Richard's top tips for April
Spring clean. Easter’s the perfect time to tidy the patio. Use a pressure washer, or a stiff broom and water, to clean the slabs. Use non abrasive cleaner to spruce up resin furniture or use teak oil to restore the colour to hardwood furniture. Finally add a splash of instant colour with some pots of flowering pansies.
Succulent strawberries. For an extra early crop, buy young plants from the garden centre, pot them into 6in containers and pop on the kitchen windowsill. Or put three plants in a 12in basket and grow them in a conservatory or greenhouse.
Pot plugs. Young bedding plants, bought as plug plants or small cuttings, should be potted at least twice as they grow over the next few weeks. That way, you’ll get bigger plants to put in the garden this summer.
On the move. If you’ve an evergreen plant in the wrong place, now’s a good time to move it. Once re-planted, give it a good watering to help it settle into its new position.
Patch it up. It’s the perfect time to sort out any bare patches in the lawn. Use a hand fork to loosen the soil, sprinkle on some fresh grass seed and cover with compost. Keep it well watered and protect from the birds if necessary. The new grass should appear within the fortnight.
Early veg. Sow sweet corn, marrows and pumpkins in pots indoors and they’ll be decent sized plants by the time you put them out in late May. For extra early tomatoes, pot on some plants, grow them inside, ready to put on a sunny patio after the last frosts.
In the shade. Put up some shading material in the greenhouse or paint the glass with Coolglass to protect your plants from the summer sun. Indoors, houseplants on sunny windowsills may need moving to stop them from getting scorched.
Sweet peas. Plant them out now in a sunny spot, keep them well watered and feed once a fortnight with liquid tomato food. You’ll be picking the first of the deliciously scented flowers in just a few weeks.
Grass act. Give your lawn a boost by feeding it with a professional quality grass feed like my Lawn Magic. The difference will be amazing. Within a few days, your lawn will turn a wonderful deep green and it will stay looking great for weeks.
Stop the flop. Stake tall growing plants like delphiniums while they’re still young. The plants will quickly cover the stake and very soon you’ll never know it’s there. Rather than using bamboo canes, I prefer plant spirals which are easy to adjust as the plants grow and the plants look more natural too.
Dazzling daffs. For an even better display of daffodils next year, take off any dead flowers and feed them once a week with a high potash fertiliser like liquid tomato food. It’s also important not to tie up or remove the leaves for the first six weeks after flowering.
Wraps off. Take off any fleece or straw that’s been used to protect tender plants, like bananas, from the winter cold.
Toughen up. Put your bedding plants outside on fine days but bring them in at night. This will help them harden up so they’ll get off to a much better start once you finally plant them outside after the last frosts.
Pretty poly’s. Once your polyanthus and primroses have finished flowering, you can dig them up and divide them into smaller clumps. Replant these in a shady spot in the garden and each one will grow into a flowering size plant by the autumn.
Rich pickings. Dahlias are easy to grow and they’ll put on a great display later in the summer as well as provide lots of flowers for cutting. The simplest way to grow them is to plant dormant tubers straight in the ground, in plenty of compost or well rotted manure.
Protect spuds. As the first potato shoots appear above the ground, mound earth over them. This will protect them from the frost and boost the final crop too.