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Gardening in April

by
Pam Pickard

Tulips in Happy Mount Park, Morecambe

Welcome to this column, it is designed to help to encourage and inspire you in your gardening endeavours.

Everytime I go out into the garden, I swear I see something new bursting into growth! Although because of the unusual heavy frosts this winter I’m also discovering unexpected damage. My advice is to trim off blackened or affected leaves and prune the stems down on shrubs that haven’t survived. Keep a close eye on them and fingers crossed they may spring back into life in time.

Jobs to do are rapidly increasing, so don’t let things get out of hand! Learn how to plant a wildlife border and take steps to a wildlife garden. Find out about trees in pots in the plant profile. Make plans to visit local gardens and go to Events.

Jobs to do
Keep on top of the weeds by weeding little and often and check the weather forecast for frost and cover tender plants with fleece. In the border; plant out the sweet peas sown in the Autumn, sow hardy annuals direct into the soil such as Pot Marigolds, Nigella, Candytuft, Cornflower and Nasturtium. Lift and divide late flowering perennials and sow Sunflowers where they are to flower.

Leave daffodil leaves to die off naturally, remove suckers from roses and place supports for Herbaceous perennials; Delphiniums, Campanula and Poppy. Remember to water containers as the weather warms up.

Cut down Lavender and Sage to within 5-10cm, prune Forsythia, Camellia and Winter Jasmine after flowering to a third of the oldest stem. Cut back Lavatera to base of plant, remove last year’s flowerheads from Hydrangea and prune back Evergreens to a third of the stem.

In the pond; remove blanket weed and divide overgrown pond plants. Thin out Water Lilies if not flowering, cut off young rhizomes and repot. In mild spells start to feed fish.

Now is the time for seed sowing in the vegetable garden; Beetroot, Broad Beans, Early Carrots, Chard, Kohl Rabi, Lettuces, Spring Onions and Turnips. Plant onion sets and start peas off in a length of guttering; when the seedlings are ready to plant out, simply slide compost out into growing position.

In the cold frame or greenhouse; sow Brussel Sprouts, Calabrese, Summer Cauliflower, Kale and Lettuces. At the end of April sow French and Runner Beans. Finish planting chitted Potatoes and earth up those already in the ground. Remove shoots from fruit trees that are sprouting from below the graft onto the root stock.
Under glass; pot up rooted cuttings, Begonias, Dahlia tubers and Cannas. Buy young plants of tender perennials like; Busy Lizzie, Petunia and Verbena but ensure they are kept frost free. Reseed bare patches on the lawn and apply lawn feed in warm weather.

Wildlife Border
FernPrepare a border now and plant up with wildlife attracting plants and by summer you’ll be sharing your garden with bees, hoverflies, ladybirds, lacewings, birds and butterflies. It only takes about 10 to 12 weeks to fill a 2.25m by 1.05m border with stunning flowers.

Choose a sunny, sheltered site or build a raised bed, most young plants are available in garden centres or nurseries now, don’t worry about the size they’ll soon grow!

Planting plan for wildlife border

1. Buddleia davidii
2. Tickseed
3. Coneflower Echinacea purpurea
4. Lantana
5. French Lavender
6. Catmint
7. Marjorum
8. Russian Sage Peroskia atriplicifolia
9. Salvia
10. Scabious
11. Sedum
12. Thyme
13. Verbena rigida
14. Verbena bonariensis

Dig over the entire border; add composted bark or garden compost and organic fertiliser such as chicken manure pellets. Rake over and lay out the plants in their pots. Begin planting from the back, adjusting position to give space and water well. This border will need little maintenance; remove dead flowers to encourage more flowers and leave to die down naturally to provide a home over winter for insects.

Steps to a wildlife garden
Besides providing an interest to the garden; wildlife can benefit gardeners by keeping pests in check.

• Choose nectar-rich plants; Buddleia, Catmint, Sedums, Fuchsia and Vebena Bonariensis.
• Grow nuts and berries; Rowan, Holly, Crab Apple, Pyracantha, Hawthorn, Hazel and Blackthorn.
• Feed the birds; use fine seed mixes, mealworms, suet cakes and fat balls.
• Give them shelter; a heap of leaves or pile of logs. Grow ivy up a wall or buy ready made homes for birds, bats and hedgehogs as well as bees, ladybirds and lacewings.
• Provide water; keep a saucer or bird bath, create a pond to attract frogs, dragonflies and other wildlife.
• Get composting; heaps can provide a safe place for pygmy shrews, hedgehogs and slowworms, birds will feed on the surface and toads and ground beetles on smaller life forms.
• Conserve mature trees or plant a mixed hedge

Plant profile
Have you ever wanted to include the height of trees in your garden but only have a small space? Why not try to grow a tree in a pot? Some trees will grow well in restrictive conditions. Buy your tree from a nursery yourself, so you can see the size and shape. Choose a good-sized container, try a 40 litre one and line terracotta pots with plastic to help to retain moisture. Trees in pots need frequent watering and use a thick mulch to reduce water loss. Top dress each year with compost and use a slow-release fertiliser.

Trees to use;
Ainus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’ – Alder with weeping habit, yellow catkins in spring
Acer pensylvanicum – Japanese maple
Ginkgo biloba – Chinese Maidenhair tree with fan shaped leaves
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, - use 3 of these in a 60 litre pot, has white bark
Catalpa bignonioides – Indian bean tree with velvety leaves
Fagus sylvatica – ‘Purpurea Pendula’ Beech with weeping habit and purple leaves
Cedrus deodara – ‘Aurea’ Cedar, elegant, conical shape
Amelanchier lamarckii – snowy mespilus, small tree with white blooms in spring

Events

5 April – Spring Plant Fair; Arley Hall and Gardens, Northwich, Cheshire. www.arleyhallandgardens.com

12 April 12pm & 13 April 4pm - Easter Trail; Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 1SP 01768 361 893 www.nationaltrust.org.uk

23 - 26 April – Harrogate Spring Flower Show, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate HG2 8PW, 08707 583 333 www.flowershow.org.uk

25 - 26 April – Bluebell Walks; Arley Hall and Gardens, Northwich, Cheshire. www.arleyhallandgardens.com

26 April – Bluebell Walks; Cumbermere Abbey, 1pm-5pm £3 & under 16 £2 – 2 mile walk, Whitchurch, Cheshire, SY13 4AJ, 01948 662 880

The column in May will provide tips to plant up hanging baskets and planters; a guide to growing herbs and how to get your lawn into shape. All items mentioned are available in most garden centres or look on the Internet. Information provided accurate at time of writing.

© Pam Pickard 1/4/09
Photographs are taken by Pam Pickard

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