Nurturing seedlings

This is the month to get gardening in ernest. I always feel the sense of urgency in April and its the time when I can easily loose the run of myself in the seed aisle and also in garden centres!

This is the month to get gardening in ernest. I always feel the sense of urgency in April and its the time when I can easily loose the run of myself in the seed aisle and also in garden centres!

I have lists of roses I want and unusual pumpkins and oddly shaped tomatoes I have to try.

But unfortunately not even half of what I want to grow have I the space for and believe me I have tried! This is one of the main reasons why food crops and flowers don’t do as well as we had anticipated.

They grow with too much competition and end up struggling and subject to attack from all manner of pests and diseases.

It’s important to allow each plant the space it requires to grow to its full potential whether that is a flowering shrub or a fruit or vegetable so when planting out this month follow the spacing advice given on the seed packet or plant label and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.

Transplanting

Take care when transplanting seedlings or young plants at this time of year. Move seedlings on as soon as possible, handling them by their seed leaves only. They run out of nutrients in seed compost and may not recover.

Try to choose a dull day to transplant seedlings as they will wilt on a hot sunny day. Otherwise shade them with newspaper or fleece until they perk up. Timing is also critical .

I had some lovely young lupins which would have flowered this season but I decided to take a chance and dig them up and move them last month which was far too late.

Lupins have long fang like roots and get growing very early in the year. The only time to move them is autumn before they get going. Mine probably wont recover fast enough to flower well now if at all. Drat!

Polytunnel progress

In the polytunnel things are looking good. Lettuce and baby leaf spinach are almost ready to eat also coriander, pak choi and radishes.

I love radishes! They have an earthy peppery taste when young . A packet of French Breakfast radishes makes a great starter vegetable for young gardeners. I will always remember picking my very first bunch of pink and white radishes and tying them together with raffia.They looked so beautiful I couldn’t believe I had grown them myself.

It was a joyous moment! They must be the easiest vegetable to grow and so a little underrated perhaps. They are brassicas, members of the cabbage clan, so make sure to include them in your crop rotation but as they grow so quickly, they rarely suffer from anything other then the odd flea beetle hole or a hungry slug.

They don’t require anything more then nice moist soil to grow in. Sow little and often as they get too hot as they get bigger.Space the seed about 4 cm apart and they will grow before your eyes.

A few jobs for April

Keep weeding around your seedlings!

They can all to easily become swamped with the rampant growth of weed seeds at this time of year. Otherwise leave weed seedlings on ground not yet planted as they act as soil protectors and improve the structure of your soil.

Harden off seedlings.

Seedlings grown under protection of glass or windowsills will get the shock of their lives if moved from indoors to outdoors with out acclimatising first. For us it would be the equivalent of going from central heating indoors to Baltic conditions outdoors with out your coat on!

Each day bring them outside to a warm sheltered spot but take them back in in the evening for a couple of weeks until they are hardy enough to remain outdoors at night. Brushing indoor grown seedlings with your hand also helps as it mimics the actions of the wind.

Begin to mulch your soil but only if it is nice and damp and warm.

Earth up potatoes and put in support for peas both the vegetable kind and flowering sweet peas.

Sow in the open- beetroot peas broad beans, winter cabbage, parsley, kale,lettuce, spring onions, rocket leeks, turnips, Witloof chicory, parsnips and kol rabi.

Plant out-

Aparagus crowns, brussles sprouts, spring cabbage, onion sets (choose nice little round sets individually if possible rather than a bag of mixed shapes)

Main crop potatoes.

Ornamental garden-Top dress your containers- Scrape off the top 4 cm of soil and replace with compost or well rotted manure.

Finish off with a good layer of horticultural grit to retain moisture.

Indoor plants.

Begin to feed them now. I find baby bio does the trick...but follow the instuctions on the bottle!

Keep a healthy atmosphere in your green house or polytunnel. All to often the atmosphere is far to dry and plants suffer. Humidity combined with good ventilation is necessary for luxuriant growth from now until October and keeps the red spider mite a bay. More on this next month!

For more information on growing your own food please visit www.giy.ie for lots of instuctive videos and notices of GIY meetings.