Jobs to do in the garden this week.

  • Prune lavatera hard, down to healthy young growth.
  • Don't be tempted to buy your summer bedding yet, unless you have a greenhouse, conservatory or cold frame that you can store them in. A late April / early May frost is not uncommon in the UK.
  • Scatter growmore granules under fruit trees and bushes, especially apple, pear and plum trees. If it doesn't rain for a couple of days, water the granules in with a hose or watering can. Growmore is a slow release, general fertiliser, it includes the three main plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphates and potassium).
  • Your pond may have started to turn green and cloudy. This is due to a rapid increase in algae, which flourish in the warmer spring temperatures. Once the pond plants start to grow again, especially the oxygenating plants, these will use up the nutrients and create shade, reducing the amount of algae. To speed up the clearing of the water, drop a small string bag/pair of old tights stuffed with barley straw, into the pond. Weigh the straw down, so that it floats just below the surface of the water.

    As the straw breaks down, it produces hydrogen peroxide, which reduces and inhibits the growth of algae and blanket weed. If the algae is particularly bad, barley straw extract can be bought in liquid form and added to the pond water (follow the instructions on the bottle, but as a guide before purchasing,125ml treats approximately 4,500 litres/1,000 gallons, but multiple, fortnightly treatments through the year may be necessary). If you have a fountain or waterfall, try to position the barley straw underneath this. Remove and replace the barley with new straw after about six months, before it completely rots down, polluting the water.

    The small, pre-filled barley straw bags to add to your pond, cost about £2 each, but you can buy a 17 litre pack, which will last a few years for less than a fiver from your local pet shop or Amazon here: Supreme Petfoods Tiny Friends Farm Russell & Gerty Barley Straw, 17 Litres Blagdon Extract of Barley Straw - 250ml

  • Prune overgrown or newly planted blackcurrants back hard - almost to ground level, this will 'open up' the plant and encourage new shoots, producing fruit the following season. Blackcurrants mainly fruit on last year's growth. Normal pruning is restricted to removing the old fruiting branches, just after fruiting, leaving new shoots to bear fruit next year.
  • Tidy up any remaining leaves and general garden rubbish. It's home to slugs, snails, vine weevil and woodlice and can introduce disease and infection into your garden.
  • Geranium cuttings should be taken now. Cut off a 8cm (3in) shoot just below a leaf joint (node), remove all but the top pair of leaves and insert the cuttings 4cm (1.5in) into a small pot of potting compost. Gently water in the cuttings and place in a warm, well-lit place. When they have begun to produce more leaves they can be moved to larger pots, containing general-purpose compost.
  • Spread compost from the compost bin, over the borders and vegtable patch. This adds valuable nutrients to the soil and acts as a mulch, to retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Ensure that the soil is moist before adding mulch.
  • Feed fruit trees with a potash fertiliser.
  • Plant summer fruiting raspberry canes.
  • Autumn or late winter are the best time to lay a new lawn, as it's damper and cooler, allowing the turf to bed in without you having to worry too much about regular watering. See here: laying a new lawn for further information.
  • Hard prune dogwood/cornus stems every other year. This will ensure straight, upright, brightly coloured stems. Use the prunings as hardwood cuttings. Cut into 8inch lengths, trim the bottom at a 45 degree angle and the top straight across, so you know which way up it should be planted. Push the stems into an empty space in the border.
  • Prune summer-flowering clematis before they start producing new growth.
  • Plant lily and gladioli bulbs in 4in (10cm) deep holes. Cover with soil or compost and gently firm down the soil to ensure that there are no air pockets as this may cause the bulbs to rot.
  • Wash any used pots and seed trays, ready to be used for seed sowing.
  • Apply fertilizer containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus around trees, fruit bushes and shrubs.
  • Remove algae and moss from patios and paths with a proprietary patio and path cleaner or tar-oil winter wash.
  • If you are ordering seeds or plugs from mail-order companies, you'll need to get your order in soon.
  • Start off seed potatoes, standing them in seed trays with eyes uppermost.
  • For an early crop of strawberries bring the pots into the greenhouse now.
  • Pot up any cuttings that have rooted.
  • Check produce and plants that are in storage for damage or drying out (dahlias, chrysanths etc.).
  • Clear away old crops from the greenhouse, including grow bags, they can harbour hibernating insects and their eggs. Spread the grow bag compost on the soil as a soil conditioner.
  • Refirm the roots of any shrubs that may have been lifted by frost.
  • Put out feeders for birds, not forgetting fresh water. Encouraging birds into the garden will help reduce the number of insects and slugs.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Cover shrubs that are likely to be damaged by frost with garden fleece, sacking or an old light blanket.
  • On a dry still day rake up fallen leaves, don't put them on the compost heap, as leaves break down in a cold process, whereas a traditional compost heap breaks organic matter down in a warm/hot process. Put them into a leaf composter, or make leaf mould. How to make leaf mould.
  • Plant apple and pear trees. Check and adjust any stakes on young trees and remove stakes on any trees that have been planted more than 3 years.
  • Plant or move roses. They like plenty of sun and a clay soil. Leave 60cm (24in) between plants to allow air circulation, which will reduce the chance of infection.
  • During autumn and winter, indoor plants will require less feeding and watering. However as the temperature drops outside, the central heating goes on and the temperature in the house tends to go up, so whilst it's a good idea to keep your pot plants on the dry side and not water them too often, you should check a couple of times a week to ensure they haven't totally dried out. Oh and if you have a water spray bottle, hold the plant over the sink or bath and give the foliage a quick little squirt (don't do this to hairy leaved plants like african violets).

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