The latter days of April were an unnerving experience for many gardeners. I watched rain soaked, fearful and powerless as heavy rain and hailstones battered my apple blossoms and chill winds blew, yet now that ‘weather’ has passed, I’m thankful that the garden seems remarkably intact.
A quick check with the soil thermometer revealed that the cold wind and rain has chilled the soil in the vegetable garden, so I will be covering it with black polythene to warm the soil before sowing tender crops like French and Runner Beans, Squashes and pumpkins directly outdoors, as soon as possible, rather than starting them off in the greenhouse. One way to encourage germination is to put an upturned glass jar over each squash or pumpkin seed to act as a mini greenhouse. Talking of seed sowing, some people feel you should not buy plantlets from the local garden centre, DIY store or via the internet – it’s not wrong, it is just not done. But it is no different to buying bedding plants, so what’s the problem. It is more energy efficient than heating a greenhouse for a few crops and saves space, so it makes sense all round.
In some parts of the British Isles it is still too early to plant out annual bedding, however it is a good time to plant up hanging baskets, so they have a few weeks in the greenhouse to establish, so they look good before putting them outside once both days and nights have warmed up. Always buy your bedding plants from a supplier with a good reputation, prices may be higher but the choice is generally greater, the quality higher and if there’s a high turnover at the retailer, plants won’t be standing around on the benches for too long and deteriorating. Choose your plants carefully; select colours that work well together in bright or pastel shades and roughly work out how many you need and the style you are looking for beforehand. Your plants should be compact, pest and disease free and the leaves should show no signs of yellowing, make sure there aren’t masses of roots growing through the drainage holes and that the compost is moist, too. When you finally buy bedding plants for outdoors, acclimatise them for a couple of weeks in the green house, leaving them outside during the day and bring them into the glasshouse at night. When they’re finally planted out, give them a boost by watering in with liquid seaweed.
The flavour of fresh herbs beats anything you can buy in a supermarket and now’s the time to sow herbs from seeds for your summer supplies. Sow coriander, dill and fennel in pots, trays or directly into the soil, parsley germinates better with fluctuating temperatures so sow it in trays or modules and put them in the greenhouse during the day and outdoors at night. Once established, ‘Basil’ should always be watered before noon, as it does not like going to bed with its feet wet!
Happy Gardening! Matt