Time to take care of the lawn
April is one of those in-between months. Leaves and blossom are springing out all over the place but the frost at night could wipe out big sections of your garden.
The recent frosts have taken out my magnolia flowers and several herbaceous crops as well as causing damage to plenty of Portuguese laurel and Griselinia hedging. It's too early to put out bedding which would be fleeced at night and any seedlings would be just too vulnerable still. So what do you do in the garden in April?
Some people say it's best to cut lavender back in autumn, but April is a better option. If you prune in autumn, all the new cuts you make will be exposed and open to infection through winter, but prune now and the plant can start growing quickly. Just turn a blind eye to the dead stems during the winter months. Lavenders are notorious for getting woody or straggly and leggy and the best way to avoid that is to give them a really hard prune. Don’t be shy now - use the lowest little bud on each stem that's about to sprout and cut just above it.
Then its time to turn your attention to the lawns. Now is the best time to do that to get a great lawn for the summer to come and keep it that way all year round. Scarify lawns with a rake to remove old thatch and moss from the winter which starve the lawn of light and air. Moderate pressure is required and rake repeatedly to lift out the moss or thatch and remove to the compost heap.
After a spell of dry weather, you should get the lawnmower out and cut your grass for the first time this year. Cut grass with the lawn mower blades set high for the first few times, then use a good lawn feed to help your lawn look its best. Changing direction for the second and progressive runs is beneficial – don’t go at right angles as this causes too much damage. You’ll remove more each time and complete the job sooner.
Continue to tidy lawn edges using a half-moon edging iron. Add lawn grass seed. If damage is patchy then a light sprinkling into those areas may be all that is needed. However, if you’ve done a thorough de-mossing or de-thatching then get some grass seed into the whole lawn. If you’re going to be using iron sulphate or an iron fertiliser and over seeding, put the seed in at least a couple of days afterwards. Other fertilisers should be applied within a few weeks of seeding. What you then need is gentle rain - we can’t control this unfortunately so a little rain dance might just do the trick.
If you haven’t cut your grass yet this year you can begin cutting dry grass with a high cut. From this month , aim to mow at least once every two weeks. In May and June you should mow your lawn frequently, but with a lower cut. Aim for once a week and your lawn should be prepared to become the backdrop for your beautiful garden.
April is also the time to plant perennials for your herbaceous borders or to fill gaps with colour, from lupins, delphiniums, agapanthus to ground covers like geraniums and the on-trend ferns. I am starting the final stages of my own garden which seems to have been going on for ever as the increase in demand for trees, plants and garden over the last year has shifted my attention from my own garden to yours, but I am starting my planting this coming week and my feature tree is taking pride of place and will be planted first. I am then planting my hydrangea hedge.
My plant bugbear
This brings me to my current bugbear, and that is how plants should look in April.
This month, lots of plants are only just starting to show signs, some of the trees are in full blossom while others are still as dormant as they were in January. Herbaceous plants also grow at differing stages and while my roses are growing nicely and have plenty of foliage, the hydrangea is still barely surfacing and this is as it should be. Hydrangeas don’t leaf until late but certainly shouldn’t flower until July.
I am having a huge problem with customers sending plants back or complaining that I shouldn't send plants out that aren’t in flower – but they shoulnd’t be in flower in April. If you see a hydrangea or a salvia, delphinium or the like in flower now, it hasn’t been grown in Ireland but in a glass house, probably in Kenya or somewhere equally far away and is too soft to be planted in April weather.
The plants on my nursery are grown in Kildare and look as they should in Ireland at this time of year. This way, come May, June and July, they will flower in your gardens as they should, when they should.
A lavender plant that is looking small is so because we have cut them back, hard, as we should, so they flower better for you in your garden.
So plant away your perennials and around them you can direct sow your annuals, like nigella and cosmos. Sow your dahlias in plug trays so that they are stronger for the summer and autumn months.