Blue skies, sharply focused blossom, sudden heavy showers and the warmth of an April morning. That is spring – absolutely full on, with strong growth from dormant plants now daily changing the colour of our landscape. Nothing can compare with this. It is like the first day of a long awaited holiday, full of anticipation of the season to come. The clocks have now changed with the extra hour in the evening, which means that when I get back from work I can get a few things done so leaving less of a burden for the days off. The weather forecast for the month is reasonable although typical April showers and a few ups and downs in temperature. The long range forecasts I have read, have all been inconclusive and I think it really is anyone’s guess. I am sure we will get some lovely warm sunny days just as we’ll get some cold wet ones. We live on an island and that’s the way it is. Some concerns exist at present that the winter rainfall has been less than average with the result that the soil moisture level is quite a way below where it should be. For a gardener that does mean that good gardening techniques are important for keeping the moisture in the soil. Lots of well-rotted organic mulch added to or spread on top of the soil builds fertility and increases the soil’s capacity to hold water.
I have great plans for early salad production which could be important as it seems two thirds of our household are trying to eat healthily [I am of course, the exception]. It is going to require considerable discipline to stick to cropping programmes making sure sowings are made at the right time and that crops are removed once they are finished to make room for the next lot. Veg crops will be vital this year with some longer term crops in to cover the hungry gap next spring. We are just eating our way through purple sprouting and curly kale planted out last summer, and there are still a few parsnips and carrots left. I have salad rocket and parsley overwintered under protection cropping nicely. These things really do make a difference to a variable diet and reduce the food shopping bills. We are lucky enough to have room for hens, so fresh greens and eggs are on the menu! Food costs have levelled out a bit since last year but nothing much has gone down in price and is unlikely to do so. On top of that, I really like to know where my food has come from, and I am notoriously reluctant to buy exotics out of season; it just doesn’t make any sense to me but as a nation we are so used to having everything we want whenever we want it, the joy and surprise of seasonal treats is lost. I think they call that a bit of a rant, and it’s linked to being a grumpy old gardener!
Jobs for the Month
With all the pruning out of the way, feeding and mulching climbers, roses and other shrubs and perennial plants is vital if you want them to perform well this year. Roses may be showing early signs of black spot and the fungicide treatments now could help. Rose Clear or Fungus Fighter should do it. The best techniques will also include good hygiene, removing diseased leaves, and keeping the soil well mulched and fed which in turn creates the great growing conditions. If you are growing roses in pots, don’t let them become stressed through lack of water or feed but avoid watering plants at the end of the day when their leaves will stay wet through the night and give plants enough space to let the air move around their leaves and flowers..
Slugs will soon be out and about and your precious seedlings could disappear overnight. The choice is slug traps filled with beer [what a way to go!] barriers that dissuade slugs from approaching or slug killers that will solve the problem on a more permanent basis. Traditional blue slug pellets should be used sparingly. The blue colour dissuades birds and wildlife from picking them up, but you really don’t need many of them to do the job. The “Safe” slug killers work well and are more weather resistant than they used to be. The pellets swell up when they come into contact with the moist soils and contain a bait to attract the slugs. The slugs eat the poison; stop eating and crawl away to expire. That works for me!
MD Orchard Park