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April & May in the Garden

April and May garden notes.

A friend asked recently if I do everything I list in these notes. They cover two months and I try, but it is perhaps aspirational rather than prescriptive: “should, could, would if I had time/ it stopped raining/ there were no other commitments!”

What do I aspire to in April and May? Pruning, of course, penstemon, hardy fuchsias, early-flowering shrubs and evergreen hedges, sowing seeds indoors for half-hardy and tender annuals, outdoors for the hardy ones, to fill some of the gaps caused by the weather.  Peat-free seed compost reduces the impact on the environment, as peat bogs store carbon and hold water, preventing flooding. I try to use stakes and twigs from pruning for supports of the plants that need it, which are hidden by plant growth. Containers need feeding and planting, and garden furniture needs attention, then mowing in May, leaving a patch to grow long for wildlife throughout the summer, and lifting and dividing large clumps of spring bulbs.

In April I hope to take basal cuttings, after the demonstration of taking cuttings to be given by Oscar of Godmanchester Community Plant Nursery at Godmanchester Garden Club (all welcome, details from josephineabecker@gmail.com).

We can still have frosts in May, so delay planting out bedding plants. After the wettest February on record and more rain in March, water butts are full – better for plants than tap water, which contains chlorine. Leave it to stand before using. Paved front gardens lead to run-off into the road but porous parking areas can reduce this, replacing paving with gravel or other porous materials.

Comfrey and nettles can be steeped in water for free, eco-friendly fertiliser. Weeds also grow well in warmer weather and need hoeing or digging up. There are now restrictions on what can go in the green bin, but we can chop up stems and branches and use them to create a loose and aerated layer of greenery, a blanket to reduce evaporation from surface and weeds as well as adding organic matter to soil, to improve its resilience.

We know that gardening has many beneficial effects, for both physical and mental health, but there is another surprising benefit, to our digestive system! Listen to Michael Mosley – Just One Thing: Get Gardening

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001x4v8?partner=uk.co.bbc&origin

Then we can enjoy the warmer weather in blooming gardens!

Josephine Becker

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author from the St Mary’s, Godmanchester Parish Magazine for April.