Peter’s Gardening Tips for April

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A magical and spectacular  time of year, Spring has definitely arrived and I heard my first Chiff-Chaffs last weekend.

Spring flowers to please the eyes, nose and senses, an explosion of colour, leaves and life! Daffs,Tulips and now bluebells all in flower together with Camellias, Rhododendrons, Pieris etc.

Willow Warbler, Blackcap also back from Africa to breed here.  Orange tip butterflies hatching out, bees galore. I absolutely love it!




Laurels are stunning this year covered in candle-like flowers, I have never seen so much flower.  These flowers are great for the bees.   The Laurel berries fruiting in early autumn are great for blackbirds, thrushes and for foxes, badgers, mice and voles and roosting birds.  A great hedge – plant instead of a Leylandii conifer.  They can be cut to the ground and will regrow nice and bushy.  Good for regenerating a leggy tall hedge.


Lawn care

Lawn care


Perk up your lawn with a feed, weed and mosskiller.  Aerating the lawn is a must after the dreadful winter.  This can be done by standing on a fork in a lawn and gently pulling back on the fork – not breaking the handle!  The ground will lift abit and crack the surface so improving drainage and critically getting more air to the roots of the grass.  This will help the grass to grow and reduce moss and algae.  If your lawn is large forget doing the above by hand and hire a Lawn Aerating machine, either with solid tines or a slitting machine.  After scarifying or aerating, any bare patches can be over-seeded with new grass seed lightly covered with fresh soil, and keep watered.  If the whole lawn is looking thin, then over-seed the whole area,  one handful of seed to the square yard/metre.  A lawn spreader can be hired for using on larger areas.


This is THE month for seed sowing,  check out the packets of seed and veg planners, pretty well most can be sown, direct sown into the ground.

Clear weeds, tickle over the surface with a fork, rake out lumps, break up with the rake head laid flat with the ground and tamp up and down crushing the lumps.  Then rake to a fine crumbly texture or tilth.  A wooden scaffold board is now great to work off.  Create a straight edge where you want the row of the seeds to grow.  Stand on the board and use a trowel or the back of the rake and draw this along the side of the board edge creating a shallow furrow in the soil.  Now you can seed sow, there is so much choice from carrots, lettuce, radish, beetroot, and spinach.  Sow peas, broad beans, white cabbages, and broccoli.  Plant out onion sets and shallots.  Cover where you can with Enviromesh to keep bugs off.




In the greenhouse, plant courgette, marrow, squash, tomato, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds.  Always use fresh seed compost and warm it up, avoid using cold, wet compost!   If you have a heated propagator you will achieve better and quicker germination, a great investment.

Plant out potatoes, remember to plant at least 6” deep, adding potato fertiliser or growmore.  Potatoes are hungry plants.  Once the leaves come through be prepared to cover with horticultural fleece for frost protection.

Others  for seed sowing include cauliflowers, brussel sprouts, cabbages, purple sprouting, broccoli – these all need a lot of room to grow, read the packets!  Celery, ridge cucumber, parsnip, climbing beans, runner beans, French beans leave until the end of the month and sow indoors, this very wam weather is very temporary!!  A shock to the system and some nasty frosts for next week, be prepared!

Jobs to do

Flower Garden – Sweet peas can be planted out into the ground or a large planter.  Put in bamboo canes or string supports to support and climb up.  Use a good quality compost for containers with John Innes No 2 and combine with multi-purpose compost 50/50 split.  Pinch out growing tip if plants are too tall back to 4-5 leaves.

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas


Bulbs – Take off faded flowers and the seed pod on the stalk especially daffodils.  If you want Snowdrops and smaller bulbs to spread leave them on.  You can dig up large clumps of Snowdrops and split them up into smaller groups.  Re-plant where you want to move them to straight away.

Dahlia Tubers – Time to check and pot up into fresh compost.  Any soft or rotten tubers need to be cut off and thrown away,  water and place in greenhouse or a light windowsill.

Begonia Tubers – These can be started up again.  A tip I was given years ago is to place the  corm on fresh damp compost upside down, convex upwards!  Leave like this for 2 weeks , and when you lift off the corm and look at the concave side there should be several buds – 3 or more.  Now you can plant them the right way up as usual, do let me know how you get on?

Garden Lillies – If you want scent go for the oriental and longiflorum types.  Great for summer colour, and plant in containers a handful of gravel under each bulb.  John Innes/multi-purpose mix again, placing it 6” down in the plot or plant in the ground again with gravel or coarse grit under the bulb.

Water and feed plants in containers, and any newly planted plants.  March has been particularly dry and it looks like April too.

RHS Wisley

RHS Wisley


Please make sure you get out and about and visit gardens open under the National Garden Scheme, RHS gardens, National Trust and historic privately owned, be inspired and use your senses.  Stop, look and listen and sniff.  Have a good inhale of Viburnums burwoodii, Narcissus/Daffodils,  and some Magnolias.  Sit on a park bench, lean against a tree and watch nature around you – a queen bumble bee looking for a mouse hole in the ground to start her brood.    Birds nest building or feeding their young, listen to the birdsong, look out for butterflies, and check local ponds for tadpoles.  Spring is over in a flash so its good to make the most of it when you can, enjoy it and explore beyond your neighbourhood.

If you have a window take a trip to your local garden centre and purchase some herbs from seed, parsley, chives, coriander, dill, basil and rocket.

Don’t forget  Silversurfers can get 15% discount on seeds, bulbs and plants, from until the end of April.  On-line purchases only.


Weather Stories and Foke Lore

‘A dry March and a dry May portend a wholesome summer if there be a showery April between’!

‘April showers bring forth May flowers’

‘Rain on Good Friday and Easter Day, a good year for grass and bad for hay’

’When April blows his horn, It’s both good for hay and corn’


From Two tramps in Mudtime by Robert Frost

‘The sun was warm but the wind was chill you know how it is with an April day, when the sun is out and the wind is still, you’re one month on in the middle of May.  But if your so much as dare to speak, a cloud come over the sunlit arch, and wind comes off a frozen peak, and you’re two months back in the middle of March’

Happy Gardening to you all from a frustrated gardener Another 6 weeks on crutches!

Kind regards, Hop Along Pete.

Please feel free to make any comments or leave any questions below …

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. Autumn 2016 finds me at the Autumn Flower Show 6-8 of September at RHS Wisley and Taste of Autumn Sunday 23rd of October. Sunday 11th of September I am cycling from London to Brighton for Perennial ( Gardeners Benevolent Fund) who helped me when I broke my leg badly in 2014. Had the plate removed in February this year. My Just Giving page is Perennial is a Fabulous Charity who help anyone working in horticulture. I didn't think I would need their help at the age of 52! They were brilliant and helped us as a family. It's my turn to repay their help and others too! John Ambrose and I have raised over £ 2000.00 thank you all. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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Alan Johnson
13th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Peter could you tell me how to propagate primulas,?
Peter Mills
13th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Alan,
Primulas can be propagated two ways. Large clumps can be split and devided after flowering,reduce foliage by 50%. The other way is from seed - crucially fresh seed almost green. So almost before the seed heads go brown you can harvest and sow. Fresh seed compost, in a seed tray, gently tamped down, sprinkle seed as evenly as possible, can be a bit sticky, on the surface. Do Not cover the seed with compost! Put seed tray in a water bath,so the water gently soaks up through the seed tray and draws the seeds into the compost.
Primula seed is light sensitive. Place seed tray outside,a sheet of glass over the tray is optional. Don't allow to dry out. Good luck. Regards Peter.
12th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
Please advise on best shrubs and plants for an open garden in southwest Scotland with elevated position towards the solway coast I have planted numerous plants but they have all died . Thanks for any help
Peter Mills
12th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Linda,
If you can create a wind break of a hedge this will make a massive difference. Griselina littoralis,Elaeagnus pungens,Laurel,Escallonia,Pittosporum,privet,holly. A mixed hedge or chose one variety! If your soil is acidic think of Azaleas mollis,Camellia, Berberis, Choisya,Weigela, Caryopteris,Hydrangea,Spirea,Cotoneaster, Cytisus,lavenders..
Good luck, let me know how you get on.
Regards Peter.
Christine Johnson
12th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
I have three foxgloves in my garden, two from last year and one new one this year. Although the leaves look healthy, none of them have produced any 'spires', not even last year. What am I doing wrong?
Peter Mills
12th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Christine,
Your foxgloves from last year will flower this year,perhaps even your new one. Foxgloves are biennial- they grow the first year,flower the next and die! So keep some seeds or buy new plants.
Regards Peter.
Peter Mills
12th Apr 2014
Thanks for voting!
That should of been foxgloves, not rollovers!
Best regards

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