The spring bulbs are putting on a beautiful show, along with flowering cherries. Other fruit trees will be in flower soon too. Its lovely to see them in flower and to get some ideas of what you might like to plant to enjoy next spring.
But with everything starting into growth, the weeds will start growing furiously now too. If you can start pulling the tops and digging out the roots of pernicious weeds like ground elder, bindweed and horsetail now, your hard work will pay off later in the year. You won’t be rid of it all, but if you keep at them regularly, you will significantly reduce the vigour and stop them taking over your beds and setting seed later in the year.
Its still a good time to plant, especially if you are on clay soil: the soil has started heating up but the weather is not too hot to dry out any new planting. Anything slightly tender, grasses, and Mediterranean plants such as lavenders are better planting now when they are starting into new growth.
Its tempting to buy summer bedding plants, herb plants and small veg plants and get them straight out in the garden, but they should be hardened off first. Put them outside during the day, and then bring them in late afternoon for about a week or so, to give them a chance to acclimatise before you plant them outside.
Also keep an eye on the weather forecast. We had a week of late frosts last April and you might need to cover them up with fleece or even bring them inside again if a frost is forecast, especially with pelargoniums, tomatoes or aubergines.
Later in April, you can plant out your sweetpeas on supports too. They are scramblers and prefer to have a bit of netting or string to cling onto if you are using canes. Pea sticks taken from your own garden prunings, or foraged birch twigs tend to work better, as they have lots of little side shoots for the tendrils to grasp.
Any hardy spring flowering bulbs such as hyacinths, that have been forced in pots, perhaps as Christmas presents, can be planted out into the garden after they have finished flowering.
You can seed new lawns now and you could also sow a wildflower meadow. Wildflowers tend to flourish best on poor soils, so don’t add fertilizer or compost when you are preparing the bed. Some gardeners even strip off the topsoil first to reduce the fertility before planting. If it is too fertile, grasses and weeds will tend to outcompete the wildflowers.
Lavenders favour free draining soil and an open position to really thrive and not get leggy. You can always dig in some grit in the planting hole if your soil is heavy. Also you should give them a trim now as they come into growth to keep the plants compact. You can still trim any evergreen grasses to a neat mound now too, if you haven’t already done that in March, along with pruning back the old flowered shoots of hydrangeas.
Fruit trees in the prunus family – plums, cherries, peach, apricot – should be pruned from late April onwards, when the flowers have finished and the leaves are starting to show. This is to avoid silverleaf disease.
As well as seeding lawns, you can also start feeding and treating them now, with fertilizer and moss/weed killer. Maintenance jobs such as scarifying and aerating can be done before topdressing and overseeding a tired looking lawn. You can use a specially formulated Pro Grow lawn conditioner to brush onto the existing turf, or more traditional lawn dressing which is a mixture of topsoil and sand, before overseeding. You can also treat patches with a patch repair mix which is a combination of seed and specially forumulated compost.
Soft fruit plants such as currants and raspberries, can benefit from a mulch of composted farmyard manure or mushroom compost now. If the soil is dry, remember to give them a good water before you put the mulch down.