So Springtime has finally arrived or so it seems! The last couple of weeks have been very topsy-turvy with the weather at times providing all the four seasons within one day.
April has always been unpredictable weather wise, so keep an eye on local weather forecasts and be at the ready with cloches and fleeces. These are invaluable when it comes to protecting your tender vegetables and bedding plants from the last of the ground frosts. Because of these fluctuating temperatures it is more practical and cost efficient to purchase bedding plant plugs instead of sowing seeds. These can be grown on in the green house, conservatory or on the windowsill if the area provides sufficient light and temperatures. One thing to remember about small plugs is that they only require small amounts of water initially to prevent rotting off. Once the roots have established they can be transplanted into the next suitable sized pots and gradually given larger amounts of water. Finally, the plants will be established and they can be transplanted into the next suitable sized pots and gradually given larger amounts of water. Finally, the plants will be established enough to be planted outside around the end of May when temperatures are more favourable.
Another adversary of the gardener are the slugs and snails who tend to have an insatiable appetite for tender plants. So here are a few control methods to try to help prevent your potato tubers and hostas from becoming the dish of the night.
1: Encouragement of natural predatorial wildlife.
Natural predators of slugs and snails include wildlife such as hedgehogs, birds, frogs and toads, slow worms and ground beetles. Methods to encourage these allies include the construction of habitat houses, encourage birds with regular feeding, construction of a pond (without fish preferably) and the adding of organic matter to the soil and regulary breaking down slug homes and exposing them to predators by soil cultivation.
2: Use of Nemetodes
These are a biological control and are especially good on long-keeled slugs who rarely surface from underground. These particular type of slug species are normally responsible for munching on bulbs and potato tubers. Nemetodes are purchased from recommended suppliers and only target selected pests, but do not harm pollinators and other beneficial wildlife.
3: Snail/slug repelling plants
Here are a few plants that can be planted near to plants that are slug/snail favourites that will deter them due to their strong smell or hairy foliage. Plants such as Astrantia, Allium, Chives, Fennel, Garlic, Rosemary and the wormwood are a non-chemical option and will help sustain the gardens eco-system. This method will also protect predators eco of slugs/snails from being poisoned by chemicals that are absorbed by their prey and then in turn by themselves such as slug pellets.
Picking and Dispatching
This involves venturing outside at dusk (because snails/slugs are mostly on the move at night) and removing them by hand.
Did you know?
Did you know that slugs are territorial by nature? So, once you have removed them and are looking for a spot to relocate them. Try somewhere down the M6, otherwise they will return!!
Other jobs for this month include lawn maintenance everything from sowing to mowing, let’s get those lawns up to scratch.
Now is the time for a light prune of your fig trees. Remember to remove all dead, dying diseased or crossing branches and any suckers coming up from the ground.
You can also give your lavenders a light trim, but only to remove the seed stalks and to maintain their shape. Remember not to go over the top and to cut into the old woody stems that tend not to regrow again.
If you have not already done so remember to feed trees and shrubs with a balanced fertilizer. This can also be applied to young, weak, heavily pruned or damaged plants.
Don’t forget to tie in the rambling or climbing roses. Keep these as near to horizontal as possible to restrict the sap flow. This will cause more side shoots to grow along the stem and provide a profusion of flowers this year.
And finally, this month you may like to try your hand at propagating, some new trees or shrubs. One of the best methods for achieving this is known as air layering and will allow you to create an identical clone of the parent plant.
This works well on Cotinus, Magnolia, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Viburnums, Camellia, Jasmine, Ficus, Acers and Roses too.
Firstly, choose a stem from the previous year’s growth about the diameter of a pencil. Then remove all leaves within a length area of approximately 15 cm of the stem. Now cut an upwards diagonal slit through a leaf bud to produce a tongue. Place some rooting hormone onto and around the wound area and onto the tongue. Next wet some sphagnum moss until it is moist and place some of the moss into the wound. Roll the rest of the moss around the wound area to about the size of a tennis ball. Cover the moss ball with black or clear plastic. (Black prevents algae forming inside) Then seal each end with waterproof tape. Check for signs of rooting every so often, this could take up to 3 months or so before there are signs of roots pushing through the moss. Once the roots are visible you can cut the new plant below the new roots and pot it up. Give the plant small amounts of water to begin with and once established up the amount and start to use a liquid fertilizer every other week as well. Eventually your tree or shrub will be ready to plant out in the garden.
Well that’s it for April, good health and happy gardening to you all.