There's loads of exciting stuff to do in April as the season really begins to gather momentum. I'm going to give you some recommendations on seed varieties as the right choice is so important, especially for the beginner. I'll give you 3 of my favourites and the reasons we we sow them. Remember we're always available for advice on your seed choices and pride ourselves on the quality of our handpicked varieties.
We're going to start with some jobs you need to keep on top of and hopefully give you some practical solutions.Protect potato shoots from frost. You still have time to get your second early and maincrop spuds in but if you've planted already you need to protect the new shoots from frost. Potatoes are frost tender and while frost damage on new shoots won't kill the plant it will certainly set it back and may effect the yield. Read potato article here.
Earth up new shoots by dragging the surrounding soil over the emerging tips. You can also mulch the plants or cover with horticultural fleece. You should only need to do this over the next few weeks as frost is unlikely to be a problem when we move into May.
Hoeing Hoeing is a big deal for the organic gardener and once you get into the habit of it probably one of the most rewarding. What's so great about hoeing?
- Weeds not only compete with your crops for valuable nutrients, they can also harbour disease and impede good air circulation around your crops. We don't like chemicals around our crops so the hoe is your only man.
- The hoe breaks up the top layer of the soil and helps water and oxygen get down to the roots of your plants.
- Hoeing also increases microbial activity in the soil. The by product of this activity is the release of nutrients to the roots of your plants.
Oscillating Stirrup Hoe The best and most satisfying hoe to use by a country mile is the oscillating hoe or stirrup hoe. They are quite difficult to get so we decided to import them ourselves and am now pleased to announce we have them in stock. They cut on the push and pull stroke and sharpen themselves as you work, cool eh?
Our hoes are Swiss made and like most of our tools are of old fashioned bullet proof quality. A tool for life. (My wife, who's looking over my shoulder, has just made the hilarious comment that that's what she got when she married me. Oh, the craic we have.....)
Paper Potter I thought I'd include our paper potter as it's so handy this time of year and also saves you a few quid on pots. It's so simple to use and makes bio degradable seedling pots from old newspapers. It comes in small and large sizes for smaller seedlings and larger plants like tomatoes and courgettes.
Simply roll a sheet of newsprint around the pestle, fold over the end and push firmly into the wooden base. Bingo! A paper pot. Made from natural beech wood, a lovely present if you're feeling generous.
3 of my favourite seasonal seeds.
1 Spring Onion Ishikura Bunching My discovery of the perfect spring onion coincided with my discovery of Klaus Laitenberger. In fact it was the success we had which led us to seek more recommendations from Klaus and finally resulted in us setting up 'The Vegetable Seed Company' together.
Most people (myself included) tend to grow the popular variety 'White Lisbon' and I was always a little disappointed by the puny green stalks I got. I comforted myself with the assumption that the thicker, crunchier scallion from the supermarket must be sprayed with gallons of fertilizer. Well, maybe they are but it also comes down to variety, if you prefer a thicker, crunchier scallion then you're looking for Japanese Bunching Onions.
Japanese Bunching onions are easier to grow and have a much longer season than the standard salad or spring onion. Leaves tend to be stronger, healthier and will remain an attractive deep green for longer.You should sow spring onions every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply but as bunching onions stand for much longer you can reduce that to every 4-5. Sow from March to July.
The easiest way is to sow them in modules using ten seeds per cell. Plant them out in a bunch and harvest the full clump when you need them. Click for link to sowing in modular trays. I guarantee if you've been disappointed with your scallions in the past you'll be absolutely delighted when you try Ishikura Bunching.
2 Beetroot 'Pablo' Beetroot was never a vegetable I got particularly excited about despite being constantly told how good it is for you. I remember giving a hippie American girl a lift years ago and recall looking in the rear view mirror in alarm as she began devouring a whole raw beetroot. I figured the pickled variety was bad enough and couldn't imagine what horrors lay in this in-car pagan feast.
Not so anymore! Beetroot got a bad name through our inadequacies as cooks not through any failing on its part. If you boil them the best place for them is the bin but grate them raw through a salad or roast with a little oil to bring out their sweetness and you'll find them sublime.
The sweetness is one of the reasons "Pablo' shines. Even eaten raw in the garden you'll be surprised how sweet it is and you'll never get the bitter aftertaste normally associated with uncooked beets. This beet is also very reliable and high yielding, why grow any other?
3 Broad Bean 'Witkeim Manita' Broad beans are the simplest thing to grow, are hardy and produce a large crop of delicious beans. I prefer to pick them young for a sweeter bean which are lovely tossed into a salad. You can eat them pods and all when young (4-5 inches) or pop the bigger ones and extract the beans by running your finger through their fluffy insides. Many people also peel the outer skin from the bean but I feel life is way too short for that. Try stir frying the beans with a little chilli and spring onions for a quick and tasty side dish.
When sowing broad beans you need to make sure you have the correct variety for autumn or Spring sowing, check the pack. Witkeim Manita is a Spring bean and can be sown till late April so you've still plenty of time to put them in. Sow them direct in drills about 5cm deep 15cm between plants and 45cm between rows. You can start picking them in June and continue harvesting for a month.