Is It Spring Yet ?

Person Author: Helen Fowler Calender April 2, 2014 Posted No Tags Comment No Comments

This seems to be one of the most asked questions at the moment. We have had the Spring Equinox and the clocks went forward last weekend, but the cold weather is not behind us just yet! If your thinking of planting out anything that is not hardy, you will have to be prepared to protect them.

We have a few nice days which make us think Spring has arrived, but be careful gardeners as I’m sure there will be a more than a few frosts to come. Off course a lot will depend on your location, I am up in North Yorkshire, just below the North York Moors. We are quite sheltered from winds coming from the North and East, but there is little to protect us from the South and West. We can get some ferocious South Westerly gales streaming down from the Pennines, and the winds can severely damage tender leaves and destroy early blossom.

After one of the wettest winters on record, how has your plot or garden survived? I amazed at how mine has gone from many parts of it under 3-4 inches of water, to mostly moist and friable and in quite a short time. I put this down to my adding lots of old used and new homemade compost on to the beds each year. I dont dig it in, but add it as a mulch of at least 4 inches each year and let the worms do their thing. It makes the beds better drained, the soil warms quicker and the mulch keeps weeds to a minimum. Less work for me too.

At this time of year, my house and windowsills are usually full to bursting with tender vegetable and flower seedlings all waiting to go out in the greenhouse or outside, but cannot as the weather is still too cold at night. Most years I start too much, too early. Well this year I managed to restrain myself and only sowed a few tender seeds early. I started many of my chilli’s and my Sungold Tomatoes early February, and some of my plants are now 5-6 inches. The rest of my tomatoes were sown in mid March and last weekend. There is little point is starting tender veg too early if you have no heat in your greenhouse or poly tunnel and any sown now will soon catch up as the weather warms.

I am not going to sow any melons, cucumber, squash or sweet corn inside till the end of April or even mid May. All these veg grow quite speedily and can get pot bound because they cannot be planted out. Up here in Yorkshire we can get frosts in late May and early June, so I dont plant out these tender veg till mid June up here. A few years ago I chanced planting out sweet corn early in mid May, they were not killed, but the cool nights caused it to bolt to flowering early, before the cobs had formed. This meant that when the cobs were ready to be fertilised  there was no pollen, so no crop.

There is of course lots that can be sown or grown now in your cold greenhouses and poly tunnels and even direct outside. Lettuce, radish, spring onion, broad beans, peas, brassicas, leeks, onions, shallots and onion sets can all be sown or planted under cover without heat, or direct outside if you soil is workable. If your soil is good and is warming up, you could try sowing carrots, beetroot and parsnips. I sowed parsnips in a raised bed a week ago, but as they are slow to germinate, I may not see anything for a few weeks yet. My module raised peas and broad beans are going out into the beds this week, and I shall sow early carrots in tubs. Also more salads and a variety of herbs. My calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli that were sown on the 1st March in modules were potted up into 3 inch pots yesterday and are looking good. My leek and onion seedlings sown at the same time are now ready for potting on too, a job for tomorrow I think.

My October planted garlic and elephant garlic is starting to grow well now, and the fruit trees are budding nicely. My pot grown plums that I have had just over a year, are full of blossom, so fingers crossed there are no sharp frosts or gales. Though I could protect them with fleece as they are potted plants. I managed to get my strawberry bed cleaned and sorted out a couple of weeks ago and the plants, which were new last year look great. Looking forward to a good crop this summer. My overwintered chilli plants have now started into growth and I am hoping one of the sweet peppers I overwintered has also survived.

My restraint at not sowing too much early has had other benefits, as the greenhouse was empty, I have been able to clean out my greenhouse, wash it down and install a new floor. I have laid down heavy weed fabric then added a flag path and filled the rest with yellow gravel. This has given me an all weather base and reflects more light, I am very happy with the result. My main growing beds are cleaned, topped up and ready for the new growing season.

There will be lots I will be sowing this weekend, a good riffle through my seed box is in order. One new thing I will try to grow is Licorice, the roots of this shrub used to be sold for chewing, and the extract used for lots of sweets. I tried to find a plant, it grows as a shrub, with little success, so I will try it from seed. I always like to try growing a few new plants or varieties each year, why dont you have a look in the Seedparade seed shop and find something new that you could try growing this season.

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