouldn’t that be fun for children to try!
* It’s one exciting moment (I live a sheltered life) when you can savour your own first rhubarb of the year. Remember to pull off the tender stalks rather than cut them, to avoid the remaining bit going soggy and rotting down to the crown
* Trim up any sage or thyme you have, to keep it neat, healthy and compact
* If you have seedlings that are collapsing or going a little mouldy, remove them from the seed-tray immediately so they don’t spread this idea of ‘damping-off’ to the other seedlings. Let more air circulate around the tray. You can’t easily buy the old copper-based cheshunt compound to sort this any more but try watering in a very little chamomile tea.
* Did you have plants that got blasted by the Beast or its sequel? Don’t despair. Some might indeed have been clobbered, but some, like Melianthus will sprout from the base; cut off all the damaged material, give it a month, and all will be well, with the usual gardener’s optimism and a following wind.