April gardening tips
The nesting season is now well under way and adult birds are getting more daring in their quest for insects, grubs and berries to feed their fledglings.
Encouraging wildlife in your garden
Red-fruited pyracanthas, if not stripped of berries already, are particularly popular with blackbirds, while the white berries of the snowberry often attract robins and finches. As well as providing food, thick and thorny shrubs like these shelter young birds from predators.
It's a good idea to keep feeders well stocked for seed eaters such as finches and other farmland birds, which sometimes venture into gardens at this time of year in search of extra food.
You may be tempted to get out and start tidying up after the winter. However, if you can leave some areas undisturbed, it helps wildlife. Birds may be nesting in hedges and shrubs, so it would be good now to wait until after the nesting season to trim them.
Perfect plants for April
It’s a good time to concentrate on improving the organic content and structure of the soil around established trees, shrubs and perennials by spreading mulch. Mulch can take many forms - shredded bark and cocoa shells are readily available, or you could use homemade compost.
If you leave the foliage on daffodils and tulips for a couple of months after flowering to die back, rather than cutting them back, nutrients can be fed back into the bulbs. Regular dead-heading also helps keep nutrients in the bulb.
Spring-flowering plants bring valuable early nectar for insects. Ornamental cherry trees, yellow forsythia and red flowering currant will already be a blaze of colour in the south, although still dormant in colder areas. Some of our native plants, such as blackthorn and wild cherry start flowering this month.
The evergreen Ceanothus 'Trewithen Blue' originates from California, but finds southern England well to its liking. It can grow up to 6 m or more against a sunny sheltered wall, and tolerates most soils. A little more hardy are Ceanothus Blue Mound and the deciduous, later-flowering, Autumnal Blue.
For colder or shady areas, a more suitable hardy early-flowering evergreen is Mahonia aquifolium, which produces blue-black berries in the summer.
Jobs for the month
- Plant evergreen hedges (holly, yew etc)
- Sow hardy annuals
- Finish planting shrubs, trees and hedges, watering them in well
- Prune roses. You can shorten them by at least a half, cutting back just above an outward-facing bud
- Feed and mulch beds and borders
- Plant herbaceous plants
- Plant summer bulbs
- Sow tender vegetables such as tomatoes and runner beans on a window ledge indoors
- Buy young vegetable plants in a nursery such as lettuce and cabbage for planting out
- Introduce water plants into the pond
- In warmer areas, start growing vegetables outdoors from seed
- Mow the lawn on a high cut.