Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary - April 2012

'Rain on Good Friday and Easter Day,
A good year for grass and a bad for hay'

Last month we had a few tantalising days of anticyclone weather bringing us warm, sunny days, we gardeners were seen skipping gaily from rose to rose with our secateurs. Such days make one almost glad to be alive. This type of weather is more usually associated with April and may be a taste of hot dry summer days ahead.

Preparation being everything, we may lend a few thoughts towards mitigating the worst of any drought symptoms later on. Digging deep is key, as drought has nothing like the same effect on well dug soil. This digging and subsequent hoeing breaks up the capillary action and greatly reduces water loss. Adding coarse organic material to the lowest levels such as garden compost, mushroom compost and composted bark will contain moisture at lower levels.

As for new planting I prefer to plant in autumn, giving the plants some chance of putting on root growth through winter, though Mediterranean type plants, those best suited to drought, are best planted in spring, greatly resenting cold and or wet conditions especially during their formative years. Smaller plants will take better to the conditions at planting time than large specimens.

Adequate feeding is also important as a plant will draw up more water in poor soil to gain enough nutrients. A lip of soil around new plantings can help make the most of any rainfall and reduce run off. Mulching is preferred by some. This should be of coarse material such as mushroom compost, straw or composted bark and laid at least four inches deep. I don't use this method unless necessary for certain specimens; we hoe all our gardens every week which keeps the beds weed free and looking fresh as well as getting air into the soil and interrupting that capillary action. Having done all we can we may now sit back and watch our gardens sink under a monthly sixteen inches of rain all summer long.

This is a month of many other tasks which will brook no delay, for growth now becomes so active that very soon it will be too late to transplant or to prune many kinds of plant without risk of injury. Although it is now time to finish planting deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers and a good many of the more forward herbaceous plants, April is a good month for planting conifers, hollies, laurels and other evergreen shrubs and hedging plants. Gladioli will be better under the soil than out of it. Evergreens, including yew, box edgings, cupressus and laurel hedging can be pruned now. I prune my forsythia as it finishes flowering, leaving the youngest stems as these bear the best flowers next year. Trim back overgrown ivy. Any rose pruning should be completed near the beginning of the month.

Some of us may have topped our lawns last month. We may now start lowering the blades of the mower by a quarter inch at each mow, not getting any lower than half an inch. Now is the time to start feeding the lawn. Towards the end of the month dahlia tubers can be planted out, but plant them reasonably deep so that the young shoots will not appear above the soil until danger of frost has passed. As daffodils and other early flowering bulbs finish flowering it is well to remove dead flowers to prevent seed formation and encourage growth of the bulbs.

In the vegetable garden (naturally assuming a fine tilth has first been achieved) we may now be sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, beetroot, main crop carrots, second early and main crop potatoes and French beans on a warm border. Where neglected last month, leeks and onions can still be sown but without further delay. The strawberry bed may need tidying up, removing all dead and damaged leaves. First early potatoes should have soil drawn up around the haulm. Beware late frosts, keep that straw close at hand. Push ahead with all possible speed the pricking off of seedlings grown last month and the potting on of young stock. These are jobs that must have first call on the growers attention and must on no account be delayed until seedlings are overcrowded or young plants pot bound. Keep the hoe going between crops where the rows can be seen clearly. This frequent aeration of the soil and checking of weeds does a great deal of good and certainly encourages growth.

Happy hoeing and happy Easter.

The Gardening Diary is kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit