The spring season in the garden is now well under way, with each passing month bringing more colour and vibrancy as well as more important activities to get going with.
Read our guide to April gardening jobs to find out what to do now, what to plant this month and helpful gardening tips from our Hillier experts to keep your garden at its best.
What to Enjoy Now
Pieris ‘Forest Flame’
Gardening is as much about appreciating the beautiful now as planning and planting for the future. Enjoy these plants in your garden and home this month:
- Spring-flowering clematis varieties
- Spring-flowering shrubs: azaleas / rhododendrons, camellia varieties, ceanothus, chaenomeles, Convolvulus Cneorum, cytisus, deutzia, exochorda, magnolias, osmanthus, photinia, Pieris japonica, ribes (ornamental currants), Spiraea arguta, viburnum
- Malus varieties (e.g. Malus hupehensis)
- Prunus varieties (e.g. Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’, Prunus ‘Tai-Haku’)
- Perennials: bergenia, brunnera, Dicentra spectabilis (‘Bleeding Heart’), epimedium, erysimum (wallflowers), Fritillaria Meleagris, geraniums, tulips, pulmonaria, Pulsatilla vulgaris
Hillier tip: Pulmonarias are great for adding colour to a shady spot and, with plenty of flowers, are loved by bees. Look for varieties such as ‘Majeste’, with very white leaves and violet, blue and pink flowers or ‘Blue Ensign’, which has very blue flowers on plain green leaves
- Bedding plants: pansies, violas and perennial varieties of primula, such as P. beesiana, P. bulleyana and p. ‘Miller’s Crimson
- Alpines: aubrieta, Lithodora ‘Heavenly Blue’, saxifrage
- Lavandula stoechas (French Lavender)
- Flowering now: Begonias, kalanchoe, orchids, roses
- Great for foliage: Adiantum (and other ferns), alocasia, chlorophytum, cordyline, schefflera, cacti and succulents
What to Plant Now
Rhododendrons in beautiful bloom
Preparation is still an important part of garden activity in April, though with the weather warming there are rapidly increasing number of things you can plant in both the flower and vegetable garden.
What to Plant for Instant Impact
Gardening is often about the patient process of growing from seed, bulb or small plant and nurturing it over time. If you want to balance this out with immediate colour, foliage and scale in your garden, you can always find larger plants and those in bloom right now for instant impact.
Simply browse the ‘flowering now’ list above. Many of these plants will be available from the Garden Centre for immediate enjoyment and, once planted, should continue to develop year after year.
What to Plant for Future Interest
- Small herbaceous plants. These can now be planted straight into the garden if it is mild
Hillier Tip: Both 9cm and 1litre herbaceous plants are a cost-effective way to add summer colour to your garden
- Summer-flowering perennials: delphinium, dianthus, digitalis, geum, leucanthemum, lobelia, lupinus, scabiosa and many more
- Summer bedding plants, such as marguerite
- Alpines – 9cm or 1-litre plants allow for a cost-effective garden update
- Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender) planted now will flower through summer
- Roses, so they have time to establish for summer flowering
- Later-flowering shrubs, such as hydrangeas
- Mediterranean plants such as cistus and hebe so they can establish as the soil warms
- Sow sweet peas outside this month
- Towards the end of the month, if the weather is mild, you can plant up hanging baskets ready for summer colour
- Summer-flowering bulbs, like anemones, dahlias, lilies and ranunculus
- Sow wildflowers directly into the ground in April. They will attract bees, butterflies and other insects to your garden over summer
- Sow sunflowers, either into a pot or directly into flower borders
Grow Your Own
Spring is here and the garden is bursting into life! If you haven’t started to sow vegetable seeds there is still plenty of time and if you sowed seeds indoors in early spring, many will now be ready to plant out. Read more about growing this month in our April Guide to ‘Grow Your Own’.
Hillier Tip: One of the secrets to successful growing is preparation. Dig over the soil to improve its structure and alleviate compaction. Remove weeds, roots and debris as you dig. Incorporate plenty of compost or well-rotted manure, then finally rake the surface of the soil so it is level with a loose, crumbly texture.
- If the weather is cold, start courgettes, sweetcorn and outdoor tomatoes off in small pots or seed trays indoors. They can be sown directly outdoors if the weather is warm enough
- Sow broccoli under cover
- Pot on any seeds sown under cover last month, incorporating fresh compost
- If your potatoes have finished chitting, April is the month to plant outdoors. You will probably be looking to plant second early varieties at the beginning of the month and main crop towards the end
- Plant out runner beans and French beans sown indoors last month
- Sow salad crops including lettuce, rocket, mustard, salad leaves
Hillier Tip: For a continuous supply, sow seeds every couple of weeks from early April into late spring.
- Sow green vegetables including broad beans, peas and kale
- Sow beetroots, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, radishes, turnips, swiss chard and spring onions
Hillier Tip: If you are planning on growing carrots, leave an area of soil manure-free, as manure can cause their roots to fork and distort.
- Sow hardy herbs, such as dill, chamomile, parsley, mint and coriander directly outdoors
- Radishes, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, spring cabbages
Hillier tip: See the planting and harvesting times for many of our most loved vegetable and salad plants in our Seed Sowing Calendar.
What to Do in the Garden
As the weather and soil warms, there are more and more enjoyable activities to do in the garden in April.
Plants to Prune
- Deadhead bedding plants, such as primroses, to encourage prolonged flowering
- Deadhead faded daffodils and tulips
Hillier tip: When deadheading daffodils and tulips, leave the foliage in place as this will feed the bulbs for the next year
- Formatively prune plum and cherry trees once leaf buds open
- Remove dead leaves from around the bases of alpines to avoid rot
- Trim evergreen hedges
Plants to Feed
- Feed roses with special rose feed with high potash as they grow. This will encourage a stronger, healthier flower
Plants to Protect
- If late frost is forecast, protect the blossom of fruit trees, such as pears, with fleece
Lawncare & Gardencare
- If you didn’t do it in March, it is extremely valuable to prepare your beds and borders by improving the soil. As soon as the soil is workable, dig in a layer of good multi-purpose compost or well-rotted manure. You may also want to add a good all-purpose fertiliser
- If weather didn’t permit last month, give your lawn its first mow. Recut edges if needed
Hillier tip: For your first cut of the lawn, set the blades higher than usual. You want to be gentle to protect the roots of the grass, which will be soft and delicate after winter. Read more in our ‘Guide to a Perfect Lawn‘
- It’s only mid-spring, but start thinking about your watering routine now. Containers in particular may want regularly watering already as warm weather and wind can quickly dry soil
- Plan your pest control method, as slugs will start appearing from now onwards and early spring shoots will need protection
- Install a water butt if space allows to collect and recycle rainwater over the coming year
Birds and Wildlife
Spring is the key breeding season for birds, which means a change in their care and food needs. Migratory birds will be arriving back and will need feeds that are high in protein and essential oils to refuel their bodies after the long flight.
- Give high-protein bird food, like sunflower seeds
- Put up a nest box in early spring if you haven’t done so already
- Ensure clean water is available and doesn’t freeze in event of late frosts
Monthly Tool Checklist
Some of the essential garden tools and products we recommend to have ready in your shed.
For growing potatoes (planting out once chitting is complete):
- Garden fork and digging spade, compost, potato planter or large pots (if not planting in the ground)
For sowing indoors:
- Seed packets, seed trays / pots (fibre seed pots are available as an alternative to plastic) / root trainers, seed sowing compost (e.g. John Innes), Board / levelling tool, watering can with fine attachment, polythene / thin layer of glass to cover seed trays, mini greenhouse / propagator, dibber, follow-on compost (e.g. John Innes No.1), plant labels
For sowing outdoors:
- Cloche, trowel, watering can (or hose plus suitable attachment)
- Pruning shears / secateurs
- Lawn mower, edging shears, lawn moss and weedkiller, rake, lawn feed (e.g. Aftercut All-in-one or Viano MO Bacter, which is endorsed by the RHS)