Spring is officially here and our gardening expert Adam Kirtland couldn’t be more thrilled! Join him as he guides you through some top tips for your garden in April
It’s officially the spring equinox on 20 March and it’s the time when we can say, with full certainty that we are in spring. After a long old winter (and gosh hasn’t it been long!) this is the time we get to enjoy some of the fruits of our labour from autumn when all of our tulips are in full bloom. But hold your horses, it doesn’t end there – now the light levels are high and the weather is getting warmer (the last frost happens in April, hurray!) the possibilities of getting outside are far greater. This month I’m sharing my favourite seeds for the year ahead and what you can do with them now! In April you can sow seeds and still get beautiful flowers this year, so let’s get to it…
Hardy or Tender?
But before we get into the plants and seeds, let’s talk about a couple of gardening terms. I’ve already mentioned frost and its worth going into exactly what that means for our plants and why it’s worth waiting until now to do lots of things we’ve all been itching to do for months.
Technically a frost, is a period where the night time (or day time) temperatures go below 0⁰C. In and around Birmingham, the last frost date is usually at the end of April but aim for the start of May to be on the safe side. Once the temperatures are above 0⁰C then we could start moving some plants back outside, if you brought them indoors over winter and we can sow some seeds directly in the ground or in containers outdoors.
The terms ‘hardy’ and ‘tender’ refer to how plants react to this frost. Hardy plants are likely to cope with a frost in the UK, tender is the exact opposite and the frost will kill them off. Now, there are degrees of hardiness and tenderness with plants and it’s worth noting that where you are in the UK will also affect this.
Sowing seeds can seem like a daunting task if you haven’t done it before, but it couldn’t be simpler. You don’t need any fancy equipment, all you need is a space to get started. If you’ve got a large outdoor space then you’ll likely have some space in the ground but otherwise you can use any manner of garden pot or container, whatever takes your fancy at the garden centre.
The most important things here are the seeds themselves. The seeds you buy, will determine how they like to be sown, so you’ll want to check the back of the packet – but as a general very rough rule seeds like to be sown in one of two ways. One method is as simple as popping them on top of the surface of the soil or compost and dusting them with a light sprinkle more of compost, before watering gently. The other way is much the same but instead, these seeds like to be a little deeper in the compost. The back of the seed packet will tell everything you need to know here. So, which seeds can I sow now?
It just so happens that you can sow two of my favourite plants right now, Sunflowers and Cosmos. The good thing about sowing both now is that they’re tough as old boots and you can pop them straight in the ground or into containers.
Think carefully about where you want them to flower though. Sunflowers, as the name suggests, are sun lovers, so you’ll want to make sure to plant these on the side of the garden where the sun shines the most, otherwise they’ll end up facing your neighbour’s garden! They need a few feet between each plant so that they’ve got enough room for the large blooms at the top to open fully.
Simply push a seed into the compost down to about your first knuckle, cover with compost and water. Soon, the seedling will push its way up through the surface and you’ll have the beginnings of your own sunflower. As they grow, pop in a bamboo cane or large stick to support them as they grow taller and taller – the easiest plant to grow!
My other favourite is Cosmos! If you haven’t grown or seen Cosmos before then you’re in for a real treat because they’re another easy one to get going and they’ll give you flowers for months and months, right up until the first frost of the year in November. These can be sown in much the same way but with these, I tend to sow them on the surface of the compost and then add a thin layer, maybe about 3mm, of compost on top – water and let them germinate. If you’re planning on having a patch of cosmos then you’ll want to plant them about 30cm apart because they can get quite bushy, but with an absolute abundance of flowers.
It’s really as simple as that, two wonderful plants that suit any garden, terrace, courtyard or even a balcony! Let me know how you get on with yours and share your photos with me over on Instagram!