Friday, March 27, 2015

April in the garden

Hi all,
             Please read what to do in the garden in this coming April.


Vegetable & Fruit April Growing Guide
By April spring should be well and truly underway, the soil warming up nicely and everything growing away. Don't be complacent though, it's been known for a cold snap with snow to strike even in the sunny south of England. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and a hand on the horticultural fleece and insulation materials.

Sowing & Planting in April on the Vegetable Plot
If March has been difficult and you've not managed to get much done, you're going to have a busy April. With onions you're really pushing it so if they're not planted make it one of the first jobs of the month

The weeds won't be slow and it's time to sharpen your hoe. A sharp hoe is the best friend a gardener can have. Just slide it back and forth slightly below the surface of the soil and you'll stop the weed seedlings in their tracks. There's an old saying "Hoe when you can't see a weed and you'll never see a weed" which is very true. Hoeing keeps the top soil broken up so in times of drought water cannot get to the surface by capillary action and evaporate. When it does rain a hoed surface will prevent the precious water running off and ensure it goes down to where it's wanted. 

Things to Sow
Beetroot, Peas, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Chard, Kohl Rabi, Leeks, Spinach
Beet spinach, Rocket, Lettuce, Radish

Covering your carrots with a fleece and ensuring the edges are buried will stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by your carrots. The eggs hatch in larvae that burrow into the carrot root, killing the plant or at least ruining the crop.

Plant Outdoors
Onion & Shallot Sets, Globe and Jerusalem Artichokes, Asparagus.
Easter, a variable feast that usually falls in early April is the traditional potato planting time. If you have a comfrey bed and it has sprung back, the first cut laid in the trench under the potatoes will provide nutrition to get them off to a good start.
On the subject of comfrey, if you make a comfrey tea it will help you to a great crop to use it on your potatoes. Many novice growers wonder why they have small crops of potatoes and most often this is just down to lack of food for this hungry crop.

Under Cover in Greenhouse, Coldframe  and  Polytunnel
Aubergine, Celery, Outdoor Cucumbers, Tomatoes (if you've not already done so)
A good tip in a windowsill is to stick some silver cooking foil onto cardboard and place on the inside to reflect light back onto the seedlings. This will help prevent the seedlings being drawn.

Sow Outdoors under Cloche
French beans, Lettuce, Sweetcorn
I like to pre-chit my sweetcorn, I lay the seeds on a layer of damp kitchen paper and then place a layer of paper over in an airtight box. An old ice-cream carton or a Tupperware type box is ideal. Check carefully each day and as soon as the small white sprout appears, plant the seed about half to an inch deep in a 3" pot of general purpose compost in the greenhouse.
When the shoots appear about an inch high, plant out under cloche being careful not to disturb the root (sweetcorn hates root disturbance) under a cloche. Sweetcorn needs a lot of nitrogen and a teaspoon of dried blood per plant or water Many of the crops you can sow directly will also benefit from cloching, especially as you move northwards or started off in modules in a cool greenhouse or coldframe and then planted out later.  

Strawberries can be planted out now, it's best to remove flowers in the first year as you conserve strength for growth and gain larger crops in subsequent years. An easy way to gain strawberry plants is to plant the runners into pots and when rooted cut the runner. The plants don't last forever so you need to rotate them every three to five years.
Hand pollinate peaches and nectarines. Tickle the flowers with a small paint brush to spread the pollen. Cover if a cold spell threatens.
A good layer of compost around the base of fruit trees will ensure they have the nutrition to provide another good crop for you.

Gardener's Pests
I've mentioned the carrot root fly but the gardener's worst enemy is awakening. The evil slugs and snails are coming out to eat entire rows of succulent young seedlings overnight so take action now.

We're in the 'Hungry Gap' between the last of the winter crops and start of the early crops but there are still a few things available, late sprouting and chards for example plus you may have some early salad crops from the greenhouse border.Do re-check your stored crops. On a fine day, empty out the potato sacks and check for any rotten potatoes. If you've strung onions, watch out for the odd rotten one and remove it before it spreads.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March in the garden

Hi all,
              Please have a read of my jobs to do and getting ready for the growing season.


Vegetable & Fruit March Growing Guide
March is the month when things really start to move in the growing season. In fact the start of the year used to be, 25th March until 1752 in Ireland when we adopted the Gregorian calendar and started our year on the 1st January. From a horticultural viewpoint, it would have made sense to have stuck with the old system, starting the year on the spring equinox, in link with the seasons

   Comfrey Blocking 14 the most useful herb you can grow on your plot.

Sowing & Planting in March on the Vegetable Plot
If the weather is cold but otherwise reasonable, you can steal some time and start early by cloching and fleecing, although cloches have been around for many years, nowadays we can get cheap polythene tunnel cloches and even cheaper fleece.Place the cloche or fleece a week or two before planting and the soil will have warmed up nicely as well as being dry and easy to work. Water well into the drill prior to sowing and replacing the cloche. Do remember to water weekly or more frequently in sunny weather under cloches.
To hold down fleece without tearing, save plastic 2 litre milk containers and fill with sand or water although water tends to leak. The smooth surface will weigh down the fleece but not damage it. It's surprising how just a layer of fleece can raise the temperature of the underlying soil.Plant out your onion and shallot sets. If growing onions from seed started earlier in the year under cover these can also go out now. You can also direct sow onions, thinning to the eventual spacing. Cloching will help them establish and also stop pigeons from pulling them up.
March is the right time to establish an asparagus bed if you are starting from crowns. Do make sure you get it in the right position as it will be there permanently.
Mid-March should let you start planting out those potatoes you've had chitting. If you want some really early potatoes, start some in a black polythene sack in the greenhouse or tunnel. Punch drainage holes in the sack and use a multi-purpose compost.
Staying with root crops, you can plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers now. Be aware that getting them all up at harvest time is very difficult and any tubers left in the ground will grow so effectively a permanent bed.
Things to Sow
Broad Beans
Early Peas (but they may do best started in a gutter in the greenhouse then slipped into a trench or in seed trays)
Brussels sprouts – early varieties like Peer Gynt will be ready in September
Kohl Rabi
Spinach Beet
Early Turnips
Under Cover in Greenhouse, Coldframe and Polytunnel
Sow in Heat
Windowsill or a propagator in the greenhouse will come into use now to start off your tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers.
Under Cloche
Many of the crops you can sow directly will also benefit from cloching, especially as you move northwards or started off in modules in a cool greenhouse or coldframe and then planted out later.
Planting & Pruning
There is still time to finish planting bare rooted fruit trees and bushes, especially raspberries and other cane fruits.
Early this month you can still prune apple and pear trees while they are still dormant. There is also time to prune gooseberries and currants. With currants shorten the side shoots to just one bud and remove old stems from the centre of the bushes.
They'll benefit from some compost spread around the base as well or some general purpose fertiliser. Trees will appreciate some wood ash spreading under them.
Any leeks left standing should come up now – you can freeze them for use in soups and stews or make concentrated leek & potato soup to freeze and thin out when used.
Parsnips too should come up in early March before they try and re-grow. They'll store for a month or so in damp sand but the plant knows it is growing time again. If you turn them into a mash, perhaps with carrots, they'll freeze well taking up little room
You may have spinach beet and chards available, the last of the late Brussels sprouts, winter cauliflowers, kale, swedes, salsify and scorzonera.
Don't forget to keep checking the purple sprouting!
General Jobs on the Plot

Have a good tidy up and finish those odd construction jobs because you are going to be busier still later in the year!

South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project

The South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project started in April 2007. We have a derelict site on loan from ST Salvage Company that we have converted into a community food garden. This is a continuation of the initial successful Dolphins Barn Community squatted food garden that was on the canal from 2005 -2007.