Growers' Corner: early April
Spring is finally on the horizon with new buds in sight. Julie Smith shares some tips and tricks for sowing new seeds and protecting young crops during this exciting time of year.
Get sowing: use seed compost (peat free if you can) and water your seedlings from under you seed trays. If you cover your seedling trays with a see-through cover, the water will condensate on the lid as the seeds breathe and come to life; keeping the lid on will mean you have a self-watering tray! Once green shoots come out of the soil, take the lid off and water as normal.
The germination puzzle: for maximum germination, sow your seeds at the right depth — the depth of the seed itself. For example, a pea or a bean seed will be 1/2 inch deep or so, whereas salad or brassica seeds will be almost right on the top of your tray with some soil sprinkled on top.
Take me out: take your broad bean seedlings out and plant them in a bright spot, far enough apart so that they can grow well. Use bamboo sticks and string as a growing frame to stop your beans from flopping over and trailing on the floor where slugs, woodlice and snails eagerly await.
Hungry slimy friends: to limit early damage to your seedlings by slugs and snails, use a mix of defensive approaches. These include growing tougher plants (keep your seedlings inside longer so they are less tender), protection (plant rings of compressed wool around plants), deterrent (garlic and chili spray can help), and in case of mass invasion, fight back with nematodes.
Plant your potatoes: in a nice sunny spot dig deep trenches 20cm deep and 40-50cm apart. Put one potato every 20 cm. then cover and wait. While your spuds are starting to grow, you can use the space between your rows of potatoes for a quick catch crop of radishes, rocket, or baby carrots.
The colours of spring: You can start sowing and transplanting glorious chard as it will do very well in the cooler days of spring. Eat young leaves raw, or put older leaves in stir fry, pies and soups. I love ‘Rhubarb’ chard with its deep red colour. Mixing it with ‘canary’ and ‘flamingo’ will make for a really colourful garden.
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