Oh, to be in England 

Now that April’s there,

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,

While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England – now!!

Robert Browning 1854

By Gordon the Gardener

April in the garden is a time of soil preparation. Leeks and sweet peas like soil rich in manure or well-rotted compost.

Take out a spade depth of soil along a trench and dig or fork this organic matter into the bottom of the trench.

A general fertiliser, such as Growmore, can also be added. Sweet peas are heavy feeders and like a most soil. Adding organic matter will help retain moisture.

Leeks and sweet peas grown in a greenhouse should be hardened off before planting. They should then be placed in a cold frame. Give them air by wedging open the cold frame on none frosty days.

Gradually more and more air can be given until the cold frame lights (tops) can be removed entirely during the day. Then replace them at night.

If frost is forecast the whole frame should be covered up with fleece or even old carpet if the frost is expected to be severe as in the hard frost we had throughout April 2021.

The above hardening off process should be applied for all plants – bedding plants in particular. Sweet Peas should be stopped (a small bit taken off the top) when a few inches in length. This encourages the plants to bush out. Potatoes can also be planted,  as described last month.

If you have a greenhouse or frost-free area, bedding plants – if you have sown your own – can be pricked out into cells, as sold by producers, preferably using a John Innes potting compost.

Alternatively small plug plants can be purchased and treated likewise. But take care not to over water, if in doubt don’t water until you are sure it is needed, as too much water can cause your loved young plants to rot off.

Impatiens (Busy Lizzies) have made a comeback after suffering fatal diseases. New resistant strains have now given them a new lease of life.

They are easy to grow, tough and reliable plants that will be in flower all season and perform well in baskets, window boxes, patio containers and flower beds in shaded areas.

Sowings of vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and spinach can be made in the greenhouse. Also climbing French beans, such as ‘Crimson Lake’, can be sown in small pots of John Innes compost, 2in (5cm) deep in late April. French beans should have the same soil preparation as above for leeks.

April is a time to prune hydrangeas. Cut one third of the older wood out to make room for new growth. Buddleia davidii can still be cutback to three or four buds.

The lawn can also be fed and any bare patches re-sown with a mix of seed and John Innes potting compost.

Last but not least, Harrogate Spring Flower Show will be held from April 21-24 at the Great Yorkshire Showground. Book now to save £3 per ticket, which also enables a quicker entry into the show.

Advice will also be on hand from Huddersfield’s own Graham Porter, RHS Harlow Carr Medal awardee. Graham will be on the garden advice bureau at the show to answer all your questions.

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiousity has its own reason for existing.

Albert Einstein