Caption: Broad beans
Caption: Gherkin in Wool Compost for Seeds
April is upon us!
As the season picks up pace, Ade from Agent’s of Field explains how to make a great start…
Sow, Grow and Pot On By Ade Sellars
There are certain points in the year when life as a gardener hits a particular high, and for me, April is one of them. Although there might be slim pickings in the kitchen garden, there is plenty of promise. From swelling broad beans to flowering strawberry plants, this is a month for the daydreamers. The days are longer, the air feels warmer, and we couldn’t be busier sowing, growing and potting on. What once were seedlings are now healthy plants, keen to get outside and find their place in the soil.
However, before we throw caution to the wind, Jack Frost isn’t moving on without a fight. A late frost can scupper plans and undo weeks of work. So, if there’s one piece of wisdom this gardening sage can offer, it’s this: a little caution and a lot of horticultural fleece will ensure this month is one to savour.
Coddled seed packets of salads, beetroot, peas, carrots and parsnips will all be making an appearance this month. For direct sowing into a prepared bed, try warming the plot for a few weeks beforehand with a cloche or fleece. That way, seeds are not sat in cold soil reluctant to germinate. Also, sow little and often, otherwise, in a few months you may end up with a glut.
Of course, you can improve germination rate this time of year by sowing indoors. Use seed trays and pots, filled with Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds, tamp down and water the soil thoroughly. Then, scatter salad seeds finely, lightly cover over with compost and place somewhere warm to germinate. In a few weeks, those seedlings can be pricked out and potted on individually. The same process can also be done for your summer annual seeds, such as ammi majus, marigold or cosmos. Keep in mind that germination can take up to twenty-eight days.
One flower that always screams summer is the sunflower, and they couldn’t be easier to grow. With so many varieties to choose from, they can brighten the smallest of growing spaces. They’re at home on allotments, gardens or even in pots. They’re also an easy way to get children interested in gardening. Whether you start them off in 10cm pots, or sow direct into the soil, remember to incorporate plenty of Dalefoot compost. Choose a sheltered area with plenty of sunshine, and water regularly so they can really fulfil their potential.
Cucurbit seed packets have been patiently waiting for this month, so give them the attention they deserve and sow under glass. Vegetables include: cucumbers, courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins. As these can grow quickly, try sowing them individually into 10cm pots. That way they have plenty of room to grow, and if there’s a prolonged cold period, they can continue to grow on happily until outside conditions are right. Fill the pot with Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds, tamp down and place the seed on its side to prevent rotting, and in the pot centre at the depth of 2cm. Cover over, water, label and place somewhere warm and bright to germinate.
If you have root trainers or a collection of cardboard toilet roll tubes, try sowing sweet corn, French and runner beans. They’ll appreciate the deep pots, as they have long roots that don’t like to be disturbed. Toilet tubes are also biodegradable, which means both plant and tube can be planted out together. Simply fill with compost, place the seed in the centre, 2cms deep, and cover over. Water, label and place alongside your sown cucurbit seeds to germinate.
Seedlings that were sown back in March may now need thinning out, or even re-potting. Remember to hold the seedling by its ‘true leaves’, not its stem. If you accidentally damage it, the seedling can easily replace a leaf, but a damaged stem means there’s little chance of the plant being able to grow on.
Whether it’s allotment veggies or garden blooms, April is a time when we start to harden off our precious plants. This simply means acclimatising indoor-grown plants to the outdoors. For example, if you’ve been growing sweet peas, they will grow all the better for a few weeks in a cold frame before planting out into their final position. If you don’t have a cold frame, then place your plants outside in a sunny, protected area for a few hours every day, then bring them in before the temperature drops or if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
If you’ve been growing annuals for hanging baskets, now’s the time to get them into their baskets and potted up with Dalefoot Wool Compost for Potting. Once planted, water and keep them in the greenhouse until the last frost has passed. This will give a chance for young plants to grow on. Two weeks before they go outside into their final position, harden off.
April is your last chance to plant second earlies and main potatoes. As foliage appears, keep an eye on weather reports and keep horticultural fleece close, as a sharp frost can cause irreversible damage to growing plants. If your potato plants have substantial growth, earth them up. This will not only protect the plant, but can encourage it to produce more potatoes.
We’re at the start of this growing adventure with all to play for. So, this April, let your imagination and creativity run riot. In a few months, you could be reaping bountiful rewards.
ADE SELLARS – The ‘Good Life Gardener’
I’m Ade Sellars the ‘Good Life Gardener’, and I’m a gardener, presenter, writer and content producer, with a passion for growing my own food in my kitchen garden. As well as running my own gardening business, I write for magazines, produce tailored video content for gardening brands, flower shows and outdoor events and I regularly deliver talks and demonstrations around the country.
I co-write the award-winning gardening and food blog, Agents of Field, with my wife Sophie; you can follow our adventures on Twitter and Instagram, or by subscribing to our blog.
Website: www.agentsoffield.com www.adesellars.com