Latest article by gardening expert Sara Milne
Making the best use of the lengthening days is a bonus and, providing the weather stays fair, it can be a brilliant gardening month. In addition to dead-heading spring bulbs, now is the time to get planting so why not think about one or two new additions to your garden that will make you feel really happy.
A survey carried out at the Chelsea Flower Show identified the top three plants in the UK that are most likely to put a smile on your face – Lily of the Valley, Sweet Pea and Jasmine – so they might make good additions to your garden this year.
Lily of the Valley can be planted in borders or underneath a tree and they are very low maintenance and easy to grow. They make good ground cover for shady spots and are beautifully fragrant with creamy white bell-shaped nodding flowers.
Sweet Pea – available in a huge variety of bright and pastel colours with frilly, delicate and often sweetly fragrant flower heads. They work well in a sunny or partially shaded area in fertile well-drained soil.
Climbing Jasmine can be highly scented, with varieties that flower in summer and winter. All produce pretty flowers and are fairly easy to grow against walls or up trellis.
If you want to make the kids happy then there are some fun options for them to plant such as Sunflowers, Snapdragons and the Four O’Clock Flower.
The sunflower is a real family favourite. If you look at a sunflower, you can’t help but smile. Not only does it remind us of the sun, but its head will track the sun through the sky, and wherever the light is a sunflower will find it.
Snapdragons are great because they come in a variety of colours and sizes, and also you can pinch the blossoms so they open and shut just like a dragon’s mouth. Snapdragon flowers are specifically designed for bumblebees, which are just the right weight to trip the opening mechanism of the lower lip of the flower to gain access to the nectar.
The Four O’Clock Flower, also known as the Marvel of Peru, is a bushy plant with trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, yellow or white. The fragrant flowers don’t open until late afternoon, around four o’clock – so good for telling the time.
If you are growing your own veg then now is a good time to start sowing tomatoes, so you can enjoy them throughout the summer. To grow tomatoes successfully, you need rich, fertile soil or peat-free potting compost and a good, sunny, sheltered spot. Water regularly and feed regularly once the plants start to flower. Tomatoes are split into two main growing types – bush and cordon.
Bush types are usually planted in containers and their stems trail around the edge. Cordon types are trained to grow tall and are supported by a cane or stake and will require pinching out.
Growing tomatoes from seed is best done under cover, into seed trays, then when the seedlings get to 2-3cm tall transplant to small 5cm pots. Keep potting on as they grow in size.
They can be planted outside with cane supports once the last frosts have gone, so around May time. For best results, choose trusted varieties like Gardener’s Delight, Money Maker or Sweet Olive.
As usual, April really kickstarts the gardening season. As the RHS says … spring is finally in evidence as daffodils and flowering trees start to bloom. Expect the inevitable April showers this month but with sunny days too, when you can turn your attention to the lawn. It’s an exciting month, with indoor-sown seeds well into growth, and it’s also time to start sowing outdoors.
Just watch out for frosts. Top three jobs this month – sow hardy annuals, herbs and wildflower seed outside; protect fruit blossoms from late frost; and tie in climbing and rambling roses.