April is a wonderful time of the year when all the world is in growth mode – birds will be nesting and laying eggs, sheep are lambing, vegetables are breaking through the ground, flowers are blooming and our gardens are coming to life.
But there is a lot to do in April. Sowing seeds is a constant conveyor belt, getting your outdoor ground prepared in the veg patch for sowing, digging our borders for flowers and weeding.
This time of the year is a great one for growth – and in terms of our vegetable patch and our flower beds, this means now is the time to keep on top of the weeds. You may think that weeding is done purely for aesthetic reasons, intended to keep your garden looking pretty. But in reality, these can be aggressive plants which ultimately compete with other plants for space, moisture and nutrients.
But we must also remember that many of these weeds provide nourishment in the guise of pollen for our bees. And we need those bees to pollinate our plants.
We need to acknowledge the importance of bees in the future of our planet, so if you can leave some of the flowering weeds that are not in the way for the Bees, please do so. If there are areas you can leave wild, that would be great, and maybe just take these weeds out when they are about to go to seed. Or maybe even sow one area of your garden with some organic indigenous wildflower seeds, especially for the bees and butterflies, work your garden to support both your own needs and those of the wildlife.
Where you are going to weed, it will last longer and be much less infuriating if you get the entire plant, root and all. Just ripping and tearing the tops off your weeds isn’t going to do you any favours in the long run. Most weeds have the power to regenerate readily from left-behind roots – sometimes stronger than before.
The best time to weed is right after it rains, when the soil is moist and loose. Sometimes just watering the morning before you weed can make all the difference in making the task much easier.
But don’t forget – weeding is not a one time task. Keep watching for new weeds, and get rid of them as early as you can. Especially before they get a chance to flower and spread more seeds!!
Continue to sow your seeds in modular trays indoors or in a greenhouse. As we said previously, keeping a continuous planting regime will give you seedlings at different stages to provide a longer growing and flowering season. I have planted seeds harvested from my Sweet Peas last year – great moneysaving idea!
This process involves transferring your seedlings as they grow into larger pots, to allow them grow stronger with more nutrition before they go out into your flower beds or vegetable patch.
So how do we do this? – the first two leaves of your plant are called the Seed Leaves. They protect your seedling as it grows and feeds the roots. Once you have about three “True Leaves”, the next leaves after your seed leaves, you should consider transplanting them to a new tub.
Water your plant well before removing from its tray. When taking the seedling out, hold only by the seed leaf and do not pull, use something to ease out around the roots, making sure not to break them. Meanwhile prepare a larger pot with some potting compost, put a hole in the centre and gently place the seedling in, top up with some more compost to protect it and gently press the soil in around the plant. Water it to ensure soil remains moist. Keep an eye on all your seed trays as there will probably be a few plants each day that will need to be potted on. Keep these pots in a warm sunny place for a couple more weeks. If you intend eventually planting into containers, it is a good idea to pot them on in stages, into progressively larger pots.
This week we can have a look at Parsley. It is one of the most common herbs to use in the kitchen and is a great herb to have a go at growing. There are curly varieties and flat leaf ones too, and you can give the seeds a head start by sowing them indoors on a sunny window ledge or you can sow them directly into the ground once the soil heats up. But be patient. They are a slow grower. One way of speeding things up is to soak the seeds in water overnight before planting. You can also try the other trick of buying a pot in the supermarket and separating out the plants to grow individually. This will certainly keep you going while your seeds are germinating and grow big enough to plant out. However, the taproot of parsley plants is delicate, so take extra care if transplanting! Mine looked a little sad when I first transplanted them, but they should recover in the coming weeks.
To harvest parsley, cut single stalks low down, and remember, the stems are full of flavour too, so chop them finely and use them along with the leaves. The flavour of parsley is fresh and grassy, and works well in creamy sauces, blended into salsas or pesto, and used as a garnish. It is also a typical ingredient in your stuffing for a Roast Chicken. You can also add it to soups, stews, sauces, meatballs, fishcakes, burgers and marinades. It also has many medicinal properties and is high in many essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, and calcium — all of which are essential to bone health.
I think we have enough there to be thinking of for now; but looking forward – consider what seeds you can be sowing to plant out later in the spring or even summer. A few suggestions of vegetables to consider would be Peas & Beans, Beetroot, Lettuce, Scallions/Spring Onions, Courgettes/Squash/Pumpkins or basically, sow seeds of the foods you like to eat!
For your flowering borders, you can look at planting summer bedding plants like Lobelias, Calendulas, Snapdragons or Alyssums ready to be planted out in May.
Remember – keep on top of all those jobs and enjoy your garden.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and protect young plants from any unexpected frost.