The long Easter weekend is a wake-up call when gardeners hear the crack of the starting pistol for the ‘growing’ season. Suddenly there is no time to lose.
Clear away dead foliage, weed and prepare beds. Dig in well-rotted compost or manure. When it’s ready, it will smell pleasant, be agreeable to handle and there will be plenty of small, dark brandling, worms wriggling around. Use it too as a mulch around shrubs and perennials, taking care that it doesn’t actually touch the plant as it can ‘burn’ it. The compost or manure will feed your plants and block out light from weed seed in the soil.
Tie in climbing plants and roses. The old rule is to cut back last year’s new growth by half to an outside bud. Trim back lavender to a few inches of last year’s new growth to keep it compact. Rosemary is best left to its own devices but you cut away any old wood right back to base to stop it sprawling too much. Wash out seed trays, flowerpots or containers and clean and oil your tools.
Free plants from old
April is a good time to increase your perennial stock – for example primroses. Once well established over a couple of years, you can get more plants from them by division. Have everything ready before you start as roots dry out very fast. Dig the up the plant, shake off the soil and tease the roots apart gently into two or three plantlets. Replant separately. Water well. You can do the same with well-established bulbs like daffodils. If you have had them for a few years, they will have made ‘bulblets’ next to the original bulb. Dig one up to check. The bulblets can be pulled off (carefully) and replanted to make new plants. Snowdrops and chives make clumps of bulbs which can be easily pulled apart.
The soil is still cold so wait a few weeks before sowing seed outside for more sure fire results. Start hardy annuals, vegetable and herb seed on your windowsill at home to go out next month or look out for trays of plug plants that will be coming into the garden centres now. Summer lilies and other summer bulbs, however, are fine to be planted in April. It is best to plant them to a depth of about two-and-a–half times the size of the bulb.