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Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for April 04 April 2024

The lighter evenings have finally arrived and after a wet March and wet start to April, hopefully the better weather will be with us all soon. Once the better weather arrives, the lighter evenings will give us all more time to spend in our flower and vegetable gardens. Happy Gardening!

1. As the weather improves and the soil dries out and gets warmer you can really get started on the Vegetable plot. This month you can make sowings of some of the smaller vegetable seeds like Carrots, Parsnips, Beetroot, Radish, Spring onions, Spinach, lettuce and salad leaves. You can also make further sowings of Peas & Broad Beans.

2. If you are planning to have a bumper harvest of Cucumbers, Courgettes, Marrows, Pumpkins or Squashes this year, then towards the end of the month is an ideal time to sow some under glass in a heated propagator at 21C (70F). I like to sow seeds into individual 9cm pots which are half filled with a good quality seed sowing compost. Once the seeds germinate and reach the top of the pots, I then carefully fill up the rest of the pot around the stems so the plants are sturdier and this will encourage further stem roots to grow. All these vegetables are of the same family so it is important when you sow them, always push the seeds in on their edge, rather than flat. This is so the water runs away from the sides of the seeds. This is important because if the seeds are sown flat, there is always a danger the seeds may get too wet and rot rather than germinate.

3. Once the soil dries out and is workable Early and second early potatoes can be planted, followed by main crop varieties towards end of month. Most Early varieties are ready to harvest in 11-12 weeks from planting as baby new potatoes.

4. Hopefully last autumn you left the old flower heads on your Hydrangeas. This was done to protect the young growth and buds during the cold frosty winter months, which is very important, if there is a winter cold snap. Towards the end of this month, it is the best time to cut off those old flower heads, and prune the plants into shape. I like to prune my Hydrangea down to 3-4 buds, as this helps to keep the plants at a manageable size and still rewards me every year with plenty of new flowers. Don’t be tempted to prune any lower than this otherwise you will get bushy plants but with a few or no flowers. Other plants to prune back at this time of year are the old growth of Penstemons and Hardy Fuchsias. These can be pruned back quite hard, down to about 15cm (6in) from the ground. This will encourage the new young shoots at the base of the plants to grow and replace the old woody growth you are cutting away.

5. If you are longing for a colourful garden this summer but gardening on a budget, then there is nothing easier or better value to grow than Hardy Annuals. There is a wide choice from Calendula, Cornflower ,Nigella, Godetia, Clarkia, larkspur, Poppy to name a few. These can be sown direct into the garden any time from this month up to the first week of June, as soon as the soil is dry and warm enough. These are easy to grow and will reward you with a glorious display this summer from very little time and effort as well as leave a few pounds in your pocket.

6. Towards the middle of this month, I will be sowing the last of my summer bedding in the propagator. This month is the time to sow African and French Marigolds, Cosmos, Phlox, Tagetes and Zinnias. These will quickly germinate and will be ready for pricking out into individual pots or trays in about 7-10 days’ time. If you haven’t got a propagator, you can still sow these flower seeds on a warm windowsill. Although sown later than a lot of summer bedding, they will still be ready for planting out at the end of May along with any other summer bedding plants.

7. If you are planning to grow some Sunflowers this year, either as cut flowers, to add height to borders or just some fun with the Children or grandchildren, then towards the middle of this month is a good time start. Sow the seeds into individual pots of seed sowing compost in the greenhouse or on a warm windowsill.

8. This month Perennials really put on a spurt of growth, so before they get too large, sprinkle some Blood, Fish & Bone fertiliser around the plants and work this into the soil. This will give the plants a boost, rewarding you with a bigger and better display this summer. As the plants grow add some twiggy sticks or a wire frame to support the plants as they grow. Putting these supports in early will allow the plants to grow through them, allowing there leaves to disguise them, still giving your borders that natural look.

9. Over the winter if your lawns have been sitting damp and, in the shade, or if your soil is not very well drained, then you may now have some patches of moss spoiling its appearance. This moss can be raked out (Scarified). You can either do this with a spring tined moss rake and a bit of elbow grease or use an electric Scarifier. Once scarified, mow the lawn again to tidy it up and leave for 1-2 weeks to recover, before applying a summer lawn feed.

10. As Summer and autumn Brassicas sown last month and the large onions sown in December under glass start to get larger, move to a cold frame to gradually harden off ready for planting out as soon as weather conditions improve. Gradually hardening off plants before planting out is always advisable, as this gradually acclimatises the plants to cooler outdoors conditions rather than shocking them, which would happen if planting straight from the glass house.

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