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Gardener's Diary                April

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 


For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...


I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when I get the secateurs out...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column adds a new dimension to the hobby, and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife




Twelfth edition  - April 2002

Spring is sprung, and doesn`t it just make you feel so good? I do love this island of ours with it`s diversity of seasons. I know many people emigrate to other countries for a warmer climate, and at times I do envy them, but I do love our different seasons, and appreciate what each one has to offer. Even winter has it`s very own charm.. 

Although this winter seemed shorter and milder than those of previous years, we do seem to have had our fair share of wind and rain that has reeked havoc with some gardens. But plants and shrubs are very resilient and with a little pruning and tidying up they will soon look as good as new and be putting on new growth. 

Most probably by now you will have trays of seedlings dotted around the house or greenhouse. It is very important to prick them out as soon as possible to avoid them getting too leggy and overcrowded in their first seed tray.  I am very lazy when it comes to doing this chore if the weather is a bit on the chilly side, but on a warm sunny day it is a pleasurable task.. Don`t be caught out by night frosts at this time of year as they can wipe out all your hard work in a matter of minutes. If you have tender plants in the greenhouse make sure there is heat at night, or failing that, cover plants with horticultural fleece or even old newspapers, anything to keep the frost off..


A late inclusion for this month: 


International flower artist arranges 1,842 for charity



This month, as well as jobs for the month, I will be telling you a bit about lawn care, and another very important subject, safety in the garden.



Jobs for the month - April


House plants

Increase watering and feed plants more frequently. You can still repot plants that have become root bound. Choose a warm, sunny day to stand larger specimens outside and give them a wash with the hose pipe on `fine spray`and let them dry before bringing them back inside. This is a job that can also be done in the summer on a rainy day. 




April and May are good months for sowing or laying new lawns and I have covered this, and lawn care in general, a little more extensively on a separate page.  Give established lawns their first feed of the year.


Shrub borders and roses

Plant out dahlia tubers and sow hardy annuals where they are to flower. This is the time of year when I sow much of the seed I have previously collected from flowers such as miniature sunflowers and cornflowers. The flower borders will appreciate a mulching this month, which will help conserve moisture and stop weeds from growing. If you are using grass cuttings as a mulch, take care not to use the first three mowings after applying lawn feed as per the manufacturer`s instructions. 

Paths, walls and fencing

There is still time to do any necessary repairs before plant growth really gets going. Use a weedkiller such as Pathclear to kill grass and weeds on concrete areas for a whole season. Examine the supports for climbing plants and replace if necessary. Pressure clean paths or other ground areas that have become slippery with moss and algae. (Read instructions carefully on weedkiller packets if you have pets)



Increase the amount of water given to plants but keep some gentle heat on in the greenhouse during the nights as frosts will still quickly kill your new seedlings, or you can cover them with horticultural fleece.. I sometimes plant up hanging baskets this month with smaller plants but make sure to keep them frost free and watered, then by the end of May they can go outside looking really established..



The soil should be warmer and dryer now, so you can continue to sow your favourite crops. Take care not to sow the seed too thickly, poor a little of the seed into your hand and scatter it thinly along the drill you have drawn. It is great to grow your own vegetables and fruit, then you know it is free of pesticides.  


This is the month when the fruit grower finds there is plenty of crop spraying to do to ensure a healthy crop and  prevent pests and disease. Keep a close watch on developing fruits and treat accordingly. Take care still with late frosts and cover small trees and bushes with horticultural fleece. Refer to the appropriate section of your gardening book for fruit pest and disease control.  

Trees and shrubs

Trees and shrubs will appreciate a good mulching this month to conserve water, stop weeds growing and add goodness to the soil. Look for any signs of disease or pests and spray accordingly. If there has been any late wind damage, tidy the branches so there are no ragged edges that will let the damp and disease penetrate. If you need to remove any branches of trees, there is a preparation you can buy that seals the newly sawn wood. 

Water gardens  

If you are `spring cleaning` your pond, be sure to put your fish in a large container where they can swim around quite happily until being returned to their pond, making sure that cats cannot get to them. Once you have cleaned out and re-filled the pond, allow the water to stand for a day or two to avoid any temperature changes before returning the fish. If you are re-lining a concrete pond take care to use the correct sealant afterwards, and give it ample time to dry.  Be ruthless and thin out aquatic plants. They will soon grow and fill the pond  



In April the birds are still breeding and so are most of the mammals that use our gardens. Parent birds are so busy feeding their young this month that they need concentrated body-building foods themselves such as the suet fat balls that we see in the shops especially for the birds.


Some web sites of interest to gardeners:    



For the expert:-


Alan Titchmarsh MBE, TV gardener, writer, broadcaster and thoroughly nice person. Just a few choice words to describe the peoples` favourite TV gardener. See his website....



For ideas:-


Thompson and Morgan: a growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.



For inspiration:-


Gardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people.



For vision:-


Visit the Eden Project 


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival


And some reading material:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced 5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is 6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

RHS Garden Finder is 12.99 from Dorling Kindersley


Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary




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