Being patient with the weather
April can be a mixed bag weather-wise; one day it can be hot and sunny, the next wet and windy and by the weekend winter can have returned. As gardeners we are all desperate to get outside, making full use of the lighter evenings and chomping at the bit to start planting.
We have all done it, popped into the local garden centre on a bank holiday weekend and been tempted to purchase some tender annuals only to have them clobbered by a late frost. So hang fire and get on top of all the other jobs that need doing this month and leave the fun of the annuals for later on in May.
As the garden springs back into life so do the weeds. Keep on top of the weeding – they too will love the mix of sunshine and rain showers. Weeding now will be time well spent and much easier while they are seedlings rather than the rampant plants they will soon become if given half a chance.
Roses and shrubs can be fed with a general fertilizer. And have some string handy to tie in new growth on climbing roses, clematis and other climbers bursting forth.
What to do with the spring bulbs after they have flowered
Some earlier varieties of bulbs will be going over while others are just coming into their own. Daffodils and tulips can be deadheaded as they go over. This not only looks tidier but also prevents the bulb producing seeds. It can now focus its energy back into the bulb.
It is important to leave the foliage on bulbs intact for at least 6 weeks after flowering. This can look untidy but it is vital to ensure good flowering next year. Do not be tempted to tie up the foliage (or even plait it), the bulb leaves are unable to photosynthesize properly and life is just too short! The foliage can then either be cut off at ground level or if it is turning brown be gently tugged away.
For those who find the leaves just too untidy an alternative is to lift the bulbs after they have gone over. At Houghton Lodge Gardens we have a mini tulip festival in the raised beds in the Walled Garden and this is what we do with this display, as the beds are required for our kitchen garden. It is important to find a spot for the uprooted bulbs to lie so they can use the daylight to re energize for next year. Once the leaves have died back they can be removed and the bulbs can be left out in the sun on a sunny day to dry and then stored over the summer in nets to be replanted come the autumn.
‘Blind’ bulbs are bulbs that have sent up their foliage but failed to flower. Giving them a good feed may be enough but if they fail again next year digging them up and splitting the bulbs and replanting them in smaller groups might be the answer. All bulbs benefit from a feed after flowering with a general-purpose feed.
With the recent temperatures hitting a new April high of 29°C it is hard to imagine feeling chilly ever again, but remember beware of that late frost which so often catches us out!