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April Gardening Calendar

April showers may be inevitable but colour from bulbs in borders and blossom laden trees means spring is truly here. While most perennials still remain dormant you can start sowing seeds outside - just beware of unexpected frosts

Flowers and shrubs

  • Deadhead spring bedding plants - pansies can carry on into early summer if attended to frequently
  • Leave daffodil foliage intact for six weeks to regenerate the bulbs, so they’ll flower beautifully again next year
  • Sow sweet peas at the base of wigwam supports or plant out seedlings sown last autumn in the greenhouse
  • Pinch out fuchsia tips three or four times before early summer to encourage side shoots and stop them getting too leggy - on young plants let two or three pairs of leaves fully expand before pinching out soft shoot tips with a knife or your nail
  • Sow hardy annuals, such as sunflowers, calendula, poppy, love-in-a-mist, larkspur, nasturtium, alyssum and cornflower, straight into flowerbeds
  • Plant out perennials and summer-flowering bulbs in groups of uneven numbers of at least three as clumps look more natural than rows
  • Perennials with new shoots can be propagated this month - take a 8-10cm cutting with a sharp knife and dip the end of the cutting in rooting powder before planting. Water often until the root system develops
  • Prune early-flowering shrubs, such as Berberis, Forsythia and Spiraea, as soon as they’ve finished flowering - remember to wear thick gloves to protect your hands
  • Mulch borders to suppress weeds as they’ll start to grow more vigorously now with the milder weather
  • Protect new shoots from slugs with slug pellets, copper tape or garlic granules

Fruit and vegetables

  • Plant maincrop potatoes, and shallot and onion sets in a sunny site for crops throughout the season. Maincrop potatoes are the best type to grow if you want to store some
  • Plant asparagus beds in a sunny open position with plenty of strawy manure
  • Sow carrots, beetroot, broad beans, Brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, coriander, leeks, lettuce and salad leaves, mange tout, peas, radishes, rocket, salad onions, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips - sow outside or under cloches
  • Protect fruit blossom from late frosts by tenting smaller varieties with plastic sheeting or, for larger trees, covering the top canopy with a bedsheet. Stringing outdoor lights through the tree and keeping them on during low temperatures can also help

In the greenhouse

  • Pot up rooted cuttings and prick out seedlings once the first true leaves are established and before they get too crowded - make sure you hold them by a leaf so as not to damage the delicate stems and then water daily
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on warm days to keep temperatures consistent and make sure there’s not too much condensation and humidity, which can cause mildew and disease

Lawn and trees

  • Lay turf or sow grass seed - delay if the weather is bad and don’t walk over it or mow until it grows to about 7.5cm (3in) high
  • Mow lawns when necessary and add clippings to your compost bin in thin layers so it aerates and doesn’t turn to sludge - try alternating grass with layers of kitchen waste (no meat to avoid rats) and torn up paper egg cartons
  • Apply a high nitrogen lawn fertiliser at the beginning of the month with moss killer if necessary - it’s also the best month to apply lawn weed killer
  • Sow a wildflower meadow in an area of low fertility - it requires less maintenance than a traditional lawn and will encourage wildlife
  • Move trees and shrubs once actively growing (wait until October in warm regions as they may have trouble establishing if conditions get too warm and dry)

General maintenance

  • Use a pressure washer to remove winter grime from paths, patios and terraces that may make them dangerously slippery after lots of rain this month
  • Brush and clean off wooden fences, trellis and posts, then coat with a preservative to protect the timber

Plan ahead

  • Order seeds of fast-growing hardy annuals, such as poached-egg plant, to sow in May and fill any gaps in borders
  • April may be the wettest month of the year, but now is the time to think about water conservation. Buying a water butt will give you a supply of water during the hotter months when there may be a hose pipe ban in place

Little green fingers

  • Kids will love potting up herbs and guessing which is which from the smell. Get them involved in sowing sunflowers and measuring how high they grow over the next few months. They can also sow sweet peas for summer colour and a wonderful fragrance.