What to do this April!

April is a busy time for most gardeners and allotmenteers! The sowing season is upon us and with Easter happening this month, there is also the tradition of planting out your chitted potatoes over the Easter Weekend!

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Chitted potatoes ready to be planted!

Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!

The sowing season is upon us and if your ground is not ready and prepared for your new sowings and plants then it really is time to get a move on!

Sowing:

  • Peas and Broad beans can be sown now. These will crop a little later than those that were sown in the Autumn or back in February. French beans (dwarf or climbing) can be started this month too but better off indoors as if sown outdoors you will have to watch out for those sneaky frosts!
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Peas can be sown now!
  • Root vegetables such as beetroot, parsnips, salsify, scorzonera, turnips and carrots can be sown this month. For successional crops of carrots and beetroot sow every three-four weeks.
  • Salads leaves such as land cress, chard, spinach and lettuces can be sown now ready for those delicious summer salads
  • Brassicas can be sown outdoors into a well-prepared seed bed or where they are to crop including early season calabrese, late cropping sprouts, kale, cauliflowers, and summer/winter cabbage. Sprouting broccoli should be started now too. It needs to be sown approximately a year before it is due to be harvested.
  • Leeks should be sown by the end of this month and spring onions can be sown successionally every two to three weeks to give you a continuous supply.

Planting:

  • If you have always wanted to have an asparagus bed, then now is the time to start one. Remember not to harvest in the first couple of years and only take a few in the third, after that you will have asparagus to enjoy year after year!
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Start an asparagus bed now!
  • Spring-planting onions and shallots can be planted out now.
  • Jerusalem artichokes can be planted out in April. They produce beautiful sunflower type flowers throughout the summer and earthy sweet tubers in the winter
  • Second early and maincrop potatoes can be planted out now. Traditionally, they are planted out on the Easter Saturday (which has now passed) but if you are a little behind, not to worry, they will soon catch up if you are a few weeks late.

April firmly sits in the hungry gap but that doesn’t mean you can’t have offerings in the garden.

Harvesting:

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  • If you already have an asparagus bed you can start harvesting from around St George’s day up until the Summer solstice.
  • If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
  • Any remaining winter savoy cabbages, cauliflowers and leeks should be harvested this month to make way for new crops and Sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage is in full swing during the month of April
  • If you have planted hardy lettuces over the winter then you can harvest these for a delicious salad along with any new sowings or radishes, leef beet/chard, spinach and other salad leaves that may be ready now.
  • Rhubarb should be cropping well throughout April.

 

Jobs on the plot

April is busy, busy, busy what with all the sowing and planting but be sure to remember the other jobs that might need doing:

  • Hoe off any weeds that appear in your vegetable beds. The days are longer and the temperatures are warmer which means weeds will be growing quickly. Control weeds whilst they are still small and before they flower and set seed.
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Hoe off young weeds now before they have a chance to set seed!
  • Pests can often start to appear this month especially aphids. These pests should be controlled and removed in whatever way you see fit (chemical, biological or mechanical) before their numbers get too great.
  • Support your legumes! Build bean and pea frames to support your pea and bean sowings that you will make this month. Bean frames can be bought from many retailers or you can make your own from hazel sticks or bamboo canes.
  • Watch out for those frosts! Keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and if it looks like the temperature is going to plummet over night then bring tender plants in or protect them with fleece.
  • In the fruit garden, feed blueberries with a liquid feed or mulch with ericaceous compost to help get them off to a great start. Grape vines and kiwi fruit should also be fed and mulched with general garden compost or well-rotted manure. Keep an eye out for any fruit tree pests and deal with them quickly remembering not spray chemical controls on trees in blossom.
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Mulch blueberries with ericaceous compost!
  • Train and tie in blackberries against a fence or using a wire support system. Mulch thickly around blackberries and raspberries.
  • Clear out polytunnels and greenhouse to make sure there is room for new sow plants. Also make sure you are removing any dead or diseased foliage so that rots can’t spread.
  • If you have planted first early potatoes in a polytunnel or grow bags then make sure to earth up the foliage as it grows..
  • Thin out young seedlings to make sure that plants have room to grow and aren’t competing with one another for food and light.
  • You still have time to trim and tidy up any perennial herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage.

Indoor jobs

  • If you have tomatoes growing indoors or in a greenhouse, don’t let them get pot bound. Make sure you transplant the tomatoes into a bigger pot ready for planting out in May.
  • If some of your seeds have been unsuccessful then take a trip to your local garden centre and buy some replacement plug plants.

 

April Recipe

Creamy Chicken with Asparagus and Tarragon (from BBC GoodFood)

chicken and asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 500g baby new potato, halved
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • small bunch tarragon
  • 175g asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp reduced-fat crème fraîche

 

Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling water for 8-10 mins until tender, then drain and keep warm in the pan. Season the chicken with ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Gently fry the chicken with the onion and garlic for 5 mins until both are lightly browned. Turn over the chicken once and stir the onion regularly.

Pour over the stock, add 2 sprigs of tarragon and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 mins, then turn the chicken, add the asparagus and cook for 3 mins more. Chop the remaining tarragon.

 

Stir the crème fraîche and tarragon into the pan with the chicken and heat through, stirring, for a few secs. Serve with the new potatoes

I hope you all have a good April and for those of you who will be celebrating the religious holidays, Happy Easter, Happy Passover or just Happy Holidays!

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Name this weed!

This weed (below) keeps popping up everywhere on the plot. It has long deep roots which I often can’t get all of it up and keeps coming back as fast and as vigorous as bindweed. We have sprayed it with weedkiller but it does not die!

I have no idea what this weed is called and I need to know the name so I can find out how to kill it!

WEED 2

Does anyone know what this weed is?

WEED

Never have I let one of these plants flower or set seed and I am constantly pulling it up as and when I see it (with as much root attached) yet it still keeps coming back and never seems to weaken!

WHY WONT THIS DIE??????

2015 – A review!

As 2015 has come to an end, I have been looking back at the last year and what I have and have not achieved. It’s been a long and hard year with quite a few successes and, unfortunately, some abject failures!

Mostly, this year has been a struggle to keep on top of the weeds. Every time I turned my back on the plot I was inundated with fat hen and bindweed.

However, the larger plot has been quite productive. We have had an extraordinary amount of potatoes this year. Not only have we given quite a few away but we have not had to buy any since June and still have two large sacks of Sarpo Mira in store.

I think my pride and joy of the year is the garlic and the butternut squash! We had 36 beautiful bulbs of garlic and apart from a small bit of rust on the leaves they were pretty trouble free. They dried well and I haven’t had to buy any garlic since July and I don’t anticipate having to buy any at all until the next lot are ready. The butternut squash were very productive resulting in 32 very large fruits. We have given a far few away but still have 20 to get through at home!

The fruit cage had a major overhaul, with all the netting being replaced and all the old raspberries being dug out. A pathway has been put in and a number of currant bushes have been added. At one point the weeds crept up on us but we beat them back. Unfortunately the raspberries were not massively productive but they were new canes, some didn’t transplant well and some were suffocated by bindweed. I am hoping they will be more productive this year.

We got some lovely onions this year, some were real whoppers!  About 15% of them have rotted in storage (neck rot) and I am not sure if this is from not drying them properly or harvesting at the wrong time? If anyone has any suggestions I would grateful to know what you think!

The polytunnel went up this year, lasted 4 months and then the cover was destroyed. It did house some tomatoes which were a bit of a mixed bag this year. They all, unfortunately, got blight but we still managed to get a few ripe tomatoes and some green ones for chutney. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year.

On the small plot we had great success with peas. We got them in early to avoid the pea moth and were reward with a bumper early harvest. We still have some frozen in the freezer. Our later harvest was infested with pea moth and only 40% of that was usable. I was hoping we would hit the end of the pea moth season but my timing was wrong. If anyone has any ideas for protecting against pea moth I would be grateful for the advice!

Generally, beans have done well but so far, touch wood, they have always been a hassle-free crop. Brassicas, on the other hand, have not been good. This is completely my fault because I didn’t pay attention! I planted the all my brassicas and then didn’t get a protective cover on them soon enough! Between the birds and the caterpillars, there was barely anything left for us to eat except brussels sprouts and red cabbage. And even these, due to the wet and warm weather we have had this December, have been rotting before I could eat them. The cabbages we have enjoyed for the last three months but half the brussels sprouts rotted on the stem. 😦

We have ended the year on a good note though as we finally got round to clearing out the shed and cleaning/sharpening all our tools! We have also been having a real good tidy up!

Overall, the plots have been productive more than not this last year and every year we learn from our mistakes and improve (put covers on the brassicas straight away!).

Lastly, I would like to thank my friends Adam and Jenny who have come over several times to help with the heavy work! They have been absolute stars! Not only have they worked hard at weeding but they also dug our new pond!

And I want to thank Susan and Chris and Stacey and Rob for their contribution of fruit bushes to the allotment. I will be looking forward to a bumper crop of gooseberries and blackcurrants next year!

Have a happy and healthy 2016 everyone!