April Hints and Tips

Spring  Show

April is the month that inspires optimism in gardeners, I think. Plants that have been dormant for months start to show new growth, seeds are germinating and the risk of frost is minimal.

Some of the most spectacular shrubs put on their show in April, including magnolias, azaleas, rhododendrons and Forsythia – they will all need dead heading next month!

Ornamental garden

  • The main risk of frost is past, so you can direct sow sweet peas and plant out Dahlias, Cannas, Gladioli, lilies and Nerines.
  • Prune Forsythia and Chaenomeles after flowering and, if you like the look of striking large leaves on your Cotinus (smoke bush), prune it hard back; you will not get any ‘smoke’ i.e. flowers, though.
  • Dead head daffodils and tulips, but leave the foliage to feed the bulbs
  • Trim back frost-damaged evergreen foliage and renovate broadleaved evergreens like Pittosporum, Photinia, Hebe, Fatsia and It is a good time to plant new evergreen shrubs
  • It is safe now to cut down the old stems of Gaura, Penstemon and Verbena bonariensis.
  • Remove old foliage from Pulmonaria (lung wort) at flowering time to make room for new, more decorative leaves that will develop.
  • Direct sow sunflowers, poached egg plants, California poppies and pot marigolds.
  • Apply weed & feed to lawns on a day when the leaves are dry but rain is expected

Kitchen Garden

  • Keep planting potatoes and keep sowing beetroot, carrots, lettuce, radish, turnip, peas, spinach and parsnips. Sow brassicas into a seed bed or pots.
  • Sow sweet corn, courgettes and beans indoors; wait until May to sow them direct.
  • Prune young plum and cherry trees as leaf buds open.
  • Open doors and vents of greenhouses during the day to prevent overheating.

Some thoughts on weeds

I was on my hands and knees weeding the vegetable patch today.  Weeds are just our native plants, well adapted to life here.  Most are colonisers e.g. chickweed, cress and buttercup, that is, they grow quickly in bare ground and produce flowers and seeds in a short time, before being overshadowed by sturdier plants. They compete with your precious plants for light and nutrients. Control means removal, before the seeds are dispersed, by hand, hoeing to cut off roots or mulching to exclude light.  You can also encourage legitimate plants by feeding them well to out-compete the weeds – the best approach for lawns

Places to visit in April

Tylney Hall Hotel and Gardens Rotherwick, Hook. RG27 9AZ www.tylneyhall.co.uk free to RHS members and hotel guests: 66 acres,  including a Gertrude Jekyll designed water garden and an Italianate garden. Open daily 12th March – 28th October

Exbury Gardens near Beaulieu SO45 1AZ www.exbury.co.uk , is wonderful for Azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias.  RHS members free in March, August and September. Open 10am-6pm from 11 Mar – 4th November

The Old Thatch and Millenium Barn in Winchfield RG27 8DD is open on 7th April for National Garden scheme (www.ngs.org.uk)

Church Crookham Garden Society Spring Show is on the morning of 6th April at the Memorial Hall, Church Crookham.  Entry to classes and to the show is free of charge