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Planning Retirement Online

The Kitchen Garden  

                                      April 2010




April should be the time to start the
kitchen garden in earnest, but still
be ever vigilant of the late frosts.


  • Plant  runner  beans in 3in pots of general purpose compost under glass, for planting out next month.
  • Leeks can be sown in short rows or in pots, for planting out in rows later on.
  • Plant onion and shallot sets, 6in apart, pushed into the soil until just the tip shows.
  • Sow courgettes, cucumbers and outdoor tomatoes in individual small pots under glass.
  • Prepare celery trenches and holes for runner beans and courgettes with plenty of manure or compost.
  • First and second early potatoes should all be planted by now and will need earthing up as they grow, but cover the soil with a protective blanket of heavyweight horticultural fleece if frost is expected.
  • Indoor tomatoes, chilli peppers, aubergines, melons and cucumbers need sowing now, one to two seeds per pot in a propagator or on a warm greenhouse bench.
  • Sow peas, mangetout, lettuce, carrots, beetroot and autumn-maturing cauliflowers directly into the ground if the soil is warm enough.
  • This is the last month to plant out maincrop potatoes, spacing them about 12in apart.

As your kitchen garden develops, you'll need to thin out seedlings otherwise crops will become straggly and wont crop well. Check your seed packet for the ideal distance between seedlings, it will depend on the type of crop. You can usually transplant most vegetable thinnings except root crops, these tend to mature a little later than the other seedlings so you can enjoy the thinnings in salads and soups.

Don`t forget to water seedlings before and after thinning if the weather is dry. To keep a succession of crops, continue planting most salad and root crops at four weekly intervals and try some of the “cut and come again” varieties of lettuce and spinach.

Keep an eye on pests this month, birds, slugs and snails all enjoy the rewards of your efforts, so cover up where you can and put a few pellets around your leafy seedlings. Alternatively have a walk down the garden after dark with a torch and remove the slugs and snails manually and drop them into a bucket of salty water.



Fruit Garden


StrawberriesIt may be necessary to water newly planted fruit trees and canes if this month is dry and keep an eye particularly on wall trained trees or fruit grown in containers as they are more prone to drying out.

Keep weeds, especially grass, under control as they will compete with fruit trees and bushes for both food and water. Feeding tree and bush fruit need not be an annual event, but now is the time to do it if appropriate.

Remove tied on grease bands that have been in place over winter. Towards the end of the month untie branches of wall trained figs which have been bundled together for protection - leave until May in cold regions. Remove any crossing or frost damaged branches. Cut back any branches that have become long and bare leaving a small stump of around 5cm to encourage new growth from the base.

Tie in and begin to train vines, they will be growing quickly very soon. To get a good crop it is important to train them well, otherwise they will soon become a mass of leaf and little fruit.

Select the strongest shoot on each spur for training. Pinch back weaker growths on each spur to 2-3 leaves to act as reserve shoots in case the selected shoot breaks during training. Top-dress Citrus in containers using compost made up of equal quantities of loam, garden compost, coir and sharp grit. Hand pollinate peaches and nectarines using a ball of cotton wool or a soft bristled paint brush. Repeat daily from when the flowers first open until the petals fall. Remove blossom from newly planted fruit trees, the trees will need all of the energy to establish well.

Prune fan trained stone fruits such as cherries, plums and nectarines. Prune out any shoots growing either into the wall or directly away from the tree. Then thin out any overcrowded and crossing shoots, remove any dead, diseased or damaged shoots. The remaining shoots can be tied to the training wires. Pruning cuts heal quickly at this time and therefore reduces the risk of fungal diseases, silverleaf and bacterial canker.

Plant bare root strawberries once the soil begins to warm up. Strawberries like a well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. Don't overdo the fertility though - you will encourage unwanted lush growth. Continue to cover strawberries for an early crop with polythene tunnels or glass cloches. Remember to ventilate on warm days, especially around flowering time for pollinating insects, replacing covers at night.

Sow melon seeds towards the end of the month for planting out in a cold frame in late may after the last frosts. Sow two seeds on their edges into small pots, cover with 2cm of compost and keep at a temperature between 22-26°C. Once germinated remove the weaker seedling and grow on at around 25°C.





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Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the DEFRA website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new, and special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced £5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is £6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

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