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The fruit and vegetable garden

April 2012

 

Vegetables 

 

Previously in The Fruit & Vegetable Garden...

March 2012

October 2011

September 2011

 


Fruit & Veg Garden Index

 
runner beansApril should be the time to start the kitchen garden in earnest, but still be ever vigilant of the late frosts. Runner beans should be sown 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 trenches for celery, 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 and this is the last month to plant out maincrop potatoes, spacing them about 12in apart.
Remember that you'll need to thin out seedlings as they grow, otherwise the plants will become straggly and won’t crop well. Check your seed packet for the ideal distance between seedlings, as it will depend on the type of crop. Don’t waste the thinning though, they are perfect used 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 will all try to 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

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 2” to encourage new growth from the base.

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 just encourage unwanted lush growth. Continue to cover strawberries for an early crop with polythene tunnels or glass cloches but remember to ventilate on warm days, especially around flowering time to allow access by pollinating insects, then replacing covers at night. Melon seeds can be sown towards the end of the month for planting out in a cold frame in late may after the last frosts.


 

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