Sowing The Seeds For Summer

1st April 2010

Tips for April Gardening from National Garden Gift Vouchers

It’s now officially Spring, and gardening is a great way of keeping in shape as part of a healthy lifestyle (and counts towards your daily 60 active minutes). Not only that, but if you grow your own fruit and vegetables, then you can also contribute to your essential five a day and have the pleasure of enjoying your own home grown produce, or swapping crops with friends and family.

New research from PlantforLife reveals that the trend for ‘grow your own’ has almost doubled, with over half (54%) saying that they now choose to grow their own, compared to just a fifth (22%) two years ago. April is a key month for planting vegetables and fruit in the garden, and from now until late autumn you will be sowing, planting and harvesting. Finish off sowing seeds for early lettuces, summer carrots, dwarf peas, summer spinach and broad beans – and start sowing beetroots, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and cabbage), peas, turnips and swede. You can also plant the first early potatoes (traditionally done on Good Friday) weather dependent.

For beginners, some of the easiest fruits to grow are berries. Strawberries and blueberries love containers or open ground and both crop heavily once established. For the best results from your blueberries, use an ericaceous mix compost. Once you have a little bit more experience you can try apples, raspberries and other fruits.

It’s a common misconception that you need a lot of space to be able to grow vegetables. You can achieve real success with container grown plants. Tomatoes will thrive in pots and grow bags and can also be grown in the ground, be it garden or allotment. Provided that the container is large enough to give the plants a good root run (deep containers are great for potatoes), and they are never allowed to dry out, you will be amazed at what you can harvest.

There are some real advantages in using portable containers as you can move them around to achieve the best growing position – tomatoes prefer to be south facing, for example; aubergines love sunny positions; spinach and lettuce prefer to be in the shade when it is very hot. A simple wheeled pot trolley works well for this. Bear in mind though, that all container grown crops must be well watered and kept moist.

April is a brilliant gardening month and is a good time for planting evergreen shrubs, bamboos and conifers along with clematis and other climbers, although watch out for sudden frosts (place plants in a covered area or fleece them if necessary) and, of course, pests. Slugs and snails can do the worst damage to new foliage, especially during wet weather. Deadhead spring bulbs and start feeding all plants from now, continuing through the summer.

A cheap alternative to established plants is to sow seeds directly outdoors to flower in summer. Make a line in the soil with your finger and scatter the seeds along it, cover lightly with soil then water in. You can do this with Nicotiana, Marigold, Cosmos and Sweetpea (which you should soak over night before sowing) – all are readily available at a local garden centre or nursery and can be bought with National Garden Gift Vouchers.

It’s also the best time to plant Ceanothus, a garden favourite, and the month when some varieties blossom. Ceanothus – ‘the cloud-like one’ – is an evergreen or deciduous shrub and is also known as Californian Lilac, because it has small lilac shaped flowers in stunning shades of deep blue (but also comes in white and pink) and originates from California. It likes full sun, grows up to 3 metres with a spread of up to 2 metres and is great for filling gaps in just a few years as it is fast growing and fairly hardy.

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