April is the first full month of the year when daylight hours exceed the night time hours in the UK and so is the perfect opportunity to make the most of the extra light and the sunny outdoors.
Look forward to Marshalls plants arriving at your door. You’ll be receiving potatoes, vegetable plants, spring-planting onions, shallots and garlic from us now directly to your home because it’s the perfect time to start growing.
Take a look at all the pots, planters and trugs you can choose to grow your vegetables and fruit in to suit your space and arm yourself with the tools you need to get started.
Most importantly enjoy the start of spring.
Jobs to do...
Prepare a part of your plot for sowing and growing sweetcorn- delicious home-grown from your own plot. Sweetcorn seeds are quite big so easy to see and handle – and indeed grow.
First off, start sweetcorn in April in pots indoors. Place 1 sweetcorn seed ½ in-1 in deep in a small pot filled with Westland Seed and Cutting Compost. If you have an area of 1 square metre (square yard) that’s enough for 9 (3 x3) sweetcorn plants. If you have an area of 1 ½ square metres (square yards) that’s enough for 16 (4 x 4) plants. Cover the seed with a top layer of soil and water. Keep pots in a light, cool position until they germinate within 1 to 2 weeks.
Sweetcorn grows best in a grid rather than a row so grow sweetcorn plants in a 3 x3 or 4 x4 block depending on your space. Dig some soil conditioner like Organic Extra into soil outdoors to nourish it. Rake the soil to finish so it’s loose and crumbly, perfect for young plants.
Some of your March-planted potatoes like potato Charlotte 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 themselves to the surface. When tubers are exposed to the sun they become green and poisonous. Keep potatoes well buried by applying a thick layer of soil above the tubers at all times.
If sowing peas this year support them with canes, especially the non-dwarfing or fewer-tendrils types. If pea plants are left to trail along the ground they tend not to fruit 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.
Nematodes are naturally-occurring slug and snail killers, creatures that keep slug and snail numbers down the natural way. Nemaslug is an easy-apply nematode-based solution you dissolve in water and water into the soil of your vegetable plot as temperatures warm up in spring.
Choose packs of Nemaslug to match the size of your plot and nip the problem in the bud so you get handsome harvests later in the year.
Strawberry plants like strawberry Vibrant are great to plant now in containers or raised beds like VegTrugs. They have good, established roots ready to support strong stems with flowers, which turn into the delicious red fruit.
Plant runners 16in (40cm) apart if you’re growing in a Vegtrug and make sure the roots are fully covered with soil while the green part of the plant remains proud of the soil. Water well in dry weather.
Now is a great time to get dahlia tubers in the ground while the soil is warming up from the spring sun. Dahlias look fantastic in the garden and on the allotment; they also look good in vases and bring welcome colour indoors later in summer.
Get great-value hanging basket flowers too to bring colour to head height. Plant several hanging baskets to give you a display with real impact.
Avoid buying expensive punnets of strawberries at the supermarket simply by growing strawberry plants in your garden or on your fruit and vegetable plot. From one plant alone you can expect 2 ½ punnets full of strawberries in its lifetime. Multiply this by ten or so plants and great-value strawberry plants quickly pay for themselves, saving young pounds.
Try these tasty varieties which you can grow in the ground, in Veg-Trugs or even in hanging baskets so they’re easy to pick. Delivered to your door now, at the perfect time to plant.
Varieties to try...
Beautiful strawberries at under £2 for every bare-root strawberry plant which gives you two and a half punnets of delicious strawberries just from one plant. This early-cropping variety has quickly become a very popular Marshalls variety. High-yielding with rich-red, glossy, perfectly shaped berries, it has truly excellent eating qualities.
Strawberry Snow White is an unusual white variety with vivid red seeds that will make a refreshing change to fruit salads and ice cream. This popular novelty crop produces fruit with a lovely flavour, often likened to pineapple and will be the talking point of any dessert. They have an exquisite taste, more aromatic than other red varieties.
Sweet Colossus lives up to its name, producing gigantic berries that can weigh up to 43g (1 ½ oz) each with no compromise to flavour. Fast-growing, these plants that are easy to maintain. Once the new green leaves start to grow in spring feed with a high-potassium feed to encourage flowering and fruiting.
Have a refreshing and tasty treat for when it’s time for 'tools down' from spending time outside working on the vegetable plot or in the garden.
- 1 slice of your favourite bread.
- 3 tablespoons of ricotta cheese.
- 1 tablespoon of orange marmalade (smooth or with rind- whichever you prefer).
- Diced strawberries.
- Toast the bread.
- Add a thick layer of ricotta.
- Add a liberal layer of marmalade.
- Spoon on to strawberries. Viola.
Watch out for grey fungal patches on the leaves of gooseberry- the symptoms of American gooseberry mildew. This disease attacks gooseberry plants once the days get longer in spring and last until summer.
Because the disease attacks the foliage it affects the gooseberry plant’s ability to put on lots of fruit.
It’s easy though to avoid American gooseberry mildew by practising good gardening. We at Marshalls recommend these tips to keep this disease at bay
1) Prune to keep plant open and well-aired.
Good gooseberries plants are best grown as open plants – likened to empty wine-glasses. Prune out the stems with good secateurs growing into the centre of your plants to keep them hollowed within. This means air flows well between the remaining stems which humidity and the mildew at bay.
2) Feed with balanced fertiliser rather than high-nitrogen feed
High nitrogen feed encourage lots of new green growth. This is soft green growth which is very susceptible to mildew. A good balanced feed however incorporates the main nutrients which encourage good roots and good flowers and fruit. We recommend Westland Growmore Garden Fertiliser
3) Resistant cultivars
Some cultivars are bred to be resistant against mildew. Gooseberry Xenia and gooseberry Invicta are both resistant so try these varieties if you have particularly humid conditions in your garden or on your allotment.
Come to the RHS Cardiff Flower Show on the grounds of Bute Park, for spectacular show gardens, plants and expert gardening advice.
There are lots of talks and demonstrations too this year including a talk by Michael and Anne Heseltine on Friday and Charles Dowding on Saturday talking about growing vegetables with minimum weeds.
Get Marshalls Heat-prepared Onion Set Collection for 225 sets in total. That’s less than 5p each for every delicious home-grown onion- full of flavour and perfect to store for onions over the autumn and winter. Heat-prepared, these varieties are less likely to produce flowers and seeds at the expense of produce good bulbs.
You’ll get 75 sets each of Marshalls Fen Early, a good-sized variety, 75 sets of Marshalls Red Fed, great for mint salads with Sunday roasts and 75 sets of Rumba, uniform in growth and sweet in flavour.