Your garden: April 1


Depending on their position and soil types, not all gardens can be cultivated intensively from now on. If this is the case in your vegetable garden, consider raised beds to improve drainage and increase soil warmth.

Rubbish should be cleaned up and taken to a green waste recycling depot or added to the compost bin. In colder months, compost heaps rarely heat up enough to destroy infective spores of fungoid diseases or the eggs of insect pests, so add only healthy material.

Dig over areas that will not have winter crops and apply lime (100g per sq m). Fresh manure can be added and will decompose over winter. Alternatively, sow oats or barley for digging during October as green manure.

Plant out cabbages to mature in spring. Sow broad beans about 2cm deep and in a double row, with 20cm between the rows. The well-known Exhibition Long Pod variety is still popular but plants need good support, as do Evergreen and the very tall (2.3m) heritage Red Broad Bean. A smaller variety, such as Coles Early Dwarf, may be more suitable for the smaller garden, although the long-pod varieties are generally hardier. Beans transfer nitrogen to the soil, a valuable side effect of growing the vegetable.

Carrots and beetroot can be lifted and stored for winter. Put undamaged roots in a heap in a dry corner of the garden and cover with loose soil. This makes it easier to gather them as needed than digging from frozen soil in midwinter.


Ground can be prepared over the next month for planting rose bushes in winter and early spring. Add plenty of manure, digging deeply so it gets into the lower levels of the soil. For light, sandy soils, use fairly fresh cow manure to retain moisture. Keep manure at low depths and add lime on top. On heavy clays, straw, stable manure or a rich garden compost is preferable. Gypsum is invaluable in helping break down clay.

Herbaceous plants such as delphiniums and hot pokers (Kniphofia) will give better displays if divided every few years. Lift and divide using a sharp spade. Replant pieces of strong, young growth. Lupins and hollyhocks can be divided in this way but are better grown from seed unless a particular colour is being retained.

Sweet pea seed can be sown now for flowers in late spring. Bijou, Cupid, Pixie Princess and the Fantasy Dwarf series are low-growing and need no staking.

Tuberous begonias can be dried off and stored for the winter in a dry place where frosts will not harm them.

Gladioli can be lifted when the foliage yellows. Shake off any soil over a sack or sheet of plastic so small corms can be retrieved, then place in paper bags — never use plastic or corms will rot — with colour or variety name on them. Tie the neck of the bag and hang gladioli to dry completely, when foliage can be removed and corms stored in shallow boxes for replanting in spring.


In the glasshouse, tomatoes still with fruit to ripen can be helped along by having most of their leaves removed so plant foods are diverted from the roots into the fruit. If only a few fruit are left, cut them off, attached to a portion of stem, and hang in a warm spot to ripen.

When harvesting is over, pull the plants out immediately to let the soil rest.

Tomatoes grown in pots or bags should be removed and the soil put on the garden, where it will weather into rich garden soil.


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