Tips from Alex – April 2017

Here we are in April, the month I move into top gear, gardening wise. The weather promises to be kinder than of late and with British Summer Time we can all spend more time in the garden. It is the month where most sowing and planting occurs.

Most of my vegetable beds are now in a condition which will allow easy sowing and planting so my first job will be planting out of my onion crop. Keen readers of the Flower Show schedule will see that there are three classes  for onions (five if you include open classes as well) white or yellow and red, both grown from setts and any colour grown from seed. If you are new to gardening, setts which are in effect, miniature onions that have had their growth halted, represent the easiest way to grow onions. Those grown from seed tend to be larger than setts and can make a fine exhibition at the show but they should have been sown in the depths of winter! Setts can still be purchase at your local garden centre and represent a more or less failsafe way of getting a good crop. On the onion theme you should also be looking to plant your shallots this month.

April sees the start of the potatoes planting season. Potatoes are classed as early, main crop and late.  As the classification suggests timing of planting takes place at intervals during the season. Currently, it’s time for earlys. If you are growing for the show, there is more than one class for potatoes. I have long given up growing potatoes as my soil is quite alkaline which tends to promote scab and a very dry tuber which tends to fall apart during cooking but don’t let this put you off. I know of many gardeners in the parish who can grow perfect potatoes in their gardens.

I shall also be sowing parsnip, beetroot, carrots, mangetout and asparagus peas direct into the ground this month. In the greenhouse, it is time to pot up tomato, sweet pepper, cucumber, courgettes and chillies sown last month. I shall be making the first of successional sowings of sweet corn and I shall also be sowing squash which did particularly well last year and some salad crops. Traditionally, I have  sown runner and French beans in the greenhouse for an early start but have found results do not vary from sowings made direct into the soil so have stopped this practice which save a bit of work.

My sweet peas have germinated and are progressing well and will be suitable for planting out in about three to four weeks. Before doing so, I will have pinched out the growing tips of each plant to promote growth of side shoots.  Sowings of hardy annuals will also be ready for pricking out ready to fill those gaps around the garden. If you are contemplating entering some or all of your produce in the Flower Show to be held Saturday 2nd September take a look at the Flower Show schedule to make sure you have made suitable preparation for growing your intended exhibits. It’s not too late to buy seeds or you can buy many plants ready for direct planting in your garden from garden centres. You can also buy plants grown by members of the Hort Soc at the annual plant sale scheduled for May13th.

Happy gardening,

Alex    April 2017