Here's some advice about what to consider for your garden during April.
General gardening tasks and garden maintenance
Beware of late frosts during April, and keep vulnerable plants and new shoots protected at night if frost is forecast. Don't be tempted to put out tender bedding until much later on in the month, and even then be prepared to cover it if necessary. Deadhead daffodils and narcissi. Give them a liquid feed or a sprinkling of bonemeal and then let them die down. Don't cut off the leaves as they are necessary to replenish the bulb for next year. Keep deadheading spring bedding to keep it looking neat, and to encourage new flowers. Hoe your borders, getting rid of weeds before they take hold - annual weeds such as bitter cress and groundsel are enough of a nightmare without allowing them to go forth and multiply by seeding.
If it's dry, attack ground elder and the like with systemic weed killer painted onto the leaves.
Mulch away while you can still see what you are doing and before the herbaceous growth really takes off. Use your own garden compost or leaf mould, well rotted manure, the contents of out-of-date grow bags, or ready-made soil conditioner. Now the soil is warming up and things are starting to grow, add general purpose fertiliser before covering with mulch especially in borders, the fruit and vegetable patch and containers. If you have already mulched, draw it back (if possible), tease the soil a little, add fertiliser and replace the mulch. Carry on removing moss and weeds from paths, terraces and drives. Make new beds and borders -mark the shape with sand trickled from a bottle, remove the top layer of growing vegetation and dig the ground over, incorporating as much organic matter as possible. If you are making a bed in the lawn, remove the turf - if you dig it in the buried grass will regrow. Clean and repair your garden tools, book the lawn mower in for a service and check garden furniture for any rot. When it is warm enough, treat sheds, fences and trellis with wood preservative; brushes and rollers are fine for most things, however a sprayer is well worth buying for tricky projects such as woven panels.
Trees, shrubs and climbers
Plant and move evergreen shrubs, conifers, and trees, and water them well until firmly rooted in. Plant evergreen hedges such as laurel and yew, and box and again keep them well watered in dry spells. A good soak once a week is better than superficial watering on a regular basis. Feed woody plants with general purpose fertiliser - this applies to roses, trees, climbers, hedges and shrubs. Feed acid loving plants such as camellias and rhododendrons with ericaceous feed if you are on neutral or alkaline soil. A dose of sequestered iron also helps prevent the leaves turning yellow. Mulch regularly with fresh or composted pine needles. This can acidify the ground slightly. Finish pruning your roses and start spraying them with fungicide to ward against black spot and mildew. Repeat every fortnight until the autumn. Remember that if an infection sets in, all the stricken leaves must be burnt - do not leave them on the compost heap as this will become the perfect incubation site. Prune hydrangeas - do not remove stems with a bud at the top, but snip off old stems bearing deadheads to just above the topmost healthy bud and remove weak shoots altogether from the base. With established plants, remove some of the older shoots right down to the base -this will keep the plant compact.
Feed with a spring lawn feed to encourage new growth - these have a high nitrogen content to encourage leaf growth. Mow regularly - start with the blades high for the first couple of cuts - overseed bare patches and apply weed and moss killer. Rake out after applying moss killer or you will merely be spreading moss to the rest of your lawn.
Now is the ideal time to sow new lawns on well prepared ground - if you are unsure, ask for help and advice at your local garden centre.
Protect new spring shoots from frosts and slugs. Split clumps of snowdrops by digging them up, gently pulling them apart into bunches of three or more bulbs and replanting in dug over soil with some bonemeal incorporated into it. Make sure you work quickly so the bulbs don't have a chance to dry out, and water in if the soil is at all dry. Sprinkle general purpose fertiliser on beds and borders and erect supports, using hazel or birch twigs, for herbaceous plants such as peonies, delphiniums and oriental poppies that would otherwise flop. Carry on lifting and dividing overgrown clumps of perennials and split polyanthus plants once they have finished flowering.
Bulbs, flowers and containers
Plant hardier summer bulbs and unsprouted dahlia tubers - at least four inches deep in good, rich soil. Sow hardy annuals such as nasturtium and calendula in drifts - clashing colours just don't matter in a garden, but remember to plant taller plants behind shorter ones. Wait a while to plant cornflowers and larkspurs until the soil is warmer. Sow sweet peas outdoors- soak the seeds overnight to improve germination -and plant out those raised under cover.
Feed your pots and containers and brighten them up with primroses, violas, pots of spring bulbs and spring heathers.
Summer bedding is now available in garden centres as young plants for you to grow on - much easier than growing from seed or cuttings. Remember though, do not be deceived by the odd warm day - frost will cause havoc with these plants unless protected and slowly hardened off. If the weather turns dry, remember pots and containers will need watering, especially if they are near a wall and in a sheltered position. Take care not to over water.
The fruit garden is one area where there is not a lot to do in April. Plant strawberry plants in planters or hanging baskets for a pretty and delicious crop this summer. Protect fruit trees and gooseberries with netting. Birds love developing fruit buds and your entire crop can quickly disappear unless protected. Check your rhubarb -ì harvest it if it has grown or if it is still in its infancy, keep the forcer on. To encourage faster growth, cover the forcer with horse manure; the heat will produce even more results as it rots down. Garden centres are now full of plantlets of vegetables, salads and herbs. For those that find growing from seed daunting, this is the ideal solution. Many need hardening off so be wary about planting them straight outside - ask for advice from your local garden centre if you are unsure. Many vegetable crops can be sown as seed this month -check the instructions on the packet and plant away. Broad beans, carrots, lettuces, spinach, salad leaves, leeks and chard are just a few ideas to get healthy, cheap and home-grown food underway. Plant shallots, garlic and onion sets as well as asparagus crowns in well drained soil. If you have a frost-free greenhouse, get ahead with the summer crops - sweet peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and salads can be planted inside. If it remains cold, check the temperature requirements on the seed packet and wait if necessary.