Gardens

Our gardening expert Victoria Truman shares her advice for summer planting

Now spring is truly underway, the daffodils are over and the tulips are now at their best, thoughts turn to summer and the garden. As you look out upon your garden, does the nagging question of ‘where do I even begin’ sound familiar?
In my opinion, the first and foremost thing to do is to stand back for a moment, and simply enjoy the beauty that Mother Nature has given us.

Listen to the birds as they sing you a spring melody – dream a little – and then put on the gardening gloves and head out to make your dream garden a reality! As you begin your quest for the perfect garden, don’t overdo it.

It’s probably been a few months since you gave those muscles and bones a good workout, so start out slowly and avoid that Monday morning backache. Going into May and summer beckons, bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow in leaps and bounds, it is now clear that summer is approaching.

Sowing and planting out bedding can begin, depending on regional weather variations, and you can take softwood cuttings. It’s also time to get back into the lawn mowing regime, as the lawn will be loving the warmer temperatures this month brings.

• Feed bare soil between plants with general-purpose fertiliser and dose acid-loving rhododendrons and camellias with sequestered iron. Blackberries, loganberries and blackcurrants need a high-nitrogen feed.

• Prune the flowered shoots of hydrangeas and winter jasmine.

• Sow peas, broad beans, brassicas, leeks, root veg, spinach, chicory, Swiss chard, salad and hardy herbs. Start tender veg and half-hardy annuals – cosmos, nicotiana, snapdragons – under cover.

• Plant Jerusalem artichokes and asparaguscrowns. Container-grown evergreens establish best in the spring. Fill pots with glamorous summer-flowering bulbs.

• Pinch-out fuchsia, sweet peas and pelargoniums to encourage bushiness and heavier flowering.

• April is the month for planting summer flowering bulbs like Dahlias, Gladiolas and Lilies. Mix bulb fertilizer, processed manure and peat moss into the planting soil.

• When they have finished blooming, you should deadhead your spring flowering bulbs. Do not cut off the green foliage yet! These green leaves continue to grow for a few weeks, and provide the bulb with food for flowering next year.

• Mowing and lawn care has started with the warmer weather. Don’t scalp the lawn, cut slightly higher for the next month.

• Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants.

• Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining.

• Plant out summer bedding at the end of the month (except in cold areas).

• Water early and late to get the most out of your water, recycle water when possible.

• Regularly hoe off weeds.

• Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days.

• Mow lawns weekly.

• Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges.

• Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs.

Bomb-proof April blues

Wild flower plant native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in the green now or as bulbs in autumn. Bulb Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) thrives on neglect in all but soggy conditions. Can be invasive so choose the less rampant ‘Valerie Finnis’.

Climber Robust Clematis alpina ‘Frances Rivis’ copes with windy spots, blooming through May. Its seed heads are charmingly fluffy.

Ground-cover Vinca minor ‘La Grave’ is covered with larger-than-usual lavenderblue flowers until September. Less invasive than some periwinkles.

Shade-lover Clump-forming Brunnera macrophylla tolerates dry soil once established. Silvery-leaved ‘Jack Frost’ really brightens a dark spot.

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