First, mow the lawn, and don’t cut the grass too short if this is one of the first cuts this season. Set the mower blades a little higher than you would in the summer months then cut it again in a week or so.
Drain the water from your water butt if it’s a little smelly (don’t waste it, use it on any garden plants that are getting a bit dry) and scrub it using a brush with fairly rigid bristles, then flush it out with water.
Pot on vegetables sown in the last month or so that need planting out towards the end of the month when the frosts should be over. This helps keep them in better condition.
Keep kids occupied by getting them to sow some pumpkin seeds to make great low-cost Halloween lanterns later in the year – or some pumpkin pie! Place each seed in a 7.5cm (3”) pot of multi-purpose compost and keep them moist in a tray on a sunny window sill.
If you’ve a greenhouse or suitable pop-up or rigid frame for growing tomatoes, make sure you get the plants into large pots or the greenhouse borders now, so that they can produce a handsome crop in a few months’ time. Insert a sturdy cane 5cm (2”) from the main stems and carefully tie the young plants to it using a loose loop of twine. Tie in the plants further up the canes as they grow, to keep them upright.
Water features full of brown, scummy water should be emptied out. Scrub the sides and base, gently clear the pump of any accumulated debris and fill with fresh tap water.
Consider potting up some summer bedding if you’ve space in a greenhouse or porch, but don’t be tempted to plant it out until the frosts are over or it’s likely to die.
If you need to plant any new shrubs, trees or climbers, make sure you do so as soon as possible because even though they will need to be container grown at this time of year, it is still easier for them to get properly established if given a bit of time to produce new roots before the weather really hots up. Water well and top the soil with a 5-7.5cm (2-3”) mulch to help keep that moisture in.
Grab a good, sharp pair of secateurs and prune shrubs which have just finished flowering, such as Kerria japonica and spiraea. These shrubs flower on shoots that formed the previous year, so by pruning now you encourage the plant to produce plenty of new shoots, which will bear next year’s flowers.
Remove faded flowers from the last of the spring flowering bulbs, it’ll neaten them up and also help to conserve energy so they perform well again next year. Follow this up with a good feed applied either to the roots or the foliage.
Vigorous climbers are likely to be growing away rapidly now, so make sure that all the new growth is tied in to the support on a regular basis. Many clematis, roses, hops and vines can soon become a tangled mess if left totally to their own devices. Tie in loosely and use flexible ties to allow the stems space to expand.
Clip box shrubs, whether grown as a small hedge or as a topiary shape. Shears make the best job, and kept regularly clipped the plants will stay good and dense and won’t need to be cut back hard (a process which leaves them looking awful!).The clippings can go on the compost heap.
Keep trees, shrubs and climbers that were planted last autumn or earlier this spring really well watered during dry or gusty weather. Their roots will not be properly established yet and they’ll need all the help you can give them – and a moist soil is what they’re after!
Unless you’re in colder areas of the country, remove all bubble wrap and other protection wrapped around pots and containers to protect plant roots from frosts. If there are frosts still to come, they are unlikely to be too harsh.