April in the Garden

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

After the last two weeks of snow, the garden here at Erddig is slowly emerging from its blanket of white. Some daffodil flowers are starting to poke through and fresh shoots can be seen where the snow has gone.

We have been extremely busy trying to clear the snow from drives, pathways and car parks, in time for Easter. It was a struggle, but we managed to host nearly 6000 visitors over the weekend.

There have been a tremendous lot of branches brought down, trees, hedges and bushes damaged and our first task is to clear and make the garden and estate safe. So, for the gardeners, there is yet more pruning to do.

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

We are now into pruning our pleached lime avenues. I hope the weather warms up a bit, as it can get cold on the scaffolding and steps we climb. At least the grass is not growing too quickly.

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 4th and 5th

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

When the soil warms 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. Also, 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.