Get your pinny on, says Alice Whitehead – it’s not just your house that needs a tidy up!
Let in the light
It's time to clear blankets of leaves and debris off your flower and veg beds, so new growth gets off to a good start.
While this insulating layer protects the soil and provides valuable homes for wildlife in winter, as the weather warms, hibernating insects and mammals will seek out new homes so you can get clearing.
Use a wooden board in each hand to pick up leaves, so you can grab more in one go and bag up in bin liners or put it in a chicken-wire container to rot down.
Leave for one year to break it down into nutritious soil conditioner and two years to use as potting compost. You can add other plant materials to the compost heap and save bigger twigs for firewood.
Check out these articles for more compost tips:
Nip and tuck
Polish those pruning shears and give your plants a short back and sides. Tender shrubs such as lavender
benefit from protective top growth over winter, but can be snipped into shape now.
Always cut to a green shoot and not into the twiggy ‘dead wood’. You can also trim summer flowering shrubs such as Fuchsia and Buddleia to encourage more flowers.
If you want beautiful autumn colour, be sure to cut shrubs such as dogwood to just above the ground.
Find your mow-jo
Don’t let the grass grow under your feet! Wet weather, leaves, and lack of love can leave lawns looking more like ponds than pasture at this time of year, but as long as it’s dry, you can start mowing from March to October, when the grass is actively growing.
Put the mower on its highest setting in spring and mow once a week, lowering the height by an inch as the weather warms. Close mowing looks excellent at first, but it can weaken the grass and make it more prone to problems.
You can start oversowing or starting new lawns in April, as long as the ground is around 15°C. Give your lawn a feed to cut down on the moss and boost the blades.
Groom your greenhouse
Greenhouse cleaning can seem like a chore, especially when we’re all raring to get growing. But good hygiene now can pay dividends later in the season.
Dirty windows reduce light, leading to leggy seedlings, and dirty pots can harbour pests and diseases. Throw open the doors and use a mild detergent and hot water to get into those corners and crevices.
Gutters, pipes and water butts can quickly get bunged up with leaves, so give them a good clear out.
A mulch describes any loose covering laid over cultivated soil – and they’re a great way to retain moisture, lock in nutrients, deter pests, suppress weeds and protect plant roots from late frosts.
Choose biodegradable materials such as bark or well-rotted compost under plants. Or, if you want to prevent weeds, try plastic sheets or pebbles.
Add materials when plants are beginning to spurt into growth, so you don’t cover your favourite dormant plants or bury bulbs.
A thin layer will suffice as thicker layers can create a crust that will be hard to penetrate and restricts air circulation. Keep mulches away from the stems of plants, particular seedlings, as it can soften stems and allow diseases to set in.
Buy some bloomin' amazing mulch in the Wall to Wall Plants online shop.
Divide and conquer
Us gardeners love a freebie – and what better way to double up on your favourite plants than with a bit of division. Perennials such as Sedums, Geraniums, Crocosmia and Hosta can all be divided now.
Although the technique looks ruthless, splitting large clumps into smaller sections can revive plants, remove woody innards, and bring back their shape. Simply cut the plant into smaller portions with a spade as if you were slicing a cake. Make sure each slice has some good roots and shoots to get established. Replant and water well during dry periods.
Feeling inspired? Browse our April growing guide and find out what to plant now!