April 2013 >>>
If March is considered by many as part of winter, April is definitely spring - The change to the clocks are triggers for ordinary gardeners to get sowing and preparing for a summer of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Warmer sun will encourage weeds to grow and trees and shrubs to burst into growth. You can encourage the good growth with suitable feeding and kill off the weeds easily while the plants are small.
As the soil starts to warm up so shrubs and bulbs start to put on leaf growth and the inevitable weed seeds start to germinate. Because most weeds are native to the UK and very hardy you can expect to see soil quickly covered with seedlings. Unfortunately at this time of the year hoeing is not an effective weeding tool because the soil remains moist and instead of killing off the weeds, the hoe just moves them around.
Effective hand weeding is hard work and tedious. But it doesn't have to be the only solution. Now you can weed all round the garden the easy, quick way without hoeing, digging or back-breaking bending. Systemic weedkillers such as Roundup Pump 'N Go and Weedol Gun! Rootkill Plus are the answers to your prayers. Just wet the weed leaves and watch them start to die within days. Use between growing plants like roses, ornamental shrubs and flowers - along fences - around trees, sheds and greenhouses. Use on weedy soil a day before sowing seeds or planting seedlings or shrubs, but always take care to avoid spray drift onto the green plants that you want to keep.
If the weeds are growing close to wanted plants such as in amongst strawberries and it's difficult to avoid spraying the wanted plant it is worth trying Roundup Gel. It is easy to dab just weed leaves without touching the foliage of your precious plant and you know that in just a few weeks the roots of the weed will be completely destroyed.
Your garden centre will have on sale pots of young seedlings of tender bedding plants such as geranium, salvia and petunias. Or you can buy small plugs of rooted cuttings that can be grown until the plants are big enough to plant out into garden beds or patio pots. As soon as you get these small plants home they should be given extra room so that roots and stems have space to grow. Prick out the seedlings into trays of a quality potting compost such as Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Compost or if you prefer to use a peat-free product, choose Miracle-Gro Expand 'n Gro which uses specially treated coconut fibre as the growing medium. Both of these composts contain slow release nutrients that will give background feeding to plants for up to six months and promise to grow plants twice as big as ordinary multi-purpose compost.
Roses should be putting on good strong growth and leaves will be unfurling. If your rose plants were infected with blackspot disease last year then start spraying as soon as the new leaves have opened - if your plants were clean last year it is safe to start spraying as soon as you see the first signs of disease. Spray with a product that contains a systemic fungicide such as FungusClear 2 Gun! or RoseClear Ultra Gun! and repeat treatment as directed on the label. This will help control any overwintering disease spores that have entered the new foliage and help to keep the plants clean.
Sow sweet peas and hardy annuals where they are to flower. The easy way to sow up to 29 different annual flowers is with new Flower Magic from Miracle-Gro. Prepare the soil and simply sprinkle on the mixture of seeds, coir compost and long-lasting feed. Water in and then just watch the colour of the compost - when it turns pale the soil needs more water.
Although you will find it difficult to find traditional busy lizzies (Impatiens walleriana) as small cuttings in nurseries and garden centres this spring there are plenty of New Guinea types that will supply a very similar display without the disease problems. Many Garden Centres will be growing new bi-coloured flowers of Radiance Pink and Radiance Scarlet and Thompson & Morgan will be selling mail order Sunpatiens a new hybrid cross between the traditional busy lizzie and New Guinea types that could be disease tolerant. It produces a plant of superior qualities: quicker to establish, stronger root system, thicker petals and much larger flowers than normal Impatiens. Just one plant covers an area 3 feet square!
Other newish flowers for hanging baskets and patio pots include small flowered petunias correctly entitled Calibrachoa. The new Can Can series of Calibrachoa comes in Orange Star: Appleblossom, Bright Red and Sunrise. New tumbling pansies from the Cool Wave series now include Frost (a pale blue); Purple and Golden Yellow.
All these rooted cuttings need to be potted into a slightly larger pot using a good potting compost such as Moisture Control Compost or Expand 'n Gro. Kept in a warm, light spot they will be ready for planting out when frosts have finished during May.
Weedy paths and drives are unsightly. But you can get rid of the weed leaves, the weed roots and prevent re-invasion of seedlings for up to 3 months with one application of Pathclear LC. The product contains a systemic weedkiller to kill off all manner of existing weeds down to the root and a residual weedkiller that stops new weeds from emerging for up to 3 months. For large areas of gravel paths and drives or waste ground that is not needed for this season's growing, simply mix Pathclear Weedkiller LC in water in a watering can and apply to the whole area. Just apply on a dry day through a watering can or your own pressure sprayer when rain is not expected. Lack of rain will give the weedkillers a few hours to enter through the weed leaves and move throughout the plant to gradually kill off the roots for good. Expect to see visible results within 2 weeks or so. For smaller areas or spot treatment use the ready-to-use Pathclear Gun! Weedkiller Plus Preventer.
Patio areas usually make great positions for sun-loving fruit and vegetables as well as decorative flowers and shrubs. Figs, peaches, apricots and cherries can now be found that are suitable for patio containers. And some varieties of vegetables have been bred with smaller crops that are both decorative and productive on a sunny patio. For example, Suttons pumpkin seed Windsor produces a compact plant that will carry small but delicious fruits when grown in a pot. Or try courgette Patio Star or tomato Tumbler. Other examples include sweet pepper Redskin or Mini Bell, peas Bingo and tomatoes Balconi, Sweet 'n Neat and Lizzano.
Mowing now becomes a weekly ritual as grass starts into its maximum growth spurt as soil temperatures rise and sunshine increases. A quick whiz with a sharp and well-adjusted mower only takes a few minutes if you do the job every week. Mowing as often as you are able will encourage the fine grasses and allow the grass enough energy to thicken up.
The trick is not to cut the lawn too short. This is not easy if you have a hover mower, but others do have a height adjustment that will allow you to leave the grass around 3cm (1") long for spring. A lawn cut much shorter than this allows the easy establishment of broad-leaved weeds such as dandelion and daisies.
Some people are devoted to their lawn, providing love and devotion beyond mowing. They regularly dig out weeds, water regularly and top dress to ensure a level surface that is perfection personified.
Most of us ordinary gardeners are very happy with a decent looking lawn for family and friends that demands as little work as possible. We appreciate that there are some simply-applied lawn treatments available that give us a great looking lawn with minimum effort.
To get the lawn looking great, apply a multi-purpose lawn treatment that saves time and does three jobs at once. One simple application of EverGreen Complete will control any moss that has developed over winter, kill the broad-leaved weeds that are ready to invade your space and feed the grass so that it becomes thick and green for several weeks. Apply the treatment 2-3 days after mowing and leave a similar time after application before mowing again. If no rain occurs within 2 days of application then water in.
With the soil warming up and the promise of regular showers, April is a great time to sow new areas of lawn. Level and firm the surface after removing weed roots and large stones. Then sow a quality grass seed such as Miracle-Gro All Purpose Grass Seed. This contains a mixture of dwarf perennial rye grass and fine fescues to give a good-looking finish that is hard wearing too. Best of all this grass seed mix is enriched with Miracle-Gro Plant Food to give you a thicker, greener lawn in days. In optimal conditions you can expect to see visible results in just 5 days.
Trim around the edge of the lawn with shears to provide a tidy look to the lawn and to remove the shady places where slugs are usually hiding during the day.
It's time to sow seeds of tender vegetables such as aubergines, sweet peppers, chillies, tomatoes and cucumbers on the windowsill so that you have good-sized plants ready to plant out in the garden for mid-May.
Look to using new varieties that promise extra vigour and stronger growth. Tomato Losseto (T&M) for example is an F1 tumbling variety for baskets that grows plenty of cherry-sized fruits and, best of all, promises resistance to blight disease. Tomato Sweet Aperitif (Johnsons) is a multi-branching F1 cordon variety that grows red, bite-sized tomatoes that are sweet and refreshing. Most of us use chillies in the kitchen as a 'little and often ingredient', so it's best to grow a compact variety that also looks attractive on the window sill. Chilli 'Basket of Fire' is a hot one and will produce up to 200 powerful peppers in red, orange and purple from one plant and crops well into the autumn. For a medium hotness try 'Apache' or Padron, also known as the Tapas Chilli.
Use a top quality compost such as Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Seed & Cutting Compost for maximum germination of these and any other vegetable seeds and place the pots or trays in a warm, light spot so that growth is sturdy.
Out in the garden it's time to sow seeds of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips and leeks. Sow seeds thinly so there is space between each developing plant. This is particularly important for crops such as carrots and parsnips that will remain in the same spot until they are harvested and which attract carrot fly if you have to thin them out because you have been too liberal when shaking the seed packet. For best results with root crops prepare the soil well and remove as many stones as practical.
Vegetable seedlings that are going to be transplanted to give them more room to expand are best sown in short rows in a seed bed that has been improved with plenty of well-rotted garden compost or bags of Levington Soil Conditioner. When sown thinly they will soon make small plants that can be transplanted to their final cropping place where space can be allowed for unrestricted growth. Root vegetables grow best in a sandy loam that has had large stones removed. If you are not naturally blessed with such soil you can create a small raised bed filled with sieved soil mixed with Multi-Purpose compost and sand. A depth of 20cm (8") of improved soil will provide a good crop of carrots and parsnips. Alternatively grow them in a Miracle-Gro Gro-Sac placed on a patio - you don't even need a garden.
All seedlings are vulnerable to slug attack, so if you see damage to your plants, apply a light sprinkling of SlugClear Ultra pellets to protect your investment.
Use plant protection products safely. Always read the
label and product information before use.
EverGreen® Complete contains MCPA, mecoprop-P and ferrous sulphate. FungusClear™ 2 Gun!™ contains myclobutanil. Pathclear® Gun!™ Weedkiller Plus Preventer and Pathclear® Weedkiller LC contain glyphosate and diflufenican. RoseClear® Ultra Gun!™ contains triticonazole and acetamiprid. Roundup Pump 'n Go and Roundup Gel contain glyphosate. SlugClear Ultra contains metaldehyde. Weedol® Gun!™ Rootkill Plus contains glyphosate and pyraflufen ethyl.
Products marked ®, ™ and Miracle-Gro, EverGreen, and Flower Magic are Trade Marks of The Scotts Company or its affiliates. Roundup is the registered trade mark of Monsanto Technology LLC.
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