April 2014 In The Garden

Glynn SmithBy Glyn Smith Head Gardener at Erddig Hall National Trust Garden

We are approaching the end of Daffodil flowering. It has been much earlier than last year. Perhaps it is a sign of a good summer to come. Many other spring flowers have been performing well too.

We, of course, have been busy pruning, but the grass has been growing too.

During April we see our ‘Snakes Head’ fritillaries flowering, alongside more daffodils and narcissi.

We are now well into pruning our pleached lime avenues. I hope the weather stays warm, as it can get cold on the scaffolding and steps we climb.

Our greenhouses are filling up rapidly, not only with our summer bedding plants, but also plants one of our garden volunteers, Selwyn, is raising for a plant stall here on May 3rd and 4th

Now is the time to prune any winter and early spring shrubs that are finishing flowering, or any evergreen shrubs and hedging.

As the soil is warming up it will be o.k. to sow hardy annual seeds straight outdoors into the borders. Children love to help in the garden and easy hardy annuals will give you and them a lot of pleasure when they flower. Poppies and other wild flowers will also be popular this year to commemorate the start of the First World War Centenary. Grass seed will germinate readily too, so patch up any worn or dead places by giving them a really good raking, sow a little grass seed on the prepared spots, brush it in lightly and top off with a little fresh soil or compost.

Lawns will also benefit from a dressing of spring and summer fertiliser. Be especially careful though to follow the instructions on the packet, as many accidents of scorched and burnt grass happen if it is not washed into the soil.

It is also a great time to plant shrubs and herbaceous plants, but do make sure you water them regularly, as the container compost can dry out quickly before the plants establish.

Be careful to protect those young bedding plants from frosts. Later on, if they are large enough to come out of the greenhouse, harden them off in a cold frame. Close it at night and even give a little extra protection by covering them with horticultural fleece or newspaper.

In the vegetable garden keep sowing small amounts of salad crops for a long succession in about three month’s time, it takes 11 weeks to grow a lettuce. Sow a tub, or patch, of mixed salad seedlings to give a quick catch crop. It is also time to plant Potatoes and sow onions. It’s still not too late to sow tomato seeds, or buy plants, the little tumbling toms are great for children to grow. Why not add a Rhubarb plant too.

Hopefully, we will now have a good summer. With the dry weather we need to save using as much water as we can and garden wisely. Here are my tips. Can you install a water butt for when it next rains? Can you mulch beds and borders? Do you have large tubs and planters instead of small ones that can dry out more quickly? Do you incorporate water retention granules into hanging baskets and containers? Can you save washing up and bath water to water essential plants? Can you fill every inch of visible soil to shade it and slow moisture loss? Finally, Plant some lilies, they don’t need much watering and will still flower well.