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Things to do in the Garden March/April

Spring has now sprung! There is blossom on the trees and hawthorn hedges are leafing up, along with the cheery blooms of daffodils and primroses enjoying the sunshine between the rain showers. Now is a great time to start sowing and planting outdoors but be mindful there is still the risk of occasional frosts.  Here is a list of things to do in the garden at the end of March and through April:

Keep weeds under control before they get a hold

Weeds can be controlled with the help of weedkillers or by cultural and organic control measures that rely on killing or restricting the weeds physically.  This can be done by removing them manually, smothering weeds with plastic, burning or by using weed barriers.

Protect fruit blossom and non-hardy plants from frost

Most top fruit and soft fruit are very hardy but once they start spring growth the flowers and buds are particularly vulnerable to frosts.  You can protect frost sensitive plants by wrapping in fleece or by using a cloche.

Sow hardy annuals and herb seeds

Many vegetables, annuals, biennials and herbaceous plants can be grown from seed sown outdoors. The secret to success is to prepare a good seedbed, free of weeds and with a crumble-like soil-surface texture.

Sow new lawns and repair any bare patches

Patches in lawns can appear for a number of reasons and when they do, it is always advisable to repair them. Re-seeding or turfing these areas will prevent weeds germinating in the bare patches, and of course, it will look much better. It is best to repair these areas in the spring or autumn.

Top dress containers

Growing plants in containers is a great way to bring life and colour into otherwise dull spots in your garden such as patios, balconies and even window boxes.  Almost any plant can be grown in a container.

Plant summer flowering bulbs

Bulbs are great for adding colour to your garden. Planting summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies and gladioli can provide dramatic, tall blooms that are scented.

Put up some bird boxes

Birds will be looking for suitable places to nest and bird boxes increase their choice of nesting sites. Bird boxes hung on walls tend to be safer from predators such as cats than those hung on trees.  A north or north-east facing position is best as strong sun can make nest boxes too hot and uninviting.

 

national-nest-box-week-workshop

Seed Potatoes

Our new season’s range of seed potatoes are now on sale, and are certified Elite Basic Scottish Seed grown from healthy stock and produced in areas free from pest and disease.

Choose from:

1st early, 2nd early and main crop varieties depending on when you want to harvest them.

You can grow-your-own on a small scale every bit as easily as in a larger garden or allotment.

Container growing has some great advantages – you can get an early crop when prices in the shops are high. Container growing produces spuds with loads of flavour and almost non-existent skins so no need to peel.

All you need is a pot or growing bag of some sort, a vegetable or multi-purpose compost and a sunny spot in the garden.

Potato Chitting 325x325All seed potatoes do best if they are given a start by ‘chitting’. This simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. To do this you need a cool but frost free place with some light where the seed potatoes can be set out and allowed to make shoots of about 2 or 3cm long [that’s an inch]. An egg box or similar works well to hold them upright,

Plant out when the shoots are formed and the weather has improved; traditionally Good Friday was always seen as the best day to plant!

Container growing can start earlier and will give you an earlier crop.

We have loads to choose from:

2kg bags of First early, Second Early and Maincrop varieties at £3.99

10 potato ‘Taster’ packs £1.99

10 potato ‘Special Varieties’ £2.49

Apple Day at Orchard Park

What is Apple Day?

Apple day is a celebration of the English apple and the orchard held annually in October. It is a day, or few days, to recognise the diversity of apples in the United Kingdom and was first started in 1990 by a local arts and environmental charity, Common Ground and launched in Covent Garden market.  The following year in 1991 apple day was launched Nationwide with over 50 events ranging from village hall markets to larger apple roadshows.  Apple day has been celebrated every year since and has grown from a small local event to a nationwide celebration of the humble apple.

200pix-by-250pix-apple-day

 

Apple facts

  • Apples float in water because 25% of their volume is air
  • In Ancient Greece tossing an apple to a girl was a proposal of marriage and catching it was a response of ‘yes’
  • There are more than 8,000 varieties of apples – the largest variety of fruit to exist
  • It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider
  • To prevent apples turning brown once sliced add a few squeezes of lemon juice or lime juice.

 

Orchard Café Apple Scone Recipe

600g Stoates Self Raising Flour (plus a small amount for dusting/ rolling out the dough)

500g approx. Bramley Apples Diced (a sweeter apple can be used if preferred)

3 Free Range Eggs

125ml Buttermilk

125ml Milk

80g Butter

50g Caster Sugar

1 Free Range Egg (for glazing)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 160*c for fan assisted ovens or 180*c/gas mark 4.
  2. Rub the butter and the flour together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then add the caster sugar. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and gradually add the eggs and milk.  Add the diced apple and mix until a dough has formed.
  3. Scatter some of the flour put aside for dusting onto the work surface and tip the dough out onto it.  Sprinkle some more flour onto the dough and your hands and knead very lightly before patting/rolling the dough till it is about 2cm thick.
  4. Cut out 12 scones and place on a baking tray.  Brush tops with beaten egg and cook in the oven for 12 minutes until lightly browned and risen.  Serve with butter and enjoy.

scones

Gardening Jobs for the month: April

Gardening month-by-month

Lawn Care

Lawns need attention early in the season if they are to look any good. Some can be full of moss at this time of year, with the actual grass is looking a bit thin. Use a mosskiller now, either liquid or lawn sand, let the moss die back and rake it out. If the grass has grown much give it a close cut first so you can get to the moss, and box-off the clippings.

Once the moss is out, if there is a lot of bare soil then rake to loosen and create a seed bed. Sow at about 35g per sq m, rake over lightly and firm in. Water if the soil is dry and germination should take place within 10 to 14 days depending on soil temperature.

A lawn that is not too bad will benefit from a complete lawn treatment such as Evergreen Complete which will kill the moss, kill the weeds and feed it! It is a good investment which should last most of the summer; you might have to feed a little later on depending on how close you cut the lawn and how much hard use it gets.

Pruning, feeding and mulching

Hopefully all the pruning is out of the way by now, so your next step is feeding and mulching climbers, roses and other shrubs and perennial plants. This is vital if you want them to perform well this year. Slow release feeds are best, and the magic mulch can be anything from well-rotted garden compost or manure, to bought in compost or bark chippings.

Prepare to prune the early flowering plants (Forsythia and the like) as soon as they have finished flowering so that the new growth has time to form and produce new flower buds for next spring.

Rose Care

Roses may show early signs of black spot so keep a treatment handy – the choice is not great but both Rose Clear and Multirose are both good and will knock any early greenfly problems on the head at the same time. Then get the sprayer out – fungicide treatment is almost unavoidable if you want to keep the plants free from disease. If you grow without chemicals, then the really important thing is to keep the soil in good heart with plenty of good organic matter and bonemeal or seaweed meal as a supplement.

Check all trees and shrubs – including roses – are firm in the ground. The high winds of the past month may have caused windrock and the damage to the roots can mean a plant will suddenly fail later in the summer.

Pest Control

We didn’t get much in the way of deep penetrating frost this winter so the indications are that slugs could be a real challenge this year, meaning your precious seedlings could soon disappear. The choice is slug traps filled with beer barriers such as copper or wool pellets that dissuade slugs from approaching, or slug killers that will solve the problem on a more permanent basis.

Grow Your Own

The grow-your-own veg is really worthwhile and you can start from either seeds or seedlings. The garden centre now offers young vegetable plants that are ready to plant out as well the fantastic range of seeds in packets that excite the eye with visions of perfect produce.

Vegetable gardens do need to be prepared, forked over to remove the tough perennial weeds and kill the fresh weed seedlings. Manure and the lime should have been added over winter, but it’s not too late if you good composted organic matter available. Best not to do this in seed beds as you can attract the slugs, but fine where you are planting out potatoes, onion sets or transplanting vegetable plants or sowing larger seeds such as peas and beans.

Borders

Herbaceous borders will be showing growth, so make sure that you have plant supports ready for taller growing varieties. Grow-through supports such as the large metal circles or cut hazel twigs, need to be in place before the plant grows through! Other systems such as the curved wire frames, link stakes, or canes can be used as needed.

Fruit trees and bushes

These will now be in blossom, and vulnerable to late frost. If they are small enough to cover with fleece then it could make the difference between crop and no crop.

Hanging Baskets and Containers

You can start to plant in April but it is usually far too risky to set them outside; wait until the risk of frost has passed. Worth bearing in mind that early planted tubs and containers will mature early with those planted later still be going strong in late August when the others have expired.

All containers need to be watered. Rain water is best but can be an unreliable supply if we get a drought. Tap water is mostly hard meaning it contains a large amount of Calcium carbonate, so to keep ericaceous plants growing well in pots it is important to add a special ericaceous liquid  feed and dose it with sequestered iron at least twice during the year.

Lastly – once the plant is established, top dress with appropriate fertiliser (specialist Azalea/Rhodo feed or even Rose Fertiliser) in spring to encourage growth and in late summer to encourage flower buds for the following spring. You will probably need top up the compost as well.

Growing Fruit

Grow Your Own

appleA succulent harvest of ripe berries in summer and orchard fruits in autumn is a wonderful bonus for gardeners, with very little effort required. Fruit trees have the added bonus of beautiful spring blossom and ballerina style trees can be grown in the smallest space, while berry fruits can be grown against a sunny wall or fence and strawberries are suitable for containers or hanging baskets.

What You’ll Need

  • Fork & spade
  • Secateurs
  • Fertiliser
  • Organic planting material
  • Post & wire supports

Read More

Your Guide to Growing Herbs

Grow Your Own

herbs in potHerbs have been grown for centuries for their culinary, medicinal and ornamental properties. An essential ingredient in many dishes, herbs can be cultivated and picked fresh from the garden, however small the plot. These ornamental plants range from those grown annually from seed, such as basil; to more permanent perennials, such as mint and tarragon; and shrubs including rosemary, lavender and bay. They have a multitude of uses – infusions from the leaves or flowers can help relieve a range of ailments; leaves, stems, seeds or flowers can be used fresh, dried or frozen to flavour sweet and savoury dishes; dried herbs can be added to pot pourri; and some work as insect repellents. From a small pot on the kitchen window sill, to outdoor containers and growbags, a patch in the veg plot, or intertwined with flowering plants, make room for herbs in the garden and enjoy their many benefits.

Read More

Growing Hardy Vegetables

Grow Your Own

hardy vegetablesHardy vegetables are crops that prefer cool growing conditions and include brassicas (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and spinach), bulbous vegetables (garlic, onions, shallots and leeks) and perennial artichokes and asparagus; and on warm-weather edible crops including beans, corn, courgettes, marrow, pumpkins and squash.

What You’ll Need

  • Vegetable seeds
  • Pots/seed trays
  • Fork & spade
  • Hoe
  • Compost/organic matter

Read More

Grow Your Own – Jobs for the Month

In the grow-your-own garden, things have not all been plain sailing but salads are cropping and early peas are picking now. Beans have been really slow to get going with repeated germination failures because of the cold and poor light levels. Courgettes are a bit behind but will soon catch up. With any garden crop, regular picking and start feeding at the right time not when the plants are looking sick or have stopped performing! The other good move is to sow fresh crops – a little but often works well. A short row of salad leaves every couple of weeks will give a continuous supply of tasty fresh green goodness. There’s still time to sow spring onions, radishes, Swiss chard, spinach, late carrots, spring cabbages and cauliflowers to overwinter.
Read More

6 Tips how to get the most out of your Seed Potatoes

Potatoes from your plot….

With the shortage of potatoes having driven the prices up in the shops, it makes sense to grow a few spuds yourself this year!  They are easy and rewarding to grow and it’s good exercise too!  Here are a few tips to getting started;

  • Choosing seed potatoes from the garden centre (on sale now!)  These are certified as being pest and disease free which is key to getting a good healthy crop.  The seed potatoes are clearly marked on the packs:
  • First early – choose these varieties if you want new potatoes early in the season.  Plant mid to end of March to crop mid to late June
  • Second early – plant these varieties early to mid April to crop late July to early August
  • Maincrop – Plant mid April to crop early – mid August.  These can also be stored fro autumn and winter use.
  • Chitting – Just means encouraging the seed potatoes to produce sturdy green shoots before planting.  Place in trays or egg boxes with the end with most buds uppermost somewhere light and cool (and frost free) until you’re ready to plant.
  • Soil – Potatoes love an enriched soil – lots of home made compost or bagged rotted manure or similar.  A general fertilizer is a good idea too but avoid using lime with potatoes. Read More

Orchard Park Garden Centre, Shaftesbury Road, Gillingham, Dorset, SP8 5JG
Tel:01747 835544
info@orchardpark.uk.net
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