It's not just the plants you want to grow that are going for it at this time of year; weeds are doing their best to take over too!
Little and often is a great approach for weeding. Tackling them regularly means you remove them before they get too established, which will save lots of time in the long run. It will also give your plants the space and nutrients they need in order to thrive.
Cotinus coggyria (smoke bush) and Sambucus (elder), are well known for their colourful foliage. The brightest and best foliage is to be found on new stems. So for the most impact, prune a full grown specimen hard now to encourage new foliage or if the plant still needs to fill its allotted space, leave some of the shoots un-pruned to allow the plant to grow larger without compromising on colourful foliage.
When the lovely Japanese quince and shocking yellow forsythia flowers are over, you can cut the flowered side shoots back to 2 to 3 buds so that they flower well next year. If you are training a quince or forsythia against a wall, then tie in as many shoots as you need to fill in gaps and then prune all the flowered shoots to one or two buds from their growing point.
Finish pruning Dogwoods and willows grown for their colourful stems.
Renovate overgrown and badly shaped evergreen shrubs this month.
Early flowering shrubs can also be pruned now. Aim to thin stems out as opposed to a hard prune. This will create new growth that will give you more flowers next year. You can also remove any damaged stems at the same time.
A range of pests can damage young leaves especially in spring and early summer. Look out for Viburnum beetle showing lace-like feeding damage that turns brown. Larvae are creamy yellow with black markings and feed between April and June. Pick off larvae or spray plants in early spring with insecticide.
If you haven’t already done so and weather has been cold, now is the time to cut back late summer flowering shrubs such as hardy fuchsias, Buddlejas, Caryopteris, Ceratostigma, Hibiscus, Hydrangea paniculata, Leycesteria, Lavatera, Perovskia.
If you didn’t prune your lavenders after they had flowered last summer, do so now. Using secateurs or shears remove spent flower spikes and stems just above where new growth has appeared. Do not cut right down where stems have no grow as you may kill the plant.
To keep lavenders neat and not straggly its best to prune immediately after flowering has finished in late summer and before the flower heads have gone brown. This then allows the plant to put on growth before the winter and you will often have a second flush of flower spikes. Trim again in spring as above to neaten up the plant and keep compact.
Finish tidying and pruning and apply granular fertiliser around the base of the rose or blood, fish and bone and work in the feed and water if there is no rain.
This will ensure lots of flowers this summer.
April sees your clematis beginning to really grow away. Give them a helping hand by tying in the first shoots and from there on in they should clamber quite happily. If they begin to encroach on other plants you may need to divert them back to a cane or official support.
Continue to remove faded daffodil and tulip flowers, nipping off the heads and seed pod at the same time to stop the plants expending their energy into seed production.
Plant summer flowering bulbs such as lilies and gladioli in flowerbeds or pots. If you have gaps in the garden during the summer it is always handy to fill the space with pots that you can move around.
Continue to lift and divide herbaceous perennials that are overcrowded or have been flowering poorly last year.
Start to give agapanthus a liquid feed every week or so, try liquid seaweed or tomato feed.
Herbaceous perennials infested with couch grass and other perennial weeds should be lifted so the roots of the weeds can be removed.
Resume mowing the lawn if you haven’t already done so on a weekly basis. If it is left to grow too long it will be much harder to cut back. Keep the blades set high to begin with.
It is time to attend to any pots or tubs that are planted up with perennials or shrubs. Scrape off as much of the top layers of compost as you can without damaging the root structure. Replace the compost with fresh compost along with a dash of slow release fertiliser and start increasing the amount of water given.
Add a layer of mulch after hoeing and weeding borders if you haven’t already done so. Use organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, garden compost or wood chippings, to a depth of 2-4 inches. This will help retain moisture, supress weeds and improve soil texture.
Your plants may not need support right now, but they will soon. It’s much easier to get the supporting structures in place now, because you don’t have to work around lots of new plant growth. Plus it always looks better when the plant can grow up through its support.
Slugs and snails are becoming active now that new leaves of hostas are starting to emerge and are the bane of many a gardener. Either resort to hunting them at night by torchlight or use parasitic nematodes watered into the soil, which prove to be an effective control method.
Enjoy pottering in your garden, as its a great way to look after our physical and mental health.
Sally Watts is a Professional Garden Designer who has been featured in national magazines for her fabulous work on plots throughout the country. For more tips and inspiration go to her website: sallywattsgardendesign.co.uk