April gardening jobs come thick and fast as it is the prime month for getting your plot ready for the rest of the year.
The soil will be warming up and dampened by showers, making it perfect for planting and sowing, and plants are growing well, filling beds, borders and containers with that luscious fresh green that is the calling card of spring.
The most important April gardening jobs include some of the best ways of keeping plants healthy and flowering, as well as preparing your plot for the longer days and plentiful sunshine ahead.
SHOW YOUR POTTED SHRUBS SOME LOVE
Shrubs grown as part of your container gardening ideas will need some extra love now as they return to growth. Whether they are ornamental plants or one of the many fruit bushes that thrive in a confined space, they need some extra goodness to start them off.
Because they only have a finite amount of food in their pots, you need to topdress them – remove the top couple of inches of old compost, add a granular fertilizer, then replenish with fresh compost and water well.
While you do so, check for creamy vine weevil grubs that eat the roots of many container plants. They are often curled into a C-shape and have brown heads and can be killed off with a solution of Vine Weevil Killer, available from Amazon.
Top tip: If you are growing rhododendrons, azaleas or blueberries in pots, make sure you use ericaceous compost and fertilizer.
POT UP SUMMER CUTTINGS
Any softwood or semi-ripe cuttings taken from perennials last autumn should have rooted and grown through winter and will be ready to pot up individually now.
Hardwood cuttings taken from shrubs should be left alone until the coming fall, as they take a lot longer to produce roots than their more flexible cuttings cousins.
Once you’ve learned how to take cuttings from plants, you’ll be able to spot if the cuttings have rooted, or ‘taken’ successfully because they will have grown since they were potted up.
Start the potting-up process by standing the cuttings’ pot or pots in water for around 30 minutes to soak the compost, then gently tap them out. If you have more than one cutting per pot, carefully separate the roots so the young plants can be potted up individually.
Inspect the roots to make sure they are robust and healthy (if they aren’t strong, repot them in cuttings compost, water them in and leave them for a few more weeks) then pot each plantlet in its own 3in (7cm) pot of multipurpose or John Innes No 2 compost.
Set them somewhere light and frost-free for a few more weeks, keeping their compost damp and the plants pest-free. They can be hardened off and planted out to flower this summer.
Top tip: If the cuttings starts to produce flower buds while they are still in the greenhouse, pinch them out so all energy is directed towards growing rather than flowering.
CUT BACK FROST-TENDER PERENNIALS
Now the weather should be getting reliably warmer, you can cut back the more tender perennials you have growing in your garden.
Penstemons and salvias are not a big fan of our grey wet winters, and it is not unusual for both plants to turn up their toes in sodden, freezing soils during the coldest months. One of the best ways to help them survive winter is to leave last year’s stems attached in fall, as they help insulate the crown.
Penstemon shoots appearing at the base of healthy plants now is the signal to remove the old stems. Cut them down to just above the lowest new shoots, then feed with blood, fish and bone or another granular fertilizer and water it in. They should soon start to grow well.
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Article by Ruth Hayes for Gardeningetc.com©