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Jobs For April

Here's a few ideas of what you could be doing this month...


Top Tip - Prep your lawn

Prepare ground for starting new lawns from seed. Start by raking soil level and remove stones. Broadcast seed and rake gently into the surface. Water and cover with netting to protect from birds.

Give established lawns a pick-me-up. Remove thatch (a build up of dead grass) by going over it with a lawn rake and then apply a spring lawn feed to boost growth. Redefine untidy edges with a half moon tool and a piece of timber as a cutting guide. Aim to leave a vertical edge, 7.5cm deep.


Bulbs

• Dead head daffodils as flowers fade to prevent bulbs putting energy into producing seeds. Leave the foliage until it turns brown.
• Plant alstroemeria, lilies, eucomis, gladioli and other summer flowering bulbs.

Beds and borders

• If you have a bare patch that you need to fill fast, try sowing seeds of hardy annuals. Cerinthe, scrambled egg plant, quaking grass, Californian poppy and love-in-a-mist can all be sown directly into well prepared soil - in a few weeks time you’ll have a splash of colour that will last until Autumn.
• Keep an eye out for red lily beetles. These pests may look pretty, but they will chomp their way through flowers, leaves and buds of lilies and fritillaries. The adults are shiny scarlet, while their larvae are covered in a black, jelly-like substance. Check plants regularly and if you find any, squash them under foot.
• Rejuvenate congested clumps of herbaceous perennials. Prise from the ground with a fork and split into several smaller pieces - you may be able to do this by hand, but use a spade if the roots are tough. Replant and water well.
• Mulch beds and borders with garden compost, leafmould, composted bark or other materials to lock in moisture and prevent weeds from growing.

Plants in pots

• Keep pansies, violas, daisies and other spring bedding plants going for longer by pinching off flowers as they fade.
• Protect plants from root munching vine weevil grubs by drenching compost with Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer, a biological control containing nematodes (microscopic worms).
• Pinch out the growing tips of bedding plants with your thumb and forefinger to encourage bushier plants.

Plants undercover

• Inspect plants indoors for pests. Greenfly, white fly, mealy bug and red spider mite can spread quickly, so control by hand or introduce a biological pest control to prevent the problem getting out of hand.
• Remove sheets of bubble wrap or any other material used to insulate the inside of greenhouses. Hard frosts are now unlikely, so allow the maximum amount of light to penetrate the structure to ensure strong, even growth of plants.
• Many window sills and greenhouse benches will be heaving with containers full of developing seedlings. To prevent seedlings from becoming weak and leggy, give them their own pot when the first set of real leaves appears above the rounded seed leaves.
• Sunny weather can cause extreme temperatures inside greenhouses so turn down the heat by painting the outside with a whitewash, such as Coolglass. Alternatively, fix shade netting to the inside with clips. Leave in place until autumn.
• Stop watering indoor cyclamen when the flowers and leaves start to wither. Keep the tubers dry until mid-summer, when they should be repotted.

Trees and shrubs

• Check tree ties and loosen if necessary to prevent them from biting into the bark as the stem expands outwards..
• Give shrubs a quick boost by scattering a general fertiliser over the soil - Growmore granules or chicken manure pellets are both ideal.
• Remove pure green branches from variegated shrubs, such as elaegnus, privet and euonymus – cut them right back to the main stem with secateurs.
• Frost damage on tender shrubs looks unsightly, so prune back any damaged shoots to healthy growth. If you have an exposed garden, or live in cold area, wait until next month when all danger of frost has past.
• Keep azaleas and rhododendrons looking good by pinching off fading flower heads above a new set of leaves.
• Regularly water newly planted trees and shrubs, especially during periods of hot, dry weather.
• Keep forsythia shrubs within bounds and ensure a great display next year, by pruning shrubs when the flowers start to fade. Cut back a third of old stems to just above the ground.
• Get roses off to a flying start by sprinkling a general-purpose or specialist rose fertiliser around plants, followed by mulching with well-rotted farmyard manure - spread a 5cm layer over the soil, ensuring there’s a gap between the material and stems of the plant.

In the kitchen garden

• Sow chilli peppers undercover in 7.5cm pots filled with seed compost. Beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflowers and sprouting broccoli can be sown outside. Ensure that the soil has been dug over to leave a fine finish that resembles bread crumbs, and is free of weeds and large stones.
• Dispatch black fly and other sap sucking bugs in the vegetable garden with a pest control spray.
• Plant well-rooted strawberry runners in growing bags, pots or in a sunny spot outdoors. Be prepared to protect the flowers with fleece at night if frost is forecast.
• Protect newly planted carrots from carrot root fly by surrounding crops with a 42cm high fine mesh barrier or by covering with fleece.

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