For the gardeners among you, April is all about getting ready for the imminent growing season. The ‘Hungry Gap’ of this time of year means that crops of winter have all but died off and the crops of summer are not yet grown. However, there is life in the garden now and the extra daylight and gradually warmer sunshine will start to bring things on in leaps and bounds.
Since early February, well-prepared gardeners have already been busy planting seeds in trays and leaving them to germinate in the polytunnel or greenhouse. But it’s not too late to start. Better late than never. Here are a few things you can be doing this month.
Some gardeners who grow tomatoes from seed should be seeing decent growth now, as young plants are getting ready to be transferred from their original seed trays to individual pots. Tomato plants probably need to get a bit more sturdy before they are put straight into the ground if you’re using a tunnel, so potting in individual pots is a good in-between measure.
Saint Patrick’s Day marked the start of the potato growing season. Most growers have now sowed their first crops of earlies. If you haven’t done it yet, don’t worry it’s not too late. Prepare your ground and sow spuds in ridges, covering the tops. If you don’t have much ground in the garden, use containers to grow potatoes. Anything from deep plastic bins to fish boxes is excellent for growing smaller crops of spuds. Make sure your container has holes for drainage.
PEAS AND BEANS
One of the best thing about growing your own has to be the fantastic selection of peas and beans on offer. These are climbing plants that will need support, so you can start making your cane ‘wigwams’ now. These are pointed structures stuck into the ground and secured at the top. Young pea and bean shoots are planted around the base so they climb up and cover the canes. They look pretty as well as being practical. Do check though how tall your plants will grow because they are all different so you will need the right size cane support.
You can also use garden canes to make a criss-cross ‘fence’ type structure if you want to grow your plants in rows. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube on how to make cane support structures so get online and see how it’s done.
Summer herbs can be planted in pots on the patio, window boxes, or in the polytunnel. If you’re using a tunnel, create a herb bed and pop the young plants straight into the ground. As the month wears on the and weather improves, you should see some great growth happening in the next few weeks. Great to be able to run outside to your pots or tunnel and snip some fresh parsley, chives, basil or coriander when you need it.
A word of warning. If you are planting mint, make sure you restrict it in a pot or else it will take over the whole herb patch. It will just get bigger year on year!
Start your salad collection by sowing some seeds into a seed tray. It’s probably best to let them get a bit of growth on them before they go into the ground, or else the slugs will have a field day on the young leaves and your salads will never see the inside of a salad bowl!
THE WORLD ON WEED
Unfortunately, as your veggie plants start to thrive, so do the weeds! You have to get on top of the weed issue as early as possible in the growing season, as soon as you see them starting to appear. Last year, we asked the gardener for The Yard and Little Yard in Wexford for his advice on weed control in a chemical-free garden and all he said was, ‘Hoe. Hoe. Hoe.’ You have to work that hoe for all it’s worth – there’s no simple solution, just a back break and elbow grease! Probably on a daily basis…
RAISED BED GROWING
Gardeners who use raised beds and the ‘no dig’ method of gardening often find weeds easier to control, firstly because the method causes little disturbance of the soil which reduces activation of dormant weeds in the first place. A good bark mulch layer on top of the soil will keep plant roots protected and nourish the soil, but it also has the added bonus of helping to control weeds. Mulch restricts daylight to the soil and prevents dormant weeds from germinating, as well as providing a tough barrier for weeds that have already started to germinate to penetrate.
If you’re starting your veg garden from scratch this year, investigate this method of using raised beds and ‘no dig’, which works very well for time-poor gardeners, makes the most of small spaces and creates a very manageable and productive veg patch. You’ll find a selection of raised beds for sale on the GIY International website.
START A CONTAINER GARDEN
Space restricted growers can also investigate container growing at this time of year. It’s amazing what crops you can grow if you don’t even have a garden. A sunny balcony or patio can be a very prolific little plot. Cherry tomatoes and strawberries can be grown from hanging baskets. Peppers, tomatoes and chillies do well in large plant pots and salads and herbs in grow bags or window boxes.
You won’t have the weed problem, which is a positive! But you will need to take more care with frequent watering and feeding as the season moves on, especially on balconies that are undercover.
BUY A BOOK AND TAKE A COURSE
A wise investment if you want to start growing but don’t know how is the Grow Cook Eat book by GIY Founder Michael Kelly. It will take you through the whole process from plot to plot. This Sunday, 9th April, Michael is hosting a full day beginners guide to Growing at GIY, everything you need to know to get you going. Find out more on the GIY website.
Buy Gift Voucher