The current lockdown & plethora of seeds I’ve accumulated, has focused my mind on the business of sowing plants from seed this month. Fortunately April is a good time for this.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the delayed gratification of waiting for seeds to develop, is not such a feature of my life as I thought it was. It’s so easy to visit a Nursery & buy a plant or two. But that’s not possible now, & I’ve realised how pleasurable it is to raise a plant from a tiny seed, & such amazing value.
I spread two cubic meters of well-rotted farmyard manure, as a mulch, over the soil a couple of weeks ago. Already the plants have responded with fresh shoots, so I have high hopes for the growing season ahead.
If you’re flinching a little at the thought of well-rotted manure, let me reassure you that it’s a dark, rich, crumbly compost with absolutely no smell. Good soil is the foundation of any ambitious garden,
What seeds to sow in April varies tremendously from year to year in this country.
This year it’s been a warm, sunny month, which has given me more opportunity to sow directly outside into the soil.
Hardy annuals, as the name suggests, can grow despite cold weather. Whilst half-hardy annuals have to wait to be planted outside until all likelihood of frost has gone, this is mid-May in my garden.
Hardy vegetables to sow outside:
Hardy flowers to sow outside:
Calendula / English Marigolds
Eschscholzia californica / Californian Poppy
Cerinthe major Purpurascens / Honeywort
Nicotiana / Tobacco Plant
Half-hardy vegetables to sow inside:
Half-hardy flowers to sow inside:
Zinnias are an exception, they don’t like being transplanted. Sow them directly into the soil where they are to grow when there’s no danger of frost.
Grow half-hardy somewhere warm, a windowsill, warm greenhouse or conservatory is fine.
I’ve yet to make supports for peas, beans & squash to climb up. I’ve collection of hazel twigs & small branches ready for construction. It gives height & structure to the vegetable patch at this time of year before everything starts growing.
My dahlias & a couple of pelargoniums are doing well in our small summerhouse. There’s a lot of residual heat from the day & the roof & walls are insulated, making it the ideal place for growing plants on.
A Few Guidelines for successful seedlings:
- Check every day after sowing to make sure they haven’t dried out.
- Pot plants into bigger pots as soon as roots appear at the bottom of the pot.
- Prepare the soil before planting out & make plant supports in advance if necessary.
Pruning & dead-heading:
Prune hydrangea stems to above a pair of healthy leaves, & remove spent flowers from spring-flowering bulbs.
Watering the Garden:
April feels like the start of the real growing season here. Plants in containers & raised beds have been drying out quickly in all this warm sunshine, so regular watering is essential now.
The balance between keeping plants irrigated & wasting water is a fine one.
Mulched soil retains water for longer. Water late in the afternoon, but not so late that plants stay damp into the night.
You may also want to have a look at the previous 4 posts this month. I went into overdrive to help people with lockdown gardening & wrote about growing fuss-free vegetables.
Finally, I wrote about edible flowers. It may seem a bit of a lightweight topic in a time of crisis, but honestly they lift your heart, & your palette, so defiantly earn a place in my series on lockdown gardening.
During this time in lockdown, I’ve realised how much I’ve taken my garden for granted in the past. Now it’s become a real focus of my day, every day & I’ve slowed down & reconnected with it again. I hope you’re enjoying your outside space, however big or small it is.
All photos: Jill Anderson