Monthly Growing Guide By Alan J Hartley For
Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

April

Seeds To Sow.
April is the time to sow a lot more of the tender vegetables such as, Courgettes, both Yellow and Green varieties, along with the more exotic types including Aubergines and Outdoor Cucumbers. Squash and Pumpkins can also go in now, but do remember that nearly all big, flat, seeds are best sown on their edges to prevent them from rotting. This doesn’t really apply to beans, but they are still best sown under cover to start them off especially as Mice love to eat the seeds until they actually germinate and then they will leave them alone. Runner Beans, Climbing Beans and Dwarf Beans will all appreciate a little warmth from an unheated greenhouse and are ideal to start off in 3 inch pots. Remember though, that when you plant them out next month, they will need to be hardened off for a few days as they will be more delicate than seed sown directly outside which you can do in the middle of the month. Other seeds that will still appreciate a warm start in a greenhouse are Sweet Corn, Celtuce, (Stem Lettuce) Cucamelons and, Sea Kale. Although, Sea Kale, is much better grown from “Offsets” if you can get them. One thing that does need to go in now for developing and harvesting in the depths of next Winter - is Forcing Chicory. This needs to grow all Summer before being dug up as the first frosts come in the late Autumn and then it needs to be taken under shelter. Next it is grown on in the warmth and dark in Winter, after which you can harvest it’s “Chicons.” Surprisingly things like Chard, Beetroot (both Red and Golden,) Swede and Scorzonera can be sown now, but are all best not planted out too early, because as with some other things, going out too early can cause them to Bolt.

Plant Out.
You can’t plant out Tomatoes yet for a few weeks although they will be on sale everywhere, however you can now put them in an unheated Greenhouse in Grow Bags etc. As we are into April we are having more warmer days and there is often some real warmth in the Sun, but don’t be too keen to plant out any other tender plants like Courgettes and Sweet Corn especially, as they are on sale now and we could still get some cold nights. Cape Gooseberries are one of the more exotic plants that can go out now, as surprisingly they will stand it quite cold at times. If you don’t know these fruits they are closely related to the ornamental version called “Chinese Lanterns,” but these have orange/yellow fruits, that are of course, edible. If, as the Autumn ends and frosts kill your plants don’t be too quick to discard them as the fruits will go on ripening, for weeks after the plants have died and gone brown, as long as they are properly formed inside their protective, paper cases.
Oca are another unusual vegetable that can be planted out about now. They are a member of the Clover family that produce a host of small, Radish sized, edible tubers, although if you are lucky you will get a few tubers the size of New Potatoes. The larger tubers can indeed be cooked in their skins like New Potatotes, but the smaller ones are best scrubbed and eaten raw as a Lemon flavoured alternative to Radishes. One strange plus for these uncommon little vegetables is that they will keep for weeks at room temperature, unlike most vegetables.

There are quite a few flowering things that can also be planted outside in the ground now. You can start and plant Autumn flowering Bulbs which include Gladiola and Kaffir Lilies and you can plant out young Sweet Pea plants. It is certainly OK to plant out Chrysanthemums as well, whether they are your old Stools that you have saved from last year, or young plants taken from cuttings.

Harvesting.
It is still early to be thinking about harvesting most things, but one or two vegetables will be just about ready by now. Chives will be starting into growth, enabling you to start cutting them for salads, and so will Welsh, or Everlasting Onions. These are related to Chives, but are a small Clump forming Onion, that can be used as an alternative to Spring Onions. They will die off in Winter like Chives, but will shoot again in early Spring.
Another vegetable that will be ready by now is Sea Kale, if you have grown this old fashioned crop. The harvesting of Sea Kale plants is done by removing their forcing covers, (Buckets) and selecting stalks to pull that are about 6 - 8 inches long, or more - then, simply tearing the stalks from the Crown. (They can be neatly trimmed in the Kitchen) After picking the stalks they need to be kept in the dark until use, or else they will quickly “Green Up.” Lightly steamed the stalks are a good alternative to Asparagus, but crop a few weeks earlier. You will get several pickings from each plant if they are growing well before they need to be uncovered to allow the plants to leaf up and energise themselves ready for next year in the same way you might with forced Rhubarb. 

Other Jobs.
With the warming days and the likelihood of fewer cold nights, you can remove the bubble polythene lining from your greenhouse as we progress through the month. Keep some Horticultural Fleece handy though to spread over any tender plants in your greenhouse just in case we get a cold night.

 


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