The colours of autumn are starting to appear now alongside the autumn frosts. April is a wonderful month of warm days and cool nights that make gardening a little bit easier. It’s time to turn from summer and look toward the coming winter.
Many bulbs are being planted but April has been warm so far. A rise in temperature will signal bulbs to flower. This can easily happen in the variable Queenstown weather, causing bulbs to flower in autumn rather than spring. To stop this, plant them at the correct depth: tulips 10cm, daffodils 15cm (depending on size of species) and crocuses about 5cm. It also depends where you are planting, if you are now getting some regular frosts in that area bulbs will be fine to plant, but if you’re in a warmer area like Kelvin Heights it may be better to wait until the end of April / start of May. Bulbs will not need to be put in the fridge either as Queenstown is its own fridge.
Lift or cover Dahlias after frost has damaged the top of the plant. Most dahlia tubers will die if frosted, sometimes this doesn’t happen if the ground doesn’t freeze deep enough. However some areas do, so to stop the frost reaching them you can cover them with straw or a bundle of frost fleece. If you really don’t want to risk it you can dig them up, dry them out and then plant again in spring.
Improve soil conditions by adding sheep pellets or well rotted manure. The pellets and manure will break down gradually over winter making it ready for plant use in spring.
Overgrown perennials can be lifted and divided. There’s nothing better than free plants! This can’t be done with all plants, so if in doubt do a little google first.
Veggies and fruit:
Garlic can be planted at the end of the month but we’ll tell you more in May.
Raspberries that are fruiting now will usually be autumn fruiting raspberries. Autumn fruiting raspberries can be pruned after fruiting into winter. They crop on new years growth so prune canes back to the ground. If you have a double cropping variety like ‘Aspiring’ then prune to a non – fruiting leaf as these will grow into your summer crop, prune out all older canes.
Take hardwood cuttings of fruit bushes to increase your stock, potentially replacing older plants.
Keep harvesting your carrots and beetroot.
Not many plants will be worth germinating from seed now, except microgreens and sprouts. You can still plant many seedlings for a crop in winter or spring.
If your lawn was used frequently over summer or you have moss trying to over take then you should aerate. Do this by making 15cm holes in your lawn with your fork every 30cm, then top dress and fill the holes with a mix of compost and sand. If your soil is sandy make a mix that is predominantly compost. On the other hand if your soil is clay add more sand than compost.
Also hold off on that high nitrogen fertiliser going into winter (which is most lawn fertilisers). A feed high in potassium is better for stronger root growth and plant health. Grass is still a plant after all. Use sulphate of potash or kelp meal instead. Why not use your usual fert? High nitrogen fertilisers encourage quick soft growth, this soft growth is very susceptible to fungus which is more common in the wetter autumn weather. You’ll also only end up mowing more anyway. An added benefit of applying a potash feed is that you’ll make your grass more drought tolerant, which is essential for summer.
Keep collecting fallen leaves from lawns, paths, drives and anywhere they’re not wanted. Remember, those leaves are the trees food source and a favourite for worms. So compost them!! If you really can’t leave them around the base of trees as a mulch and feed then make sure you give the trees a top dress with a rich compost, preferably home made. If you’ve just planted your trees then make sure you leave the base clear so you can top dress. Sowing a lawn around a young tree will make competition for the tree, if the tree doesn’t get enough nutrients each year it will slowly decline and find it difficult to defend against pests and diseases.
Clean all your bird feeders and bird boxes. This is important to avoid the spread of disease.