April has been cool so far and some of us could do with some rain – though I am not asking for any, quite yet. But once the overnight frosts thaw and the mist clears, we have had some lovely days. The sun has surprising strength and now we seem to have passed the cold nights, at least for a while, it is the perfect time to get some vegetables sown in the garden.
Never worry that you are too late – late sowings always catch up and there is no point sowing into cold soil. Most common veg can be sown right up till late June and still produce a crop. And looking forward to warm, summer days, salads are the perfect thing to sow now.
Most herbs and vegetables need a sunny spot but leafy salads will grow if they have a bit of shade. As long as they get sun for at least half the day they will grow well. They do not need deep soil so you can grow them in large pots, growing bags or raised beds as well as a vegetable plot. If growing and sowing in the soil you should dig out any perennial weeds and hoe off and rake off annual weeds. Add some organic matter such as garden compost too if you can. If sowing direct in the soil you should rake it, removing stones and creating a fine surface so the seeds are not covered in huge clods of soil. Adding a bag of multipurpose compost to the surface is a useful ‘cheat’ and you can sow into this. If filling pots use multipurpose compost. But remember that these usually do not contain many nutrients so as well as watering, you will have to feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser, after about a month.
Mixed salad leaves are the easiest crop of all to grow. You can sow them direct into a bag of compost! Just cut off the top, after you have decided where you want it and knocked the bag about to loosen the compost, and cut out most of the top of the bag. Break up the compost and sow the seeds all over the top. Fluff over the surface to cover the seeds, water well and the seedlings should appear in a week or so. For variety, you could sow some radishes too. They grow very quickly and are easy as long as the compost is always moist.
To get a head start, buy some lettuce plants and pop these in at the same time as you sow some of your own. Another great crop to grow is pea shoots. You can sow these in pots and you get two or three pickings from each sowing. Buy any pea seeds – choose the cheapest – and sow these thickly (about 1cm apart) in multipurpose compost, about 1cm deep. Water well and make sure there are no mice about, which love peas, and the shoots will appear in about two weeks. When the shoots are about 4in (10cm) high, pinch them off, to add to salads, and new shoots will grow, that can be harvested a few weeks later.
Now is the time to plant herbs too. Parsley, coriander, chervil and dill can all be sown where they are to grow or you can buy pots of parsley that can be planted and will provide leaves all summer. Coriander, chervil and dill need sowing every month because they rapidly run to seed and stop producing leaves.
Jobs for the week
Feed roses now they are starting to grow. Watch for greenfly and blackspot too.
Apply a lawn food, ideally just before rain. If weeds or moss are a problem now is the time to treat them.
Deadhead daffodils to prevent seed production.
Prune winter-flowering heathers when the flowers fade to keep plants neat and compact
Plant gladioli and dahlia tubers direct in the garden
If potatoes are producing shoots above the soil, cover them with soil to protect them from late frosts.