Garden cuttings: Toby Buckland’s gardening advice for April
PUBLISHED: 14:06 31 March 2015
Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice
Hello! It’s the freshness of the spring greens and the seemingly endless succession of flowers that makes April so special. Daffodils lead the charge but every day, something new joins the profusion from the first of the tulips to the flame-shaped blooms of the magnolias that point up from the bare branches like torches on a candelabra. Even the spent petals of camellias look lovely, covering the soil beneath like colourful confetti.
It’s not just in gardens that are building up to their best. I love walks in the countryside where the hedgerows billow with the lime-green umbels of alexanders and the unfurling white lace of cow parsley.
As well as offering plenty to look at, there are also lots of worthwhile gardening jobs to do. If you can make time to sow seeds and blitz the weeds now, your garden will not only be more colourful this summer it’ll also need a lot less looking after. Happy gardening!
What to do now
Put slug traps laced with beer amongst vulnerable flowers and veg. I use small lager bottles or a margarine tub with a hole cut out the side and an inch or so of beer inside, buried up to their shoulders in the soil. Slugs love beer even more than lettuce and happily scale the slippery sides and fall in to the drink. Beneficial insects like slug-hunting beetles though can’t climb up the glass/plastic.
Sow seeds. Always use fresh potting compost and moisten before sowing seeds on the top. Don’t be tempted to sow a whole packet as if seedlings grow in cramped conditions they become as drawn and leggy as cress and don’t recover to make good plants.
As a rule of thumb the larger the seed the deeper it likes to buried so with dust-like nicotiana and begonia leave on the surface as light helps the sprout. One more tip…use a hand mister to keep the surface of the compost moist – if you use a can it’s all too easy to slosh the seeds out of their pots.
If you blitz the weeds and cover the soil with a generous mulch of compost they won’t come back for the rest of the summer. Bark looks smart and lasts for a long time in the border while on the veg plot a few sheets of newspaper or cardboard laid on the soil and covered with compost is a good solutions as it’s easy to plant through. Green-waste compost from the council, leaf-mould or manure are all good too but pile them at least two inches deep to make a light excluding barrier.
Prune congested winter-flowering shrubs like viburnum by thinning out a fifth of the oldest branches, cutting as close to the soil as possible.
Plant of the month
My mum used to tie knots in the leaves of her daffodils in the misguided hope that it would help the bulbs bulk up for next year. It did exactly the opposite and it’s far better to let the foliage to die down in its own time as nature intended. If the foliage is looking scrappy you can give it the chop but wait at least six weeks after the last bloom fades – tie a knot in a hanky or make a note in the diary to remind you when to do it.
After a few years daffodils bulbs can become overcrowded and shy to flower. If this happens, dig up the clumps with leaves attached and gently tear apart into clusters off four or five bulbs and replant where you want them. If this seems like too much work or you simply want to improve the show for next year sprinkle a pinch of bonemeal around their bases to give the roots a boost.