This is the month when we start seeing brighter sunnier days and can get fooled into planting things out too soon. The soil needs to warm up a bit more first and drain after all the heavy rain we have had recently. Seeds planted in cold wet soil will simply rot. So, as you get your beds ready don’t forget to add in as much compost as you can get and maybe add some pelleted fertiliser to scatter on prior to planting; I use the plant based one Viano and I have also bought some seaweed feed for giving everything a boost once they have started growing.
It’s time to get the seed packets in date order so you can get plants started at home, in greenhouses or cold frames ready to go out when the weather is better; remember we can get frosts up here into June, so putting out courgettes now will end in tears, keep them back and growing somewhere cool until towards the end of May. Likewise, most seed packets give the earliest sowing date as if you lived in the south of England, always best to aim for the middle date they suggest for sowing directly.
I am planting out broad beans and onion sets now; the potatoes went in at Easter. I have the early peas growing in my cold greenhouse ready to go out at the end of the month and I have started to sow cabbage seeds and cucumbers and gherkins. The leeks I planted in pots a month ago are doing well and will be planted out when I find a suitable space and they are a bit bigger.
I still have leeks, sprouts, kale and purple sprouting growing so it’s a bit of a juggling act as to which beds are ready to go and how that fits with the crop rotation I try and practice.
If you haven’t already got them going then this is your last chance to plant chilli and tomato seeds, or you can buy plants from the organic gardening catalogue. It’s also time to think about sowing squash seeds inside and before long the sweet corn can be sown in pots.
There is still time to buy some wildflower seeds and get them going for some lovely summer colour – Boston Seeds have a good selection.
This is the time to get on top of slugs whether you are using the higher tech nematodes or lower tech options. If you have your beds covered with cardboard or membrane, now is the time to turn it over and collect and dispose of all the slugs and snails lurking underneath. I make beer traps and put them around a bed I intend to plant a few days before so I clear a lot of them away before the small plants are put into their bed. Pauline Pears on the Zoom talk suggested that when you plant a new bed there will be little else for the slugs to munch on so she puts out lettuce leaves weighed down with a stone, and then the slugs go for that and also hide underneath and she collects them and disposes of the bodies. Everyone will have their own solutions but please avoid using pellets that are not organic and wildlife friendly; we don’t want to kill the hedgehogs who do such a good job of eating slugs. A pond will attract frogs and newts who feed on slugs and other grubs. Keeping your beds mulched so you improve the soil will mean many slug predators can exist in and under the mulch and eat the slugs and snail eggs.