April and May are the perfect time to start growing your own vegetables. The temperature should be warmer now and this will mean that your seeds require less mollycoddling to get them started.
If you are new to growing your own food then try just a handful of crops this year, once you are hooked there’ll be no stopping you.
Runner beans and French beans can be sown in a frost-free greenhouse from April. This gives them just enough time to grow into plants large enough to handle and be hardened off by the time the last frost has passed. That makes them ready to plant out in mid to late June.
In a cool greenhouse or on the windowsill you can sow outdoor tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, courgettes and half-hardy annuals.
Outdoors, if the soil is crumbly and not stodgy, sow leeks, carrots and parsnip. Make a shallow trench in the soil about 1in (2.5cm) deep, line the base with Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes, water gently and then sprinkle the seed thinly on top. Cover over with more compost.
Beetroot, turnip, carrots and radish can be sown in shallow drills lined with compost, without extra protection. However if you are in an exposed position, or the weather is particularly harsh, a covering of fleece or a cloche will help speed germination.
Plant onion sets out into the garden. Add a dressing of Growmore Garden Fertiliser to the soil before planting. These tiny onion bulbs should be pushed gently into the soil with their tips just showing. Plant them 10-15cm apart.
Continue to plant chitted First Early, Second Early potato tubers 5-6in (12.5-15cm) deep and about 12in (30cm) apart. Cover over with fleece to protect emerging shoots from frost. As shoots appear cover them over with more soil. This encourages more tubers to form underground.
Sow herb seeds such as sweet basil, parsley and chives. Grow them in small pots containing Gro-Sure Seed & Cutting Compost.
Feed permanent crops such as herbs, artichokes, and asparagus with Growmore Garden Fertiliser.
Improve the soil now where you plan to grow plants that need plenty of water to mature their fruits. Marrows, courgettes, squash and pumpkins all fall into this category. Dig in plenty of Soil Conditioner or Gro-Sure Vegetable Growing Compost where the plants are to grow. This will add vital nutrients to the soil and also improve its water holding capacity so that it stays moist for longer.
Protect young vegetable plants from slugs and snails. Employ your preferred method of control. Look out for Eraza and Slug Killer effective ways to deal with slugs and snails.
Remember to keep vegetable beds weed free. Weeds not only compete for any available food and water, but they also provide shelter for a number of garden pests and diseases. Dig out any perennial weeds making sure to remove all the roots and hoe off any annual weed seedlings as they appear. Always hoe when the soil is slightly dry and on a sunny day so that the uprooted weeds seedlings will quickly wither. Persistent perennial weeds can be carefully treated with Westland Resolva 24H. This weedkiller combines the speed of a contact weed killer with the deep down root killing activity of a systemic weedkiller. It works so quickly that you can actually see effects in 24 hours.
Watering Fruit and Veg
Fruit and vegetables need a good supply of water to ensure a bumper crop. For some, rainwater will be enough but others will need supplementary watering to prevent bolting (running to seed) or becoming tough or tasting bitter.
To improve water retention within the soil remember to dig in plenty of organic matter such as Gro-Sure Farmyard Manure before sowing.
Follow just a few simple rules and you will be producing fantastic crops throughout the growing season:
Seeds in pots
Seeds grown in modules or pots should be watered with tepid tap water to aid germination. The compost then needs to be kept moist but not waterlogged.
Sowing Seeds and Young Plants in the Ground
Seeds and young plants grown in the ground need to be watered when planted or transplanted. If there is little rainfall they may need some supplementary watering.
Fruit and Veg Growing in the Ground
Mature fruit and vegetable plants growing in the ground may not need you to water them as normal rainfall will be perfectly adequate. However, soft fruit such as strawberries and raspberries will benefit from supplementary watering, when the fruit is swelling, particlularly if rainfall is light. Some vegetables will also benefit from supplementary watering. Peas and beans will benefit from extra watering between flowering and harvesting to ensure good crop development. Leafy crops require watering from seedling to maturity. For tomatoes, peppers and courgettes water while the flowers and fruit develop.
Avoid gluts and famines of vegetables that cannot be stored such as lettuce by sowing a small amount of seeds every few weeks.
Another way to get a succession of crops is to choose varieties that mature at different times. Potatoes for example, are classified into First Earlies, Second Earlies and Main Crop, and within these groups some varieties produce potatoes sooner than others. Alternatively purchase pre-mixed packs of seeds that offer crops with differing harvest times.
The same principle is true of fruit. You can choose different varieties of strawberries to enable you to harvest fruit from early summer through to autumn. This applies to apples, raspberries and many other fruit.