Ah April! A sweet, sweet month. The emergence of sap green shoots, bursts of color from early bloomers, the aroma of petrichor, the myriad birdsong all promising a new, beautiful season of growth and glory in the garden. April might well be my favorite month – it holds so much potential that in these four weeks everything one dreams is still fully possible. The very anticipation of the bounty to come keeps me in the highest of spirits. Finally relieved of heavy coats, one if free once again to feel the sunlight warmly caress our senses awake. There is nothing else quite as sublime.
As my hands sink into the still cold soil, the pleasure of getting back to tending my piece of earth reminds me as always what a privilege it is to have a garden.I start every new season in the garden by renewing my covenant with the earth – to do no harm.
A number of tasks got done this past weekend.
The recycling system for watering the vertical garden was given its annual servicing – cleaning, washing etc., and then it was up and running. This week, I’ll start adding in heuchera and ferns.
Two springs ago, I got a young magnolia to espalier into a fan. It has now grown significantly taller and needed the permanent supports to help it grow accordingly. My friend Lulu has a privacy screen of live bamboo. Said screen is managed judiciously and thinned out frequently. She generously provided me with the extra long poles needed for my magnolia. The supports are now installed and the fan is taking shape.
Birds were marauding the newly seeded handkerchief sized front lawn. They were feasting on the seeds and helping themselves to the hay for nest building. I didn’t mind the latter but I objected to the former. There is really plenty of other food available in the garden. My lawn, such as it is, is not an all you-can -eat buffet. Bright, shiny colorful balloons placed around this small space seems to have done the trick of keeping the opportunists at bay. Meanwhile, I suspect my neighbors are trying to figure out what we’re celebrating.
The pots of boxwood wintering luxuriously in the greenhouse were brought out. They will get a hair trimming after they’ve acclimatized to the outdoors.
All the labels on the fruit espalier have been refreshed – it looks smarter already. The labels on a Belgian fence espalier of assorted apples and fruit are important. You can imagine with all the crisscrossing branches, it can get very confusing to identify the different types of apples/pears.
Last fall, as a first time dahlia grower, I’d decided to let those tubers that were grown in pots, overwinter as is in the unheated basement. The same for cannas. All the pots were given a good awakening drink of water. With any luck, the dahlias will start showing growth in a few weeks. The canna had been resting alongside the figs, agapanthus and Brugamansia which receive the occasional splash of water all through the winter so they are actually already showing new growth which pleases me mightily. The winter was really so mild that one of the Brugamansia kept tossing out beautiful flowers the whole time. I hope this means that with all that practice, she performs exceptionally well this year.
It’s a delightfully busy time in the garden where plants, animals and gardeners are all working hard. My garden’s Open Day is May 20th this year – mark your calendars, clear your schedule, buy your tickets and come visit!
Here is the general to-do list for April –
1. Time to restart the compost pile! Give it a good stir and add fresh compostables. If you don’t have a composter, please do make or buy one.
2. Clean up all winter debris.
3. Can you believe weed patrol begins now? Be regular about it and you will always be on top of this chore.
4. Seedlings started indoors can be planted out once the soil has warmed up and has been well prepared for planting. Stay vigilant for spells of late frost. Keep cloches and fleece covers at hand.
5. Attend to the lawn. De- thatch, aerate, reseed and finally, fertilize with a good layer of compost.
6. Similarly, feed trees, shrubs and all garden beds with compost.
7. Remove burlap and other protection from plants and pots.
8. Divide overgrown perennials.
9. Plant summer-flowering bulbs.
10. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased stems/branches from roses, other shrubs and trees.
11. Start using an organic control to put off slugs and snails.
12. Put out nesting material such as wool, moss, cotton string, shredded paper, small twigs, feathers and hay for the birds. Nothing synthetic or artificial please.
13. Uncover the outdoor furniture and give them a good cleaning. Now you’re prepared for the first truly warm day!
14. Plant or move evergreen shrubs and conifers.
15. Take the time to revel in the beauty of the bulbs and other flowers in bloom.
Note: I’m participating in an on-line art show. Do take a look –
Scenes from the garden –
(c) 2023 Shobha Vanchiswar
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