April Gardening Jobsi
What to Do in the Garden in April: How to Get into the Swing of Spring
As we settle into April, gardens are showing visible signs of new life, fresh growth, and vibrant colour. The arrival of milder temperatures and sunny spells also brings April showers, setting the perfect conditions to nurture outdoor spaces for the months ahead.
In the run-up to summer, the list of gardening jobs grows and this month is prime time to focus on planting flower bulbs, fertilising your shrubs, and tending to your lawn. .
To help you get into the swing of spring, take a look at the top things to do in your garden in April. From what to plant to the pesky pests warmer weather brings, find out how to stay on top of your to-do list this season.
- Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Garden maintenance
- Pests and diseases?
Top garden jobs to do in April
Trees, hedges, and shrubs
Most deciduous shrubs should have been pruned by April, as their dormant periods will be over and new growth will begin to bloom.
However, April is the best time to give many evergreen shrubs and flowering hedges a harder prune.
Here are some species to tend to in April:
Most rose shrubs should be cut back ahead of growing season, but if it’s still cool in March, this could be as late as early April.
It’s important to wait until the last frost date has passed before tending to roses to prevent cold damage to freshly cut branches, however, try to get to them before new blooms appear. This will make it easier for you to spot damaged or dead branches easily.
Take a read of our guide for more information on how to prune rose shrubs.
It’s best to prune common hydrangeas in early spring to encourage more vigorous blooms later in summer.
If you’ve left the flower heads intact over winter, these can be deadheaded down to the younger buds in April. This form of light pruning is usually best for newly planted or unestablished hydrangeas and also the following species:
- Hydrangea macrophylla
- Hydrangea aspera
- Hydrangea serrata
- Hydrangea quercifolia
Other types, like Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens, can tolerate a stronger prune. Deadhead last year’s flower heads and trim the old stems by a third to a quarter or down to where the stems are healthy. Healthy stems should be firm to touch, thick, and vibrant green. This will help to remove any overcrowded branches so the plant can focus on areas of new growth instead.
Wait to prune climbing hydrangeas in summer once they have flowered.
Lavender is known to be low maintenance and easy to grow, but left unchecked, it can become leggy and unruly.
As lavender shrubs can survive without feeding and are hardy against frost, many gardeners trim them at the end of summer to remove the flowers after they bloom.
However, others prefer to skip a late-summer trim as the fading blooms can still be enjoyed. It also gives the plant extra protection against winter damage in frost-prone areas, such as eastern and southern parts of the UK. If you didn’t cut them back then, April is the best time to trim lavender.
Deadhead old flowers and cut back to just above the lowest new bud on each stem. Avoid cutting into older, woody branches as they can struggle slightly with new growth.
Rosemary should be pruned in mid to late spring, but it can be cut back through summer too.
Just like lavender, rosemary can become overgrown and leggy. After it’s finished flowering, trim it back to encourage more substantial growth and steer clear of cutting into any woody stems.
Established dogwood, or Cornus, should be pruned in late March or April for a vibrant winter display. Cornus gets its colours from new growth, so cutting it back hard is best if you want to get the most out of it.
It’s a sturdy hedge plant and will thrive even after a severe pruning. Before new buds appear, cut stems back by a third and try to keep them 5-20 cm above the soil. This might sound like a lot, but dogwood is known for its quick growth so rest assured that a harsh prune will reward you with stronger and brighter stems.
Learn more about dogwood here or read our complete guide on how to trim a hedge.
- Make sure to fertilise after pruning
April is a great time to feed your shrubs and trees. If you have just cut back your hedges, particularly if they've been heavily pruned, fertilising with a nutrient-rich product will help to replenish the plant and support recovery. Look for a fertiliser that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and magnesium as these will encourage vigorous growth.
Even if you haven’t trimmed your shrubs, they can still benefit from feeding. April marks the start of the growing season, so fertiliser or mulch can give plants an additional boost as they come out of dormancy.
Top-dressing established shrubs and hedges with a product like Westland Bonemeal Root Builder is an excellent choice.
- Add mulch to shrub beds
Some shrubs, like roses, can also benefit from a thin layer of mulch to seal in moisture when temperatures rise in the coming months. Mulch is also useful for keeping weeds and pests at bay.
Use an organic matter like compost, wood chippings or bark, or well-rotted manure as these will eventually break down and enrich the soil. Unlike fertiliser, it’s safe to apply mulch to new and established plant beds, but this should be done in mid to late spring or in autumn.
Follow our instructions for how to mulch shrub beds:
- Remove any existing weeds from the plant bed that you want to mulch.
- Lightly water the soil and ensure that the ground isn’t frosted or frozen.
- Apply a 5-8 cm layer of mulch to the top of the soil. A thicker layer will be more insulating, limiting sunlight to reduce weed growth.
- After adding the mulch, you can use fertiliser over the top of the surface as it will wash down to the plant roots.
- Plant and divide bamboo
Bamboo is best planted in spring so it has plenty of time to establish its roots and canes before autumn when they become dormant. Bamboo is relatively easy to grow as it can tolerate most growing conditions and soil types. However, they thrive in moist, well-drained soil in a sunny but sheltered spot.
Bamboo plants come in two varieties:
- Running bamboo - These have long, horizontal, underground roots known as rhizomes. Rhizomes grow away from the main plant and produce new growth.
- Clumping bamboo - These grow in thick clumps and have a shorter root structure that causes minimal spreading.
To plant bamboo, follow our simple instructions:
- Choose a planting area and dig a hole twice the width of the bamboo’s rootball and one inch deeper than the height of its growing container.
- Place the bamboo into the hole and fill in the rootball with soil and compost.
- Firm the soil with the back of a spade or gently tap with your foot.
- Thoroughly water the soil before applying a layer of mulch to seal in the moisture.
Mid-spring is also ideal for dividing and propagating bamboo clumps. To do this, you will need to:
- Dig up the soil around a plant on the outskirts of a clump.
- Split parts of the root from the main rootball using a sharp blade.
- Replant the rhizome roots by following our planting instructions above.
- Tie and twine climbers to their supports
Climbing plants like rambling roses may need training: tying the stems to vertical structures so they have support to continue growing upwards. This will also help to prevent movement if it’s windy.
This is usually done with garden twine, raffia, or rubber ties, and the plants can be attached to structures like trellises, walls, or fences.
- Plant flower bulbs
April is the prime time to plant any summer-flowering bulbs you didn’t get around to last month. There should still be enough time for them to establish, but any later and you may miss your chance for a beautiful display.
Some of the most popular bulbs include:
Freesia can be temperamental and delicate to grow, but if successful, they will produce highly fragrant beautiful blooms.
Freesia bulbs are extremely sensitive to the cold, so make sure to plant in a well-draining, sunny spot in your garden.
Crocosmia is relatively easy to grow and produces vibrant blooms from summer through autumn.
Grow crocosmia from bulb-like corms. Plant the corms in a sunny spot into moist, well-draining soil. Dig in a well-rotted compost into the soil before placing the corns with their pointed end facing up and the roots downwards.
Peonies, Paeonia, come in two forms: bare-root or pot grown. Those grown in pots can be planted in mid to late spring.
Look for a spot in your garden that receives lots of direct sunlight and dig in a well-rotted compost into the soil to add nutrients before planting. Make sure to give them plenty of space to grow, planting 1 metre apart is ideal.
Hemerocallis get their common name because their blooms only last for a day, but they will continue to flower in quick succession throughout the summer.
Plant pot-grown daylilies into borders for an eye-catching display. Ensure that the soil is kept moist.
- Sow flower seeds
Hardy annuals, flowers which go through one life cycle in a year, can be sown outdoors in April for a display later in the year.
These seeds can grow in modules in the greenhouse or indoors on a windowsill before April. After, they should be planted in the ground once the last frost has passed and when temperatures are warmer.
If you haven’t started them off indoors yet, you can sow them outside if the weather is mild. However, if it’s still cool in April, extra protection like a cloche or plant fleece may be required to insulate the seedlings.
Hardy annuals to sow are:
- Calendula officinalis (pot marigold)
- Chrysanthemum carinatum (annual chrysanthemum)
- Gypsophila elegans (baby's breath)
- Helianthus annuus (sunflower)
- Matthiola incana (night-scented stocks)
- Tropaeolum majus (nasturtium)
- Lathyrus (sweet pea)
- Deadhead spring bedding plants
If you left some shrubs to prune in April, you may have already deadheaded any fading flowers. If not, use this month to remove any dying flowers from their stems to encourage new growth.
Popular flowers that may require deadheading are:
- Narcissus (daffodil)
- Tulipa (tulip)
- Viola (pansy)
- Primula (primula)
- Stay on top of emerging weeds
In April, much of your garden enters into growing season – and weeds are no different. So, you must stay vigilant when spotting and removing weeds so that they don’t compete for nutrients in the soil.
- Annual weeds - These survive for one growing cycle only. Annual weeds thrive in wet soil, so preventing them from re-rooting in these conditions is the best way to limit their spread. To kill them, hoe the soil where they appear to stop any seedlings from growing further.
- Perennial weeds - These come back each year if left untreated. To eradicate these from your garden, dig them out and completely remove the roots to prevent regrowth. You can also add a thick layer of mulch to your soil, or use mulch matting, to cut off their sunlight and oxygen, which can cause them to die.
- Look after your lawn
There’s a lot you can do to keep your lawn looking its best, from repairing bare patches to giving it the best head start for the summer heat. To give it enough time to heal before summer, when you’ll likely be spending lots of time in your garden, carry out thorough lawn maintenance in April.
Repair any patches in your lawn
It’s best to tend to any patches or areas of weak growth when spring is in full swing as it has a better chance of recovering.
You can care for your lawn by sowing new seeds or using turf.
- Sowing new seeds - Using seeds to repair your lawn is much more affordable. It’s better suited to smaller bare patches, but it can take a few months for the seeds to properly establish.To sow seeds over patches, first, you will need to cut out the dead or dying lawn. Once that’s been removed, lightly scarify the exposed soil before applying compost for added nutrients. Scatter grass seeds over the soil according to the instructions on the packet before finishing with another light dusting of compost and water.
- Using turf - Laying down turf gives a quicker result and can withstand any April showers while it’s establishing. However, it can be costly if you’re repairing large patches on your lawn.To repair patches using turf, remove the old patch of lawn and lightly scarify the exposed soil. Measure the size of the patch and cut out the same size from your healthy turf. Lay the new turf over the soil and use a lawn top-dressing around the edges before firming down with the back of a rake. Finish by watering the area of new turf.
Smooth out bumps and hollows
After winter, you may notice bumps or hollows in your lawn. This is usually caused by frost or frozen ground thawing unevenly. It may also be from mole damage. Whatever the reason, these imperfections can be unpleasant to look at and can make mowing your lawn difficult.
To fill hollows, you can:
- Use a top-dressing mix - To fill in shallow dips less than 2 cm, use a mixture of sand, topsoil, and compost to fill in small bumps. Apply an even layer and spread it out using a rake until the surface is flat. Firm it down using the back of a shovel or your foot, then lightly water the soil.
- Add more soil under the grass - For deeper hollows, you will need to use a shovel to peel back the turf. Use a rake to agitate the soil before adding new soil on top to even out the surface. Firm it down before folding the turf back over. Use a lawn top-dressing around the edges, flatted, and then water.
To smooth out bumps, it's the same process as adding more soil under the grass to fix a deep hollow – except you’re removing the soil instead of adding it. Take away the excess soil until the surface is flat, then follow the same steps above.
Rake and lightly scarify lawns
Raking helps to remove debris like moss and rotting leaves, also known as thatch, from the top surface of a lawn. Taking away this layer of loose material will help improve the grass's airflow and reduce the chances of diseases lingering on the leaves from ruining your lawn.
In winter, lawns can become matted after periods of neglect and raking the blades of grass may encourage healthy growth in late spring and summer.
The best time to rake your lawn to promote growth is when it turns green, often in April. As raking requires moderate effort, especially in larger green spaces, we recommend investing in gardening gloves to protect your hands from blisters. Rake visible areas with moss or leaf buildup and brown spots on the grass. This will break the debris and make it easier for you to remove.
While raking removes matter and tidies up the top of your lawn, scarification lifts deeper-rooted thatch from below the surface of the grass. It’s carried out with a lawn scarifier which has rows of sharp blades that penetrate deep into the lawn to agitate and lift debris to the surface.
Scarifiers can be manual or electric, with electric scarifiers requiring a lot less labour and can make covering large lawns much easier.
Always rake out your grass first, and if the surface still looks matted and feels spongy underfoot, try giving your lawn a light scarify. Heavy scarification is usually carried out in autumn at the end of growing season. Still, April is an excellent opportunity to lightly go over your grass with a scarifier if required.
Fertilise your lawn
If you want to give your lawn extra nutrients to help it flourish, April is an excellent time to apply fertiliser as it will help encourage new growth while it is already in growing season.
Be careful to select a spring lawn fertiliser as it will have specific ingredients most effective for actively growing lawns. A nitrogen-rich fertiliser can help promote leafy, green growth and may also inhibit weed activity.
Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on application and dilution to get the best results. It’s also recommended to choose the day after it has rained to apply lawn fertiliser as the ground will still be moist and can absorb the feed better.
Take a look at our guide on how to keep your lawn looking perfect for more advice.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife
As the weather warms up, don’t forget to look out for the wildlife that may find its way into your garden. Here are a few ways you can lend a helping hand to visitors:
- Leave food out for hedgehogs - Hedgehogs are a gardener’s best friend as they feed on caterpillars, worms, and other insects that may otherwise munch through your plants. While they may naturally wander into your space, leaving fresh water and food out is a great way to encourage local hedgehogs to visit. The RSPCA recommends leaving tinned dog or cat food or crushed pet biscuits out for them – although the biscuits should be soaked in water first. The next day, check if the food and water need to be refilled and wash the dishes to prevent the spread of disease between travelling hedgehogs.
- Watch out for wildlife in your compost bin - If you’re planning to empty your compost bin in April, check for signs of animal life first. The compost bin is a popular hibernation spot for hedgehogs and frogs, and while most will have emerged by April, you may find some still clinging to the comfort of your compost. Try not to use gardening forks or tools to empty your heap in case there are any sheltering animals.
- Top up your bird feeders - Keep filling up your bird feeders with seeds and grains and top up bird baths with fresh water.
Read our post on how to make a wildlife-friendly garden for more advice.
Pests and diseases
- Rabbit guards
Newly planted or young trees and shrubs may need protection from animals like mice, rats, rabbits, hares, and voles. Some gardeners opt to use natural deterrents like talcum powder, baking powder, and coffee grounds to deter pests, but these aren’t always guaranteed to be effective.
Instead, installing rabbit guards around the base of vulnerable plants will act as a physical barrier to protect the bark and stems of trees and shrubs.
- Replant disease
Replant disease is a common problem where a plant is replaced by the same species. For example, if a shrub is bought to replace the same type of shrub and the new one is planted in the same soil. Replant disease occurs when the new shrub suffers from poor growth.
While we don’t know what causes replant disease, we know that roses are particularly susceptible to it.
You may notice rose replant disease if you have recently moved or planted a rose shrub into soil where there was one previously. Signs of replant disease are if the new shrub:
- Is struggling to establish roots
- Has poor growth
- Is dying
As replant disease is still a mystery to many green thumbs, it can be difficult to prevent. However, if you suspect that a plant may be suffering from replant disease, the best course of action is to move it to soil where that plant has never been grown before.
If that’s not possible, try removing as much of the surrounding soil that may have come into contact with the previous plant and adding fresh soil to the site instead.
- Box blight
April showers mean that hedges are still very much susceptible to box blight, which favours wet and windy conditions as the spores are spread more easily.
Keep an eye out for browning or yellowing leaves or bare patches where the leaves have fallen off completely. You may also be able to identify box blight by telltale white spores on the underside of fallen, infested leaves. If you spot leaves with these symptoms, remove them immediately from your garden to prevent the spores from spreading. You may also need to prune any infected branches, taking care to disinfect your pruning tools afterwards.
Find out more about treating box blight here.
Hedgehogs and birds aren’t the only wildlife you will spot in your garden in April.
Insects like caterpillars and aphids are active in the spring and summer months, so you may see more of them in your garden as they are attracted to your plants. Infestations can occur if left unchecked, so try to manage them as early as possible by removing them by hand when you spot them.
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