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Topical Tips April 2019

After a couple of false starts (remember that lovely weather in February?) we are well and truly into spring. You can almost hear the plants bursting forth in the garden, everything is growing in leaps and bounds.

It’s quite a busy month in the garden but do treat the tasks as an investment.  Time spent now will reap benefits later in the season. 

Flowers & Shrubs

Top Tip:  You’ve probably heard that you should mulch the garden this month, what is a mulch? A mulch is a layer placed on the surface of the soil, it can be a sheet of polythene, a layer of bark or manure, a covering of shingle or pebbles in fact almost anything that can form a permeable layer can be used as a mulch.

The benefits of a mulch are:

- Help soils retain moisture in summer 

- Suppress weeds 

- Improve soil texture 

- Deter some pests 

- Protect plant roots from extreme temperatures 

- Encourage beneficial soil organisms 

- Give a decorative finish

At Sunshine our favourite mulch at this time of year is organic farmyard manure, not only does it do all of the above but it also feeds the soil, we also have it on offer at £5.99 per bag or 3 bags for £12.

Top Tip:  Lift and divide perennial plants to improve their vigour and increase your stock at no extra cost other than a little bit of work from you!

Top Tip:  Start feeding your plants, we recommend Miracle Gro slow release fertiliser for roses and shrubs, which is available in ericaceous formulation as well. It’s easy to apply; just a handful per plant and that’s feeding sorted for the next three months.

Top Tip: The tulip is the queen of spring bulbs and they are at their regal best over the next few weeks; , when they finish flowering just snap off the fading flowers and leave the foliage to supply the bulb with food for next year’s flowers.

If you don’t keep tulips from one year to the next don’t feel guilty about pulling them out as tulips often don’t flower as well in the second and successive years, treat them as an annual.

Top Tip:   Probably the most popular of garden shrubs is the rose, every garden deserves at least one, plant it in the sunniest position you can. Roses are greedy plants and will reward you beautiful flowers so give each rose a good handful of Toprose or well-rotted manure to ensure good long-lasting flowers later in the season.

Top Tip:  Finish cutting back dead foliage on perennials.

Top Tip:  Tidy up ornamental grasses; cut back deciduous varieties to the ground, tease out old grass leaves from evergreen grasses with a gloved hand.

Top Tip:  Tie in climbers, as they grow tie them in horizontally, this encourages flowering along its entire length, not just at the tip. Use soft string or twine so as not to damage the young new growth.

Top Tip: The bedding season is now starting, bedding plants are plants that are usually annuals (but not always!), have loads of flowers right through until the frosts in October (but not always), and look absolutely fab (always!).

The selection we have is incredible and too long to list here, but suffice to say we have bedding plants for all situations; for the grandest of bedding schemes to the tiniest of pots, come in and talk to one of our experts in the plant team.

Top Tip:  Hydrangeas are rightly popular in London gardens, they are easy to grow and tolerate shade, make sure you keep them watered though. Give them, a prune at this timer of year; cutting back the old stems to healthy shoots.

Top Tip:  Although weeding may not be a favourite job it is very satisfying and a few minutes spent weeding now will save hours later in the season. Once a week is a good regime. Slice them off at ground level with a swoe or hoe to save work later in the year.

A Wolf Swoe head from the multi change system – brilliant!

Whilst hoeing is great for annual weeds some perennial weeds are a bit more persistent and the best way to get rid of them is to apply a systemic weed killer that goes to all  the roots and kills the weeds for good.

Top Tip: Fiona, our bulb supremo is still busy tending the bulb room, there are so many beautiful bulbs available for planting now that it would be madness not to pay her a visit. Dahlias, a flower that was once derided is now a very sort after and a worthwhile addition to the sunny side of the garden, they have  an amazing variety form and colour, they flower for months from June through to the frosts.

Top Pest:  Yes, it’s slugs, slug pellets are the most common method of control, many people are worried about the toxicity of these, don’t worry we have slug pellets that contain a different chemical that are safe to use with children and pets  when used as directed.

We also have slug traps (they die in a pool of beer, a good way to go if you’re a slug) and barrier methods with which you circle the plants with a substance which is usually a gravel or gel that the slugs do not like to cross, it’s harmless to the slugs and protects your plants but unfortunately not as effective as the beer method!

Top Pest No 2: While we’re in pest mode, it’s important to mention the box tree caterpillar currently causing havoc in the box world. This is how the RHS describe the symptoms:

Gardeners are likely to become aware of box tree caterpillar when they find webbing and caterpillars on box plants.

- The pale yellow flattish eggs are laid sheet-like, overlapping each other on the underside of box leaves

- Newly hatched caterpillars are greenish-yellow, with black heads. Older caterpillars reach up to 4cm (1¼in) in length and have a greenish/yellow body with thick black and thin white stripes along the length of the body

- The pupae are concealed in a cocoon of white webbing spun among leaves and twigs

- The adult moth usually has white wings with a faintly iridescent brown border, although the wings can be completely brown or clear. The moth has a wingspan of around 4cm (1¼in)

- The caterpillars eat box leaves and produce webbing over their feeding area. Plants may also show patches of dieback which may be especially apparent on trimmed plants. This is not to be confused with dieback caused by the disease known as box blight

And the control is as follows:

-  Spray with a systemic insecticide such as Bugclear Ultra

- Use a box non toxic method such as a box tree moth trap which attracts the adults and catches them thereby prevent egg laying.

- Remove the caterpillars by hand.

Top Tip: Deadhead bulbs as they finish flowering, it’s important to leave the foliage as the leaves direct food to the bulb ready for next year’s flowers.


For a perfect finish, trim the lawn’s edges with long-handled shears or a strimmer.  Raking over the surface and then resowing can thicken bare or thin patches of grass up.

Lastly, give the lawn a feed. If it contains weeds or moss, treat these at the same time with Evergreen 4 in 1 lawn treatment which will green up the lawn, kill weeds and eliminate moss.

Start mowing once a week with the mower blades set to high.

Grow Your Own

Top Tip:  Sow a pinch of salad seeds every few weeks to have a succession of seeds throughout the season.

Top Tip:  Plant onions, garlic and shallots for an easy crop later in the summer.

Top Tip:  It’s now OK to plant vegetable seeds direct into the ground but tender veg can be started indoors and planted later when the weather has warmed up a bit more.

Top Tip: Plant your potatoes now in the ground or in potato bags for easy harvesting.

For further info click below:


Top Tip:   Put supports in for young peas, use twiggy sticks left over from tidying and pruning the garden.

Top Tip: Plant raspberry canes in a well manured spot, erect a frame for the canes to grow up.  Choose summer and autumn fruiting varieties for a sustained supply of delicious raspberries.

Top Tip:   Ensure peach and nectarines  are covered with polythene or a screen to reduce the incidence of peach leaf curl.

Top Tip:  Most herbs can be planted now (wait for it……not Basil yet!), the herbs we sell have been grown for outside and are in much better compost than the types sold as the supermarket and will last longer.

Top Tip:  Prune outdoor figs.