It’s all change on the blogging front and from now I’m going to blether on about what I’m doing in the garden each month. I can’t claim to be an expert but I’ve been gardening in Tayport for over 20 years so I must have learned something. I live in the flat part of Tayport so my soil is quite sandy, which has advantages (easy to work) and disadvantages (dries out quickly and isn’t very fertile). We’ve tried to improve the soil in the vegetable garden by making raised beds and filling them with as much compost as we can make, helped by lots of lovely chicken poo from our three girls!
As a beginner, I was able to turn to my Dad for gardening advice. He lived up the road from me and his garden had similar soil (but better!) so I knew that whatever he could get to grow I should probably be able to grow too. But now, for advice, I rely on seed packets (which tell you roughly when to sow) and my ‘bible’ The Vegetable and Herb Expert by Dr D G Hessayon, a brilliant book that tells you everything you could want to know about growing vegetables. I also have my notes from last year to fall back on. I make a list of what I sowed when and go for a similar sowing or planting date in the following year. Last year, however, we had a very cold spring so
I sowed or planted stuff a week or so later than usual. I don’t have a greenhouse or a poly-tunnel and this means that anything I sow indoors has to be ready to go outside pretty soon after the seedlings come up so there’s no point starting them off too early. Therefore I’ll be sowing seeds a bit later than someone with a greenhouse or poly-tunnel might.
Anyway, enough of the generalities. I thought I’d start off by telling you what I’ve done already, because it’s not too late to sow or plant some of the vegetables I’ve already started off.
Broad beans (The Sutton, a dwarf variety I’ve used before) went into the ground on 12th of March and are only just coming up, but you can get them going in damp newspaper (see the notes from the seed sowing workshop) and plant them out as seedlings. I also sowed parsnip on the 18th of March and there’s still no sign of anything coming up, but parsnip is always slow so I’m not panicking yet.
If you’re short of space in your garden some quick-growing crops can be grown between slower growing vegetables. This year I sowed a line of radish between the rows of broad beans and hope they’ll be ready to harvest before the beans overshadow them. I’ve sown rocket in the gap between the parsnips and the carrots.
I don’t normally plant potatoes until April but one lot I bought this year (Anyas) had quite long sprouts so I put them in the ground in mid-March and have just put the second lot (Charlottes). These are both earlies and I normally put in main crops a bit later (although this year I’ve decided not to grow main-crop potatoes.)
I sowed sprouts and green broccoli in small pots. Most germinated in less than a week. I’ve pricked them out into bigger pots and now they’re out in the cold frame turning into nice strong plants which I’ll plant out in in a month or so. Leeks were also sown in pots and have come up but I’ll leave them in the pots to thicken up before I plant them out. Outdoor tomatoes are always a bit tricky and last year was a disaster. So this year I started them off in March rather than April in the hope that I can get them out earlier. This is where I wish I had a greenhouse since I’ll have to keep them indoors until the weather warms up.
Plans for April
I’ve just sown Carrots, under micromesh to keep the carrot root fly away and in the next few days I’ll be sowing Beetroot. This year I have a mixture of colours, ranging from red to white, so that will be interesting.
Salad leaves and lettuce will be put anywhere I have a gap. I generally only sow a row of each at a time and then another one in May or even later.
Spinach – I generally sow some in April and a second lot in May.
Annual herbs – coriander and dill – these can be sown in pots but do better in the ground.
Cauliflower – I’ll sow these indoors and this year I’ve got a mixture of colours including purple, green and orange, which is quite exciting. I don’t grow summer cabbage but if I did I’d be sowing them in April too.
Peas – I’ll also sow these indoors as I never succeed when I put them straight into the ground. Last year I grew petit pois which worked well, so I’ll be growing them again this year. They’re supposed to be dwarf and self-supporting but they grew to about 3 feet and had to be supported.
Chard – I grow rainbow chard since it’s pretty and the chickens like it. Sowing a couple of seeds in each small module in a tray seems to work for me. I remove the weakest seedling and plant out the whole module when the plants are a bit bigger since they don’t like root disturbance.
Turnip – I’m not keen on turnip but have grown them successfully in the past. Early sowings worked best for me. Later ones got some sort of root fly.
I wish I could grow onions but I have white rot in my soil and it attacks all members of the onion family to a greater or lesser extent. Spring onions, garlic and leeks generally survive, but onions and shallots get the disease. But if you have nice clean soil and want to grow onions, seeds should be sown in March/April and sets planted in April.
I like the challenge of growing stuff from seed but you can buy trays of vegetable plants which are ready to go into the ground and since I’ve never succeeded with growing spring onions from seed this is one that I’ll buy. I also buy a pot of parsley from Tesco (other supermarkets are available) and divide it up into small clumps of seedlings. They don’t like it but enough survive to make decent plants.
So, in summary, things you can sow/plant in April:
- Roots – parsnips, carrots, beetroot, turnip
- Salady things – spinach, lettuce, salad leaves, rocket, chard
- Annual herbs – coriander and dill
- Brassicas – green broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages
- Other stuff – peas, spring onions, regular onions, leeks.
Things I’ll be waiting until May or later to sow –
- French and runner beans, courgettes, squash and outdoor cucumber, purple sprouting broccoli, kale and swede, spring cabbage and chervil.
Of course this is just what I do in my garden. You’ll probably do things differently or at a different time. But there’s no doubt that, one way or another, there’s lots to do in April. So I really must get out there and get on with it …