This week 6 April 2006

  • April is an excellent gardening month. The autumn rains have come, the sun has lost some of its intensity but the soils are still warm. Planting now gives plants a chance to settle in and establish some root growth before the cold of winter slows everything down. So you can rip into replanting messy borders or beds now if you want to.
  • All of the above is why it is a good time to plant new hedges now. If you have untidy existing hedges, do not delay pruning them any longer. The plants will respond by putting on a little (but not too much) fresh growth before they stop growing for winter. Be very cautious about cutting back in to bare wood unless you have already checked that your hedge is of a type which will sprout again from bare wood – buxus (box), camellia and totara are examples of these. Most conifers will just leave you with ugly bare bits.
  • Some autumn leaf drop is starting already. Too many leaves can smother plants below or get slippery on sealed areas. But allowing the leaves to rot down adds humus and health to your garden and is a natural process. Often all that is required is to rake fallen leaves back in to the base of the tree or to disperse them under other plants. Or you can compost them. But a scorched earth garden where all natural leaf litter is removed is not a healthy garden.
  • Autumn conditions bring a fresh flush of weeds. Be vigilant on these. Leaving fallen leaves will significantly repress these freshly germinating weeds.
  • April heralds clean-up time in the vegetable garden. Remove spent crops such as corn, potatoes and beans. Continue with sowing seed for winter and spring vegetables – brassicas, onions, spinach, lettuce etc. It is getting late for leeks so it is probably better to use plants rather than seed if you still want a crop.
  • If you are not intending to replant areas of your vegetable garden immediately, sow a green crop to be dug in when spring comes. Oats, mustard, lupins or ryegrass are the usual green crops. Continued use of soil to take a harvest depletes the goodness and to manage a good vegetable garden, it is necessary to feed the soil continually with compost and green crops.