Friday, 17 April 2015

what to do in your garden in April

I've been reading through the various April gardening newsletters reflecting on those things I shall never do. Unwins think I should be planting cucumbers, for example. Somehow I just can't get up the enthusiasm. Pinching out sweet peas. I understand the concept, and yet can never bring myself to pinch out tips, ever. It just seems brutal. Perfect your lawn? My lawn (all 1.4sq m of it) has an important secondary job as the place where two tom cats swap messages, so I have long since given up on perfection. The Raven thinks I should be harvesting wild garlic and ordering my pot collections (don't get excited - she just means sets of plants carefully selected to make a proper wow factor planted container like the ones you see in public gardens, if your container is large enough (it won't be) and if you can provide it with good enough care (you can't)). Gardener's World thinks I should be choosing the right lawnmower (I think the Tescos value shears will run for another year),  and putting collars on my brassicas while trying in my young delphinium growth, suggesting a better world, where the lawns are broad and endless and the slug but a distant memory.

In my small, dark garden, April somehow manages to be dry and wet, cold and baking, pestilent and short of pollinators, all at once. The lovely weather for gardening, similarly, seems prone to evaporating the moment something good comes onto the radio.

Still, the jobs must be done. So, my top six tasks for April:
  1. Dust off the deck-chairs - if you don't have any deck chairs, check your local supermarket. They were briefly in vogue two years ago which means everyone is shifting their backstock this year. If, like me, your deck chair has been in a shed with open access to cats, sniff before you sit! The cloth may need a quick spin in the washing machine.
  2. Plant Tiger Lillies - proceed to your local Poundshop, Wilkinsons, or anywhere else that has a unit of cheap import bulbs and look for Tigridia. Plant them in random pots, so you can guarantee a few colossal surprises this summer:
  3. Mend (or give up on) storm damage - that plant you were hoping would spring back into life? Give up and cut it to the ground. Nobody wants to be looking at dead things in April (you can kid yourself that might stimulate new growth) (it won't). Wires, fences, damaged greenhouses and cracked branches - mend them now, while trampling new seedlings. More will grow.
  4. Try not to kill all your tomatoes - they need to go out into the greenhouse, because it's too dark in the bathroom really. But the greenhouse plummets to near zero at night. Don't go crazy moving stuff around all the time (yes, that will save them, but it will also make you neurotic - leave it to those who can afford undergardeners) be philosophical and plant enough to accommodate losses.
  5. Check the colour balance of your tulips - the first of them should be up, so it's time to check you have enough screaming bright tulips in all the right places in the garden (or delicate pastels, if you like that kind of thing). Next year, when the catalogues come round with tempting pictures of sprawling petals, you'll know what you're missing and what you don't have yet.
  6. First outside cocktail of the year - and not one you have in spite of the weather, but because of it. Sip it while trying to identify all the birdsong you can hear out back. Listen out for Blackcaps, they should be back this month.

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