April brings with it the promise of spring and even though we’re often caught out by a rain shower, the daffodils are warming our hearts. Now is the time to get your growing space ready for the glorious summer we’ve all been longing for!
April gardening to-do list
From mowing the lawn to planting vegetables, here’s a list of what to do in the garden in April.
1. Start with the rose patch
Weed around the rose stems and add a layer of mulch so that all nourishment feeds the roses, not the weeds. Do the same for carnations and other perennial flowers.
2. Remove the dead flowers of rhododendrons
Give them a handful of compost and mulch too.
3. Mow the lawn
Last month I recommended mowing the lawn if you live in the south but from April, it’s safe to mow everywhere. It’s also a good month to sow a new lawn if you need to renew any patches. Just dig up the area, spread some topsoil, scatter some grass seeds and water well. Keep pets and young feet off this bit of lawn for a while.
4. Shear winter flowering heather
Winter heather has flowered and may look a little ragged around the edges so take the garden shears to these plants and trim them back.
5. Plant bulbs and tubers
Plant bulbs and tubers like dahlias, ixias, lilies, freesias and gladioli. Some of these may need stakes or support in the garden. Dahlia seeds can be planted later in the month. They like the warmth so keep them out of frost, ready for planting out in May. Dahlia tubers left to overwinter need a mulch and a handful of compost too.
6. Plant rows of salad
Plant rows of lettuces and salad leaves in pots in the greenhouse. Some hardy varieties like rocket will be fine sown directly outdoors. Other lettuce varieties like little gem, romaine, cos, and butterhead are best left a little longer until the ground warms up.
Lettuces can be planted outdoors if you protect them with a cloche. Continue to plant different types of lettuce in rows indoors every two weeks from now on so that you have a continuous supply.
7. Sow annual flower seeds
Annuals like nasturtiums can be planted from mid-April. Cornflowers, foxgloves, poppies, nigella, and daisies can all be planted now. Look at your borders and think about the colours you want in each area. Sweet peas and sunflowers should be started off indoors. See tips for growing sweet peas below.
8. Think colourful thoughts!
Plan for the whole season on paper or in your mind’s eye. If you want a classic cottage garden look, include flowering herbs among the flower beds.
Rosemary, bluebells, cornflowers, agapanthus and heuchera will give you beautiful blue flowers from May to September.
Sage flowers in tall pink plumes, while thyme has tiny delicate pinkish-white flowers. Add cosmos for dashes of pink and white mid-summer.
Midseason pink can be provided with geraniums and busy Lizzies.
Orange blooms from marigolds and tagetes can fill the border from April until the first frosts.
Yellow can be added with Mullein flower spikes, yellow loosestrife and sunflowers, while sweet peas provide a range of colours from purple to pink.
Be ambitious and try at least one new plant this summer!
9. Plant root vegetables
Once the soil is warm and not too wet, you can start planting root vegetables. Feel it with your hand to find out. If it’s drenched, the seeds will just rot in the soil so wait until it gets a bit warmer. Make sure to remove any big stones and do not add manure.
This is because carrots and other roots will divide into sections attracted by manure so use a general fertiliser instead and water them well. Carrot seeds are very flyaway so sow them on a day when it’s not too windy.
10. Sow tender vegetable and fruit seeds indoors
Courgettes, cucumbers, aubergines, melons, pumpkins and squash should be sown indoors. As soon as the risk of frost has passed in May, the seedlings can be transplanted outdoors.
Read more: Tasty garden vegetables to plant in spring
11. Plant potatoes
If you’ve been chitting your potatoes now is the time to get them into the ground. The soil is usually warm enough by late March into April so keep planting all month.
- Dig a large trench at least one foot (30 cm) deep and remove any perennial weeds like dandelions. Then add a layer of well-rotted manure to feed all those new potatoes.
- Early potatoes like Jerseys are grown to be eaten in June or early July and not for storage. They will start growing right away so place them at the bottom of the trench with the green shoots pointing upwards and cover them with a little soil.
- Water the row well, although if the weather is wet the rain will often do the job for you in April. As the potatoes grow larger in May and June they will need frequent watering, at least every 3 days or so.
- Leave the earth in rows beside the trench to cover them up as they grow. This is called ‘earthing up’. We do this because if left exposed to air, potatoes turn green and aren’t suitable for eating. Keep checking the row, and gently add a layer of soil to cover the developing potatoes as the green foliage grows and the potatoes begin to show.
- Maincrop potatoes like Desiree, Orla, and Cara need a trench too. These varieties are grown to store so allow these longer in the ground. You can check if they are ready to pick by digging gently around the stem and seeing how big the potato is. This way, you can harvest some and leave the rest growing.
You Might Also Like: How to Grow Potatoes in Your Garden
12. Give your pond some TLC
If any blanketweed is growing, you can remove it by poking in a stick and twirling the long weed around the stick. If you leave it, it will take all the oxygen needed by fish, water lilies, and any other plants you have. Just move it to the compost bin.
Check carefully if you have any frogspawn first. By now, many frogs and toads have been busy and your pond may be full of tadpoles. You will have many flying bird visitors to a pond so make sure they have easy access and try to keep cats at a distance.
13. Plant beans
Broad beans can be sown directly into soil now but other more tender beans like French, runner or butter beans need to be started indoors and planted out when Jack Frost has disappeared.
You can prepare bean beds by digging the soil, adding manure, and setting up bamboo canes or a tepee now to trellis your beans when the soil is warm enough to plant them out.
14. Plant sweetcorn
You can start planting sweetcorn in pots indoors in April or directly into the prepared bed in May. If you want corn to harvest in early September, then plant early. For October corn, get the patch ready by adding a general fertiliser and covering up the patch with plastic or cloth to warm it up.
Corn seedlings can be planted 6 inches apart in May. Beans will grow happily with sweetcorn, in what’s known as ‘companion planting‘. The corn benefits from the nitrogen that the beans release into the soil and the beans have a natural support to climb. Both plants like similar conditions too – warm sun, frequent watering, protection from strong winds and nutritious soil.
April gardening hints
Start hardening off plants
April is a busy time for gardeners. Most of us have been planting indoors so that all window sills, tables near windows, and greenhouses are packed with seedlings.
Seedlings need to get used to the cold air outside so start hardening off your pots of tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peas, and any other delicate seeds you have chosen. Give the pots some fresh air for a few hours every day, if the weather is kind.
Get them used to being outside and then take them back to the greenhouse or cosy windowsill for the colder evenings. It will help if you have a table outside in a sunny spot but make sure it’s protected from April winds.
Maintain your herb garden
This is the month to maintain and divide perennials like mint. Dig up the whole plant and divide the roots.
This can be done with sharp pruners or with a shovel. Place the whole plant on the ground and divide the plant into sections with roots intact and some green growth on top. Then re-pot them, add some fresh compost and mulch, water them well and they’re good to go.
- Prune rosemary, lavender, sage, and thyme if you did not do this last autumn. You can take cuttings of these herbs and place them in water to see if they grow roots or pots.
- Weed the herb garden to remove competition. The soil is damp and they will lift easily now.
- Sow annual herbs like parsley, coriander and basil now.
Pop the seeds in pots, water them well and then place a plastic bag over the top to conserve moisture and heat. Parsley, coriander and basil are notoriously difficult to grow, so give them a warm windowsill or airing cupboard to germinate. Keep checking them every few days and remove the plastic when seedlings appear. Be patient!
Tina’s tips: How to get sweet peas to germinate
These wonderfully scented flowers are everybody’s favourite and they look gorgeous cut and added to vases around the house. Gardeners sometimes struggle with getting the seeds to germinate so here are some tips.
- Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. This softens up the skin.
- Scarify the edge of the seed before planting. This means to rub the seed at the point where the root will emerge. Some gardeners use sandpaper but I favour rubbing them softly after soaking.
- Keep the soil cool. Sweet peas hate warm soil and they use the temperature to gauge when spring is on the way. Keep your sweet pea pots well away from heated propagators or warm windowsills. A cold area suits them best. Water the pot well after planting and then be patient. They can take 7-14 days to show some life.