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Gardening Jobs – April

After a freezing February and a cold start to March, hopefully spring has sprung and the grass is ris. With the soil warming up and drying out, now is a good time to complete any digging and clear away any debris from last year. But time is now of the essence if you wish to take advantage of Scotland’s short growing season. Keep a close eye on the weather during April as frosts are still common.

Vegetable Garden

Potatoes:

There is still time to plant early seed potatoes, but be quick. Don’t worry if they are not chitted, they will soon put up shoots. Plant tubers 10 – 15 centimetres (4 – 6 inches) deep, rose end up approximately 18 inches apart and 2 feet between rows.

Protect first early potato shoots against frost by earthing up as they break through the soil.  Second earlies and maincrop seed potatoes can now be planted. 

Veg. to sow outdoors:
Many seeds can now be sown directly into prepared drills. Sow carrot, beetroot, turnip, swede, parsnip, peas, broad beans, runner beans, mangetout, lettuce, radish, rocket, swiss chard, salsify, sprouting broccoli along with any other of your favourites.

Be aware, many seeds won’t germinate until the soil temperature has reached about 12ºC,

Veg. to sow indoors in trays or pots:
Sow in a greenhouse or cold frame - celeriac, kale, parsley, leeks, brussel sprouts, summer and winter cabbage, cauliflower, lemon grass, comfrey, calabrese, squash and pumpkins.  Towards the end of the month start sowing sweetcorn, cucumber, courgette, ready for planting out in mid-May. Chiilies and peppers can be grown in a greenhouse if you have one.

Plant onion and shallot sets
If you have space, now is the time to plant onion sets.  White onions are relatively cheap in the shops but red onions and shallots are much more expensive, so it’s worth thinking about growing these.

Put up bean supports
Put in place wigwams or rows of canes ready for your runner and climbing french beans.  As the ground is soft, it will be easy to push the canes into the soil.

Harden off plants
Seedlings started indoors that are to be grown outside can be hardened off on warm still days. Place them outside during the day, but take them in again late afternoon. Do this for about a week so that they get used to the cooler conditions before being planted outside.

Keep on top of weeding:
It is much easier to deal with weeds whilst they are small.  Pick them out by hand or use a trowel or hoe.  Doing this regularly will mean a weed free plot, and nowhere for pests (especially slugs) to hide.

Protect plants from frost
If a frost has been forecast, protect plants using horticultural fleece or cloches.

Divide herbaceous herbs
Herbaceous herbs, such as chive, oregano, mint and tarragon can be dug up and divided in early April, just before proper growth begins.  Divide the root clump, re-plant and water well.


Fruit Garden

Clean up your strawberry beds or pots
Remove any dead or damaged leaves and old runners from the plants. Plants should be replaced after 3 fruiting years.

Apply a mulch to soft fruits
All soft fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, and gooseberries will benefit from a mulch.  Garden compost, leaf mould, organic manure, straw, hay and spent mushroom compost can all be used. 

Apply an acidic mulch to blueberries and cranberries
These are acid loving plants, so mulch with an 8cm (3in) layer of acidic material such as bark or old pine needles (kept from your christmas tree!).

Prune stone fruit trees
To avoid risk of infection, stone fruits, such as plum, cherry, peach, nectarine and apricot should only be pruned during the growing season.  Prune late April, when the plants are in leaf and after flowering.  Immediately seal all cuts greater than 1cm (½in) with wound paint.


Lawns

Mow and feed
Start mowing with the blades high, gradually reducing to a normal height by end of month. Feed with a lawn feed or a general fertiliser such as Growmore spread at the correct amount. Growmore gives excellent results. Strong growing lawns require cutting every week from June to August inclusive. Avoid scalping the lawn as this will cause unsightly brown patches. Treat and or remove lawn weeds using a selective lawn weed killer or a weed extraction tool. Fill in any bare patches by re-sowing or laying turf.


Pests

The main pests to watch for:

Slugs, Snails, chafer grubs, leather jackets and pigeons

Slugs and Snails love nice juicy new leaves and stems, take action to limit damage.

Pigeons will devastate the leaves, stems and growing tips of newly planted brassica’s, cover plants to avoid damage.

Chafer grubs and Leather Jackets are lawn pests that resurface in spring munching grass roots along the way. Autumn is the best time to apply a biological control.


Michael Gourlay Chairman




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