Finally… the prospect of spring and some warmth, light and colour! March and April are exciting months as the garden begins to spring into life. Aside from keeping those relentless weeds under control, it’s a really busy time of year in terms of pruning, fertilising and general tidying up, in readiness for the summer. So time to get your gloves on and really get stuck into this year’s gardening!
This time of year is one of our busiest for ‘blitz garden maintenance’, as clients wake up and find their garden has, almost overnight, spiralled out of control! It can be a rather daunting couple of months for gardeners, as weeds appear from nowhere, and seem to grow faster than the garden plants! This, combined with the need to get the garden tidied up, spruced up and pruned ready for the summer ahead. Contact us in plenty of time if you would like a hand with the jobs we’ve listed below!
Do try and keep up with the weeding to prevent those nasty creatures outcompeting the garden plants for nutrients, space and light. Weeds are best dug or hoed out to remove their roots… i.e. don’t just pull the top bit off!
In our opinion, March is the main pruning month of the year. Many shrubs will benefit from a light prune in spring, to keep the shrub within bounds, in shape and tidy, and to encourage new growth. Remove any winter damaged stems and dead or overcrowded shoots. Others can be hard pruned – see below.
So what exactly should you prune now?
- Small evergreen shrubs such as Lavenders and some Hebes.
- Late summer / autumn flower deciduous shrubs (i.e. those which flower on the current years’ growth) – e.g. Fuchsias, Caryopteris, Ceratostigma, and Indigofera can all be hard pruned. Also Buddlejas, and climbers such as the Group 3 Clematis (eg Clematis Viticella varieties)
- Cornus / Dogwoods – those grown for their colourful stems – these can be hard pruned
March is also a good time to hard prune perennials like Penstemons. We normally recommend partially cutting Penstemons down in late autumn, to tidy them, but to leave hard pruning them until spring, when you should be able to see new growth appearing near the base of the plants. We suggest pruning Verbena Bonariensis in a similar way, although we don’t usually prune it as hard as Penstemons.
Do bear in mind though, that not all plants are best pruned at this time of year (nothing is simple!), and with many, there is some flexibility as to when you prune. Late spring / early summer flowering shrubs for example, flower on last years’ growth, and so are best pruned just after they have finished flowering. Weigela, Ceanothus, Philadelphus are three examples.
Tidying & sprucing up
- Tidy up / cut down perennials if this wasn’t done late last autumn / early winter.
- Borders will benefit from being fertilised. A general purpose balanced fertiliser, applied at the manufacturer’s recommended rate, is normally all that is necessary.
- Redefine the lawn edges – it is amazing what a big different this can make visually!
- If you are using mulches, now is a good time to top them up
- Pressure wash patios and paths (have a look at our post on patio maintenance)
- Clear the netting from ponds and set up pumps and associated equipment.
- Consider aerating the lawn. If it has been mild and the lawn has been growing well, consider cutting the lawn, but keep the blades set high.
- And after all that sprucing up…
It’s time to think of planting!
- Until around the end of March, you can still plant bare root shrubs & trees, move existing plants and divide perennials
- March is a good time for planting fruit trees
- As the news season’s container grown plants come on stream, you can start planting those new borders, and of course…
- It’s time to start sowing veggies and annuals. Bear in mind though that tender annuals will need sowing under glass.
April is really a continuation of March, but the emphasis turns more to growing and nurturing growing plants rather than tidying up after winter.
- Keep weeding, weeding, weeding (sorry!)
- It’s a big month for lawns, as the regular cutting regime gets going. Lawns will also benefit from a weed and feed. More information on looking after your new lawn here.
- April is a great month for planting new plants, and for sowing seeds, ready for the year ahead.
- Fertilise roses – and start spraying (if you wish to do so)
- Check and adjust tree ties
- Train climbers onto their supports
- Remove the dead heads of spring flowering bulbs.
And finally….keep an eye on the weather. Things may be warming up, but frosts are still possible. More importantly, keep young plants well watered. Recent springs have been very dry – just what plants don’t need when they are growing fast. So keep an eye on them, and give them a helping drink if they need it.
Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below & I’ll add it into the list! If any of the above needs further explanation, please get in touch.