April Grow your own
With April now upon us, spring is most definitely sprung. The forecast for this weekend – in the UK, at least –) but as the air generally warms up, it’s time to start planting in earnest.
Already we are past the best planting time for some crops, including garlic and some varieties of cabbage, and we are getting late on in the season for starting to chit your potatoes, but in many other areas it’s time to start digging and planting. Here are five crops you should have near the top of your list.
Broccoli, a staple of the the dinner plate all year round, takes a long time to mature. Unless you are content to buy young plants later in the season and plant them – which some may see as cheating – now is the time to be sowing your seeds. First time gardeners might like to think carefully before embarking on broccoli growing as the maze-like stalks that support its edible florets make great homes for caterpillars, which are almost exactly the same shade of green as the broccoli itself. As such, controlling an infestation and removing them prior to eating is a tricky job.
And if broccoli is ready for sowing, it should be no surprise that cauliflower is, too. As we pointed out elsewhere, we could be heading for a shortage of cauliflowers this year as farmers give up on the crop following low prices and poor yields in the 2007 harvest. That could lead to higher prices and limited stocks in the shops this year, making home-grown caulis an attractive proposition – so long as you have space in your plot.
Onions can be planted either as seeds or sets right now. Onion sets are small bulbs that are transplanted into your own plot to mature, and so are a more attractive proposition than seeds for the first-timer. Try mixing white and red onions for greater variety, using the milder red onions in salads, and the hotter white ones in cooked dishes. If you plan on planting onions, make sure the ground is well manured and, if possible, leave it a little while to settle after fertilising. You can plant onions right up to the end of the month, so try digging in your fertiliser now and then sowing at the end of the month, ensuring that you press down the earth well to encourage good root growth.
Now is the time to start mixing up an earth and sand combination for your carrots, which appreciate the sandier conditions to promote better water drain. Carrots are drought tolerant so don’t take kindly to being waterlogged. As such, growing them in large pots is a good way to provide them with the best possible growing medium without digging sand into your plot.
We covered off lettuce and tomatoes last month, but to spice up your summer salads you should this month be putting in your radishes. These small red-skinned vegetables are as useful as they are tasty, as they sit shallow in the ground and don’t spread a long way. As such, you can use them to mark out dividing lines between other crops – particularly before those other crops take on any distinguishing features, or even start to show above ground.