Welcome to our April newsletter; April followed a mixed March this year that started cold and wet and finished a little warmer (although still wet!).
Indeed, April is traditionally the month of showers but not always the case. April can either be a month basked in beautiful spring sunshine or permanently shrouded under a dark, threatening cloud.
Either way the light levels and daylight hours have increased, giving much more opportunity in the evening for getting on your vegetable plot to plant and put your plans into practice this year.
Fingers crossed you get the weather for it!
Patrick Wiltshire - Horticultural Expert
Jobs to do now
There are many vegetable crops you can now sow outdoors in earnest. Once you have prepared your bed with a final post-winter digging over and tilthing (raking to make the soil fine and crumbly perfect for seeds to germinate in) sow crops in tidy rows across the area of in partitions (useful for sowing crops with different soil requirements).
Sow broccoli seeds thinly 8cm (3in) apart in rows that are 1cm (1/2 in) deep. This generous spacing prevents seedlings becoming spindly and weak.
Sow carrot seeds thinly too at 8cm (3in) apart in small 1cm (1/2 in) deep rows. It’s important you sow carrots in soil that is deep but not rich with recently incorporated fertiliser.
Sow leek seeds at 5cm (2in) apart in 1cm (1/2 in) deep rows. You be transplanting these seedlings later down the line when they get to pencil-thickness.
Sow cut and come again crops like rocket, cress, endive and mizuna for optimum yields of nutritious and tasty young leaves when raw or steamed. Allow seedlings to reach a height of 5cm (2in) and repeat the process for two or three more rounds. You can then leave them to grow on to a height of 10-15cm (4-6in) for a final cut of courser but satisfying leaves that are great for sandwich fillers or dressed salads.
Sow cut-and-come-again salads in wide drills, perfect for seedlings that don’t need to be thinned out. Wide drills are shallow, flat-bottomed strips about 10cm (4in) wide in the soil. You then broadcast the seeds within the strips so you achieve a small forest of emerging shoots that you can easily harvest.
Now’s a perfect time to prick out the seedlings that you may have in seed trays and are now ready to grow on in individual pots.
Have 6-9cm (2 ½- 3 ½ in) pots ready and fill with multi-purpose compost to the rim. Tap the pot once or twice so the compost settles to slightly lower than the rim.
Using a pencil or dibber tease a seedling out of the seed tray. Hold the seedlings by a leaf and prise the roots lightly from the soil. Usually the roots come out with attached soil which is best to leave in situ as the soil anchors the seedlings nicely into the pot.
Using the dibber, place the seedling in the centre of the new pot and firm the surrounding soil around the seedling so that the seedling is upright and steady in its new soil environment.
Repeat for each pot. You can now water the seedlings from above and harden off. When it is warm outdoors take your pots outdoors. As the temperatures drop bring them indoors.
If sowing peas this year it pays to support them, especially the non-dwarfing or fewer-tendrils types. If pea plants are left to trail along the ground they tend not to yield as well as when they are upright.
You can provide support as early as when the plants are 7.5-10cm (3-4in) high. Place posts or canes at four corners of the row and attach horizontal wires or wire netting to these, keeping them compact and vertical. Alternatively use a trellis to provide support
In April, temperatures can plummet at night and this can hamper the growth of your newly sown seedlings and your hard work can be made in vain.
By applying the ground with Envii Early Starter at seedling or young plant stage you can get your crops off to a great start. Early Starter is a liquid formulation that acts like a winter coat for plants – it’s a bio-stimulant that keeps plants warm and helps them repair and grow on quickly after cold temperatures.
It contains a sophisticated combination of natural plant extracts and other nutrients to change the plants natural reaction to cold temperatures ensuring continued growth. In effect it reprogrammes the plant’s energy to develop roots in cold temperatures.
Plants treated with Envii Early Starter also demonstrate less damage from cold temperatures and grow away much quicker and stronger much quicker.
Some of your March-planted potatoes may have sprouted and are growing successfully in the sun. Once the plants are 15cm (6in) high it is a good idea to pile up surrounding soil around the stem so that only the top leaves are exposed (earthing-up).
This is because the edible tubers naturally push to the surface. When tubers are exposed to the sun they become green and poisonous. Avoid this by keeping a generously thick layer of soil above the tubers at all times.
Earthing up also keep plants well-anchored into the ground which is great news if April is particularly gusty this year.
In April there’s a hive of activity taking place on the allotment or vegetable plot. Fingers crossed you have a nice dry spell of weather to carry out some of the many tasks you can be getting on with.
If you have for own compost heap, take some of the composted material to spread on beds prior to planting. You can dig the compost into the existing soil to enrich it and improve the texture.
Salad leaves that have seen you through winter may be coming to the end of their harvesting period and coming into flower. Make use of the edible flowerheads too that are great added to stir-fries.
In beds that have been dug over and incorporated with bulky compost or other soil improvers, plant shallots sets. Place sets about 20cm (8in) apart along a row and add onion fertiliser or fish, blood and bone to give them a boost as the soil warms.
It pays to give established fruit bushes such as blackcurrants a spring feed of fish, blood and bone. This has a balanced macro-nutrient content to give the roots and stems all-important nitrogen, phosphorous and potash as they grow in spring.
As seedlings grow into robust young plants, make sure you are watering regularly as soil will dry out quicker as the plants grow. Make sure that your greenhouse is well ventilated too for all-important air-flow.
A popular perennial vegetable that home-growers are trying their hands at more and more. A crop you can have harvest year after year, asparagus is as popular in the garden as it is in the kitchen!
Asparagus Vittorio - the new, versatile asparagus for succulent grass-green or snow-white spears, as you desire. Simply exclude from light for blanched, full-flavoured spears.
Asparagus Ariane - with good-looking stems and distinctive, full flavour this purple-topped variety came first in our trials of over 250 varieties.
Asparagus Gijnlim - Highly recommended for its excellent flavour and quality, it is now a firm customer favourite! Simply steam and serve with melting butter!
The best tips and troubleshooting for asparagus.
Plant the dormant crowns in trenches on raised ridges. This is an easy way of starting asparagus. Back-fill the trenches with soil incorporated with bulky compost or well-rotted manure. A good bucketful per square metre / square yard is a good ratio to work to.
Lay off harvesting for the first two seasons and you’ll be rewarded with a generous third-year crop. The spears will have really bulked up and you can look forward to heavy harvests for the subsequent seasons too.
Keep asparagus beds well-weeded as developing plants will hate competition from both annual and perennial weeds. If you suffer from slug infestations, apply slug pellets, nemaslug nematode or deterrents to your asparagus bed.
Tomato ‘Montello’ – exhibitor competition- be in with a chance to win £250
Now’s your chance to sow your own tomato ‘Montello’, grow on through the summer and be in with a chance to exhibit them at the Malvern Autumn Show in September 2016. You can be in with a chance to win £250 if you have the winning exhibit so be sure to sow towards the end of the month for great harvests fit to exhibit at the prestigious autumn show. See more information.
Pre-sown seed mats – for easy growing-your-own
Ready-sown at the correct intervals these seed mats in 3 tasty salad and vegetable mixes make growing your own favourite food extra easy. Seed mats fit perfectly in our Gro-Beds; all you need to do is place the mat onto the soil surface, cover lightly and water. It’s that simple!