Suggested “To Dos” this month – on your ALLOTMENT or in your GARDEN
This is a tough month for the Allotmenteer! Probably the busiest month of the year.
Deep breath – here we go!
Chit and plant out second early potatoes in the first half of the month and maincrop potatoes in the second half. Potatoes can be planted in deep drills or in individual planting holes, with 5cm of soil mounded over the top. Alternatively, plant them through slits in black polythene mulch.
If you live in a very mild area, and got off to an early start with your potatoes last month, they may be ready for earthing up to exclude light and prevent the tubers going green. Start earthing up as the shoots grow, covering them entirely if frosts threaten, and finishing when the earthed up ridge is about 25cm (10in) high. Potatoes grown under black polythene do not need earthing up, as the polythene excludes enough light. If frost threatens, then cover the shoots with horticultural fleece to protect them.
- Swiss chard,
- summer cauliflower,
- kohl rabi,
- sring and pickling onions,
- peas and perpetual spinach in well-prepared soil.
Why not try sowing some unusual vegetables such as:
salsify, Hamburg parsley, or scorzonera, both root vegetables favoured by the Victorians, and still eaten a lot on the Continent.
- shallots, garlic and onion sets.
- Girasole (Jerusalem) artichoke tubers.
- asparagus crowns. A deep, friable, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated is ideal.
- Broad beans can be transplanted into the garden.
In the second half of the month (wait until early May in cold areas) you can sow
- pumpkins and squash
- In a heated glasshouse at a germination temperature of 16°C (61°F).
- Sweet peppers,
- In very mild areas you may be able to sow
- dwarf French beans &
- sweet corn outside under cloches or fleece, but in cooler areas it is best to wait until May.
- Sow a seedbed of brassicas to provide transplants of
- sprouting broccoli,
- cabbages that will be ready for planting out to their final position in June or July, and for harvesting in autumn/winter.
- It is rather late for sowing Brussels sprouts, but you can still buy young plants from a nursery assuming you can find one open, where the owner is not under house arrest during these troubled times!
- globe artichokes can all be sown in a frost-free greenhouse. Artichokes and celery can be transplanted outside later in the spring.
- Tomatoes germinate best at 22°C (72°F), and can either remain in the greenhouse or go outside from early summer onwards.
- Peppers, cucumbers and aubergines do best kept under cover throughout their life.
- Pot up tomato seedlings when they develop true leaves above the more rounded seed leaves. After growing on in small pots, they can be planted into larger pots or growing-bags.
Onions sown from seed earlier in the spring. Don’t use ground used for onions in the last three years.
Pea plants should be supported with sticks, twigs, green support mesh, or wire netting from the garden centre.
Thin out rows of seedlings as soon as they are large enough to be handled.
Fleece and polythene can be used to protect early outdoor sowings. Many vegetables can bolt if sown outside too early without protection (beetroot being an example). A greenhouse or conservatory is useful in all but the very mildest areas with the lightest soils, to start seeds off, hardening off and transplanting the young plants into the vegetable garden later in the spring.
Continue to force witloof chicory and sea kale. Dig up selected chicory roots, pot them up, and position them in a dark warm place (10-13°C; 50-55°F), with an upturned pot over them. The tasty chicons will appear in three to six weeks. Seakale is best forced outside at seasonal temperatures, with an upturned pot or cardboard box/tube over the top to exclude the light.
- Girasole (Jerusalem) artichokes,
- winter salads,
- kale and
- sprouting broccoli.
- Start to harvest
- spring onions,
- spring cauliflowers,
- spring cabbages and
- un-forced rhubarb.
Control weeds by hoeing between rows during dry weather.
You could prepare your runner bean supports and trenches for sowing (in May) or planting out (in June). This will save you time later.
Pest & disease watch
Pick yellowing leaves off brassicas promptly, to prevent spread of grey mould and brassica downy mildew. Do not compost such material, but put it in the rubbish, burn it, or bury it deeper than 60cm (24in) depth.
Damping off of seedlings can be a problem with sowings both outside and in modules or containers. Clean equipment and, where necessary, use of fungicides (e.g. Bio Cheshunt Compound) can help to control this problem.
Flea beetle on brassicas can be a problem this month, and you may need to control them with an insecticide or exclude them with horticultural fleece.
Slugs pose a threat, and slug controls are necessary now, as always.
Place mice controls near stored vegetables and ensure that crops remaining in the ground, and new sowings under cloches, are protected from mice.
Pigeons are serious pests of brassicas and other vegetables. Cloches, frames of netting or fleece, and metal cages will help to keep them away from vulnerable crops.
Clear out and clean your vegetable store, to reduce rots and moulds before the influx of new crops.
Attracting wildlife to your garden can help to control pest problems for the coming year.
Insects start to emerge as temperatures increase. A mild spring can see pest problems developing earlier than usual.
- lemon balm,
- coriander and
- dill in the greenhouse or on the windowsill.
It is easier to buy in young plants of mint, tarragon, thyme or rosemary. These are harder to grow from seed, some being prone to damping off, others unreliably producing ripe seed, and others being more quickly and practically propagated by division or cuttings.
Thyme can be propagated by layering, either into adjacent soil, or into little pots buried under the soil surface (for an instant potted plant).
Trim sage plants to keep them neat and to encourage fresh shoots.
Check that clumps of invasive herbs such as mint, lemon balm and even chives, haven’t grown too big for their allotted space. Use a spade to dig out unwanted shoots and runners, or divide them, giving away or transplanting any excess divisions.
Control weeds by hoeing between garden plants and by hand-weeding containers. Weed infested clumps may need lifting to disentangle weeds from the plant roots.
PHEW! Good Luck! A LITTLE bit easier next month.
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