April in the Garden

By Glyn Smith Head Gardener at Erdigg Hall National Trust Garden

In the garden here at Erddig, the daffodils and other spring bulbs are making a gay show. Our spring bedding, of pansies and tulips is starting to flower too, as are naturalised Fritillaria meleagris, the snakes head fritillary.

We are now well into pruning our pleached lime avenues. The weather has been nice and warm and very dry. 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 5th.

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 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 mowing them more frequently and 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 early morning frosts. 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 months 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.

With all this dry weather and hosepipe bans 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 retension 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 any watering and will still flower well.

Date for your diaries. Gardeners Q&A evening in aid of Nightingale House Hospice. At Bellis’s Farm Shop & Garden Centre Thursday 19th April.