As I write this, early April, it would seem that the weather is typical for the time of year with sunshine and showers, but we can still have very cold nights with some frosts, so vulnerable plants will need covering at night with fleece. My azalea, which is about 30 years old, is now out in full flower and could well be spoiled if I don’t cover it.
In the flower garden it’s time to divide clumps of herbaceous plants that you want to propagate, and put supports in place for any of plants that are getting too tall, or for those - like peonies - that produce heavy blooms. Cut back clumps of spring-flowering perennials such as Pulmonaria and Doronicum. Allow the foliage of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs to die down naturally. Apply a liquid fertiliser to spring-flowering bulbs after flowering to encourage good flowering next year. Harden off plants raised from seed and cuttings by leaving them outside for gradually increasing periods of time before planting. Thin out direct sowings of hardy annuals. Prick out indoor sowings when they are large enough to handle without damage.
Spray roses regularly against greenfly and black spot, repeating at fortnightly intervals. Nerine bowdenii can be planted out now in good soil, positioning them at the base of a sunny brick wall or fence. Plant out cannas and dahlias when danger of frost is past. Plant out border chrysanthemums. Hoe between plants to control weeds. Plant out greenhouse raised sweet peas. Plant up hanging baskets but keep them inside until all frost is past.
Plant out shrubs that are tender when young (arbutus, choisya, fuchsia and hydrangea) and keep well watered until established. Cut off dead flower heads and thin out weak shoots of shrubs that have finished flowering. Cut hard back neglected privet to encourage new bushy growth. Trim winter-flowering heathers. Weeping trees and shrubs producing any upright shoots should have these pruned out. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and early clematis such as Montana after flowering.
Work straw around and under strawberry plants to prevent the fruit from getting soiled and protect them from slug damage. Pick off any runners unless you wish to make new plants. Prune bush peach trees. Continue thinning peaches and nectarines in easy stages. Pick off and burn any of the leaves that are showing signs of leaf curl. Give plants a foliar feed. Thin out raspberry canes to about six new ones per plant.
Sow broad beans, french beans, runner beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, endives, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radish, salsify, rocket, scorzonera, spinach, spring onions, swedes, sweet corn, and turnips outside if weather permits. Plant main crop potatoes, greenhouse raised broad beans, runner beans, peas, onions, lettuce and leeks. Plant out celery. Earth up potatoes.
If you are repairing your lawn fill in the bare spots by slightly loosening surface of the soil and sow a good quality lawn seed over the area. Tamp the seed in gently and water. Keep the patch moist by covering with a light mulch of lawn clippings.
Setting your mower for a higher cut will help the grass to grow in fuller and help choke out the weeds. Also by keeping your grass longer it will help if we have a drought.