Thank goodness for a spell of dry weather, and even a touch of warm sunshine to make our isolation easier. With the blackbirds safely nested in the laurel, April finds me potting up plug plants and mulching the borders with homemade compost. With no greenhouse I rely on sheltered corners of the garden to bring on cuttings, seeds and tiny plants, constructing cloches to protect them from wind, rain or late frosts. Watching new plants get bigger and stronger before planting them out into the garden: Nature…? Well, she can’t be rushed or hurried along. So, if you’ve got time, here’s some ideas for jobs in your own gardens this week:
The sheer joy of making your own compost…or is that just me? (it’s just you. Ed.) It rather depends how much room you have as to what kind of compost bin or system you choose, but the principals are the same. In a shady corner of your plot collect garden debris into a bin or pile, except for the most tenacious weeds, e.g. dandelions, nettles, bindweed. Add peelings from the kitchen, plus grass cuttings and leaves. The secret is to layer up green (grass, vegetable kitchen waste) and brown materials (prunings, straw, paper) and let the bacteria and micro-organisms do the work. Turn the heap over periodically to introduce air which speeds up the whole process. After six to twelve months you should begin to see some progress as dark crumbly soil appears at the bottom of the heap. Good compost has a pleasant woodland kind of smell which shows you got the mix right! You’ll also see lots of little red worms called Brandlings. Spread it onto the borders, enriching the top soil and feeding your plants at no cost to you, and no heavy transport required to take your collected garden waste away.
Perennial plants reappear in Spring after a long Winter of dormancy. To reinvigorate plants which were looking crowded or congested last year, lift the entire root ball out of the ground with a fork and split it into halves or quarters. If the roots are very compacted don’t be afraid to cut through and divide into sections with both roots and upwards shoots. This is the best bit…Free plants!! These can then be re-planted with several inches of space in between. If you grow perennials in pots, then the same rules apply. Lift, divide, replant, remembering to change old compost for fresh and water the newly formed sections into the soil.
Tie in climbers
As Clematis and climbing Roses push out their soft new shoots, make sure you tie them in gently to trellis or stakes. Use string rather than plastic ties as it is kinder to stems and biodegradable. Tying-in early in the season both supports the stems and encourages the plants to grow in the direction of your choosing….hopefully.
A relaxing, mindful flow activity….it really is! Do it by hand or by hoe (no need to use chemicals) before weeds can put down deeper roots, or heaven forbid, set seed. If you’re not certain about identification, there are some very useful websites and plant/weed finder apps available online. Make certain to dig out the entire root, or perennial weeds like Dandelions and Nettles will come straight back from the tiniest of root fragments in the soil.
If you have limited space in your garden then only sow what you really love….be that flowers or fruit and vegetables. Early April is the best time to sow Broad beans, Peas and Runner beans directly outside, about 15cms apart, into prepared soil for a summer Harvest. Without fail, recite the same rhyme as you sow:
“One for the mouse
One for the crow.
One to rot ,
And one to grow”
It seems to work, as a rule not every seed will germinate, so it makes sense to put the extra ones in. Peas and beans are a nice size for children to plant too, their chubby starfish fingertips pressing down into the loam.
If you like, Tomato seeds can also be sown into pots now and transferred outside to grow-bags after the risk of frost has passed in May. Strawberry plants may be planted up 30cms apart in raised beds or in large containers. And some varieties are suitable for hanging baskets. Always double check seed packets and plant labels for specific planting or sowing advice and you won’t go far wrong.
There is so much to do, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a Spring garden as it races ahead. But, keep it in the back of your mind that a garden is never, ever finished. So it’s not a race, more of a meander through the seasons.
Don’t forget you can contact us with all your gardening queries via our website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org