April 2021 Column

April has me feeling a little nostalgic. The tone of month reminds me of 80’s childhood photos. It’s in-between. The light is warming but still I notice a blue hue and the wind is chilly. Trees and plants are playing catch up with the lengthening days. You remember that feeling that things still haven’t got going; we are waiting for something. But it’s during these days that life is actually happening. That’s why I feel wistful about April.


It’s probably the least glamorous month with showers and wind and still not vast growth in the garden. It is however the most exciting for tasks and beginning to feel like the gardening year is reawakening. It’s also one of the busiest.


We are seed sowing every fortnight and this month we sow half hardy annuals too. These are plants that cannot survive freezing temperatures. We have at least 6 weeks until we are out of the frost zone so if you can sow indoors, these plants can be started off and pricked out into trays, then planted out in late May when we are confident of the last frost passing. I would wait another month before I direct sow these into the soil outside.


So now we are sowing all the annuals, pricking out and transplanting into trays those that are growing fast and by now I begin to plant out those that I sowed last autumn. Oh and dividing late summer perennials. Don’t forget to do that too! See, I told you it was busy. Our persicaria and echinops have got too big in scale for the long border so I am lifting these, driving the spade through the clump and replanting sections back into the spot and expanding my plant nursery in the field plot. I also give some away and make some swops. It’s a rewarding gardening job. Perennials do need lifting every 2-3 years to ensure they flower well. They might sulk the first year after replanting so I rotate lifting to maintain the flowering each year.


Gardens will get on and grow without us. A border without a gardener quickly finds its own balance and will be beautiful nonetheless but I find great joy in nudging the plants along with my attentions and choosing combinations. Metaphors and trite phrases are bandied about regarding the joys of gardening but I am fully signed up to them. I would much rather be in the beds nurturing plants than sitting on the bench right now. We know breathing in the soil as we garden has significant benefits to our physical and mental health and I always feel good from an hour spent among the plants. If I have a problem to work through, weeding or watering will sieve through the thoughts and percolate the options. I will also spot self sown treasures, plants needing a prune or an unwanted bully taking too much space.


Gardening has taught me much about noticing, preparation, anticipation and patience. Not to mention optimism, gratitude and hope. I feel connected to this space and a great deal of responsibility to nurture but it’s not heavy, the relationship generously repays the effort and care. Nothing stays the same, the year rolls around again and here we are again standing reading to burst into growth. I never take it for granted and enjoy all the highs and lows because after all, it means I am truly living it.

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