APRIL IN THE GARDEN
April is the heart or middle of the autumn season. The weather starts to cool significantly and the cool season plants begin to flourish. This is possibly the most important time in the annual gardening calendar. Many crops need to be harvested, seeds collected and new plantings and sowings made for the forthcoming winter and spring season. One growing cycle comes to an end, whilst the next one commences almost simultaneously. Ignore this important planting season at your peril. Autumns’ hard work pays handsome dividends in making the next spring more beautiful than ever.
- Autumn planting starts in earnest this month. Many flower seedlings will become available for planting during April including alyssum, Iceland poppies, pansies, violas, primulas, petunias, dianthus and calendulas. In warmer regions wait until May before planting out most of these flower seedlings.
- Continue planting flower seeds in situ. There’s still time to sow sweet peas, African daisies, Livingstone daisies and Virginian stocks amongst many others.
- Plant out ornamental kale seedlings for a spectacular winter show.
- Dead head plants that are still performing well.
- Pinch out early flower buds on young flower seedlings to encourage plant growth.
- Start preparing for spring flowers like delphiniums and foxgloves that are best planted out as young seedlings.
- Continue planting winter and spring crops, both seeds and seedlings. The cabbage family (brassicas) are important winter vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and kale are the mainstay.
- Sow broad bean seeds and also follow-up green pea crops.
- Young peas need to be staked from a small size.
- Check young cabbages and their relatives for aphids and caterpillars (diamond back moth larvae).
- Cut back asparagus and mound the soil around the crowns in rows.
- Plant out rhubarb plants.
- Harvest peppers and chillies.
- In warm sub-tropical climates many “summer” crops like beans, peppers and egg plants flourish throughout winter.
- Plant young parsley, fennel, dill and celery seedlings.
- Spring onions need to be planted out now.
- Herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram and French tarragon perform at their best during autumn and winter.
- Set out fresh, young rosemary and lavender plants.
- Prune back any overgrown or scraggly herbs like oregano, thyme and mint. Feed after completing the task to promote fresh new growth.
- It’s a good time to plant out young strawberry plants.
- Avocado crops are ready for harvesting, along with many early ripening citrus fruits.
- It’s the best time to plant out young fruit trees, especially deciduous types like peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots.
- Prune back old canes of raspberries and blackberries that have finished fruiting.
- Plant out winter and spring flowering flower bulbs. The list includes freesias, sparaxis, tritonias, Dutch irises, hyacinths, lachenalias, ranunculus and anemones.
- Plant out hardy perennials like penstemons, delphiniums, echinaceas, salvias and gaura.
- This is the best time to plant out new trees and shrubs, roses and climbers.
- Mulch trees and shrubs before the soil moisture level decreases as rainfall diminishes in the summer rainfall regions. Chunky pine bark works well for this purpose.
- Prune back autumn flowering shrubs as they finish blooming.
- Lift dahlia tubers that have finished blooming for winter storage.
- Cover perennial borders that have been cut back with a mulch of compost or well-rotted kraal manure.
- In warmer sub-tropical climates this is a good time to prune back large or overgrown shrubs and hedges.
- Colourful fillers for planting now – shasta daisies, marguerite daisies, kingfisher daisies.
- Continue with feeding in warmer climates.
- Dead head spent flower stems.
- Spray roses that are still in full growth every fortnight against fungal infection.
- Water with deep soakings twice weekly.
- Maintain mulch levels around the bushes to keep the root zone moist.
- Rake up autumn leaves regularly from the lawn.
- Apply root promoting fertiliser like 2:3:2 or an organic alternative for the last time before winter. This will ensure healthy lawns when spring growth commences.
- Sow winter evergreen grass seed in colder climates.
- Lift the level of the mower blades to allow for longer leaf length. This allows grass to strengthen for the winter.
- Autumn leaves need regular clearing. Keep them for composting. Make wire mesh holders like bins with no lids in discreet shaded parts of the garden and allow them to break down into leaf mould. This is invaluable for using as mulch or compost throughout the garden in spring and summer.
- Protect pools and water features from falling leaves.
- Prune back aggressive climbers and trim wall adhering plants like tickey and Virginia creepers.
Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.