Gardening Jobs in April

Gardening Jobs in April

The main jobs in April are planting, sowing (both indoors and directly into the beds), and weeding.  April is a busy month for gardeners. Hopefully, you have been able to prep your veggie plots in March and they are now ready for action.

 

Seed Potatoes

Your seed potatoes should be chitted (=sprouted) by now and ready to plant. Now it is time to plant them. If you have a limited amount of space, try growing them vertically in potato grow bags, or towers.

Tomatoes, Chillies & co

Tomatoes, Chillies, Aubergines and Zucchinis are ‘long-season plants’, and they like it warm. That is why we need to start them early, indoors. The best time to sow them is during the latter part of March, from about Equinox, but April is just about okay, too. Start them as soon as possible, under glass.

Alternatively, you can buy young plants at the farmer’s market or garden centre next month. Or, perhaps one of your gardening friends has far more plants than they have room for in their garden and are happy to share.

If you started your tomatoes very early they may begin to look straggly by now but don’t be tempted to plant them out until there is no more danger of night frosts. Instead, pot them up and cover the stem with soil up to just below the first leaf node. This will encourage them to develop more roots and prevent the stem from getting too dangly.

Gardening Jobs in April: up-potting Tomato Seedlings

Onion Sets and Shallots

Continue to plant onion sets to extend your harvesting season.

 

Direct sowing

Beetroots

Sow beetroots directly into the prepared plots. or containers. Sow about 10cm apart or thin seedlings out once they are about 3cm tall.

Carrots

Carrots can also be sown directly into the well-prepared ground. They prefer loose, sandy, well-draining soil. If the ground is too heavy or full of stones the roots will fork. Carrots are very fragile as seedlings and don’t take so well to being transplanted. Starting carrots in a gutter pipe is a nifty gardening hack. The contents of the drain pipe can be transferred directly to the prepared plot without the need to handle individual seedlings.

Leeks

You can still sow leeks under glass now. Once they’ve grown to about 15-20cm transplant well-prepared soil. Plant them deeply (20cm deep holes) to get a long blanched shaft. Plant approx. 15cm apart. Space rows about 30cm apart.
If you stagger the sowing and transplanting you can significantly extend the harvesting season, which can start as early as August and continue through the winter. It’s best to harvest them fresh as needed.

Radishes

Sow radishes at regular intervals right through August to ensure a continued supply. The seeds are tiny, so thin seedlings out to about 2,5cm per plant once they are about 3cm tall. They are an ideal ‘gap’ crop or row marker – they grow fast and can be harvested long before a slower-growing main crop develops. Filling gaps with radishes also helps to keep the weeds at bay. Water regularly and keep an eye out for predatory slugs and snails.

Gardening Jobs in April: Sowing Radishes

Swiss Chard

Coloured varieties of Swiss Chard are beautiful ‘edimentals’, whether you like the taste or not. They can be sown directly into a well-prepared bed. The nice thing is, they are tolerant of partial shade, so they don’t have to take the prime spot in the garden.

Turnips

Like radishes, turnips are a fast and easy crop to grow. If you harvest them young they can be eaten raw or cooked, and the leaves can be used as well.

Peas

Sow peas at intervals to ensure a continued supply. Unlike most plants, peas don’t mind growing closely together. There is no need to thin them out: growing them in thick bunches keeps the weeds down and increases yields. Keep them moist at the beginning. Later, water deeply once a week, especially during the summer when they start to flower. Mulch to keep the moisture in the soil.

Weeding

Controlling weeds is a tiresome task, but if you get on top of it early, you will save yourself a lot of time and effort later in the season, when it gets much harder to pull them out without damaging your crops. Mulching greatly helps to keep weeds down and moisture in the ground.

 Happy Gardening!

 

Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies!

Gardening Jobs in March

Gardening Jobs in March

seeds and Gardening Jobs in March

March is the busy season in the garden. As soon as the sun comes out, and it is warm (and dry) enough to be outside, every gardener itches to get their hands into the dirt again. But where to start?

Preparing the vegetable beds

Once the ground is no longer frozen, nor too wet, you can start preparing the beds.

Remove the weeds early on (especially perennial or biennial ones), which will make it less troublesome to keep on top of the weeding later on in the season.

If you haven’t done it yet, continue deadheading and clearing the garden, but beware that butterflies often overwinter on the old stalks of nettles and such (nettles support some 40 species of insects and butterflies!) Fresh, young nettles also make a wonderful early wild vegetable, so unless they are really in your way or growing in the vegetable beds, maybe consider leaving them standing. You might find them quite useful!

Dig in plenty of good homegrown compost into the vegetable plots and prepare the soil to get a fine crumb. This will make it easy for your seedlings to break through the crust.

What to sow in March

What you can sow in March will largely depend on your growing zone. In milder climes, it is possible to sow hardier, early veggies out in the open in March. More frost-sensitive plants do best when grown under cover, or in the cold frame. In colder your growing zone the more important it is to start your seeds indoors early, on the window sill. That way, they will get a bit of a boost. They will have developed into little plants that are more resilient than seedlings by the time you will plant them out. And their growing season is that much longer. For warmth-loving plants like tomatoes and zucchinis, early indoor cultivation is a must. Sow them about 4-6 weeks before the last expected frost.

Outdoors

Onion sets can be planted out in March. Other hardy veggies that can be sown directly into the well-prepared beds from mid-March include beetroots, Swiss chard and lettuce, (also Asian lettuce) and peas as well as rocket, radishes, and nasturtiums. By the end of March/beginning of April, the soil should be warm enough to plant out Jerusalem artichokes.

Indoors or under cover

You can sow tomatoes, peppers and fennel, broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage (early varieties), Savoy cabbage, Malabar spinach (late March), New Zealand spinach, carrots, autumn leeks, and celery either in the cold frame or indoors. Tomatoes, fennel and pepper are always best started indoors in an environment of about 20°C.

Make sure to open up the cold frame on sunny days so it does not get too hot under the glass. The plants need air and the untimely heat would promote early bolting (or withering).

Whatever you do, make sure your seedlings don’t dry out once you have sown them. Water is their life-blood. They cannot grow without it.

Bulbs and Perennials

March is the perfect time to plant summer flowering bulbs such as irises or dahlias, as well as summer and autumn flowering perennials.

Happy Gardening!

Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies!

Gardening Jobs in February

Gardening Jobs in February

What kind of gardening jobs are there to do in February?

If your fingers are itching and you can’t wait to get your hands back into the soil, here is what you can do, even as early as February. (At least if you live in the northern hemisphere and are living in a growing zone 7-8. Every climate zone is different and you may also have a micro-climate, so take this as general advice – no guarantees, rather than as gospel truth.

Although it is still winter and the weather has been pretty wild and stormy, I have spotted the first snowdrops and even the first Winter Aconite! They are such a welcome sight – the first signs that let you know beyond doubt that although there may still be snow around and temperatures are far from balmy – spring is definitely on the way.

The sight of these has been a kind of floral wake up call. My fingers have been itching ever since and I feel restless, yearning to get active in the garden. But where to start, and what to do? After all, it is still too cold for sowing most of my summer crop plants outside.

Crocus

(Crocus vernus)

The spring crocus is one of the most cherished spring flowers. Its flowers come in many different colors and to me, they are reminiscent of Easter Eggs – although Easter is still a long way away. It is the shape of the balloon-like flowers that create this association in my mind. Like the other early flowering plants, it too makes the most of dry sunny weather, to attract early pollinators, but close their flowers to protect their delicate parts as soon as cold or rainy weather is on the way.

Winter Aconite

(Eranthis hyemalis)

Like miniature suns, these golden stars warm the heart in early spring. Daringly, they open up fully to the first warming rays of the sun. But they are not stupid. As soon as the sky clouds over, they fold up their petals to keep their stamens and stigma protected and warm. While heart-warming and pretty to behold, it is good to remember that this is a Ranunculus species and all of its parts are poisonous.

Cyclamen

(Cyclamen coum)

Cyclamens are so cute! Their pink little flowers remind me of piglets, with the snout pointing down and their ears (petals) flying in the wind, so to speak. The dainty flowers appear to be ‘inside-out’, seemingly exposing their pollinating parts. But that isn’t actually the case. Their delicate stamens and sepals are sheltered inside the ‘snout’, which forms a tubular structure that protects them against the elements. 

Snowdrops

(Galanthus nivalis) 

These tender little flowers are the most daring of all! Long before other flowers wake up, this one has sent its spear-like flowers up, even piercing the snow, if necessary. Its bell-like dangles tenuously on the stem, protecting itself from the elements by facing the earth, rather than the sky, its petals sheltering the stamen and stigma. Snowdrops are heralds of hope at a time when winter is still raging. The message is clear. It’s early days yet, but spring IS on the way. Life will return…soon.

Indoor Gardening

Start some long-season plants indoors

At this time of the year, my house turns into a potting shed. I am not suggesting you should do this, too. Maybe you are better organized. Maybe you have a greenhouse or a heated cold frame or something like that, where you can start the earliest seeds, protected from the cold.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, the growing season is limited. To extend it as far as possible, start off long-season plants, like chili peppers or aubergines, by sowing them early indoors.

All you need are some starter trays and some soil. It is best to use special sterile starter soil that is not too heavy with nutrients. The reason why you want it to be sterile is so that your tender seedlings do not have to compete for nutrients. This is even more of an issue if the seeds you are sowing are slow to sprout.

Gardening shops sell both, the potting mix for starting seeds as well as the seedling starter trays. While they make things easier and often come with a tray to put them on as well as a lid to keep moisture in, you don’t really need them. You can improvise by recycling your yogurt pots, or other plastic containers. You can even use the cardboard tube of your toilet rolls. These are especially good for tender plants that develop long, fragile roots, such as carrots.

Give your warmth-loving, long-season plants a boost by starting them off 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost in your region. Cover the pots with plastic and keep the soil moist. Place them in a bright, warm spot and you should see the first seedlings pop up soon. Use a spray can only to water the seedlings until they are robust enough to handle a watering can. Once there is no more danger of frost and soil temperatures have risen to about 15°C/60°F you can begin to harden your ‘babies’ off before transferring them to their permanent spots.

In the garden

Once the snow has melted and the soil has dried off, it is time to get busy preparing the beds. Cut back dead plants if you didn’t do it in the fall (I keep most things standing through the winter to help the wildlife). Loosen the soil and get rid of the invasive weeds. (Some of those may well be edible!) Mix in some fresh compost. Beds that you are not going to use immediately should be mulched. Let the soil settle until it is warm enough to transfer your first seedlings or to sow directly into the prepared bed.

The earliest crops that can be sown directly into the soil include peas, early varieties of radish, parsley, spinach, and carrots, as well as lettuce, and onions sets. If you are worried about late frost, start them in a cold frame until the soil has warmed to about 15°C.

Carrots and parsley can be slow to sprout. You might want to start them in a dish of wet sand. Leave the dish in the cold for about a week, then take it indoors and you should see them sprout pretty quickly. The most important thing to know about sowing carrots and root parsley is that they like loose and even soil. So make sure their permanent spot is well prepared. You can do this by mixing sand and garden soil and sifting both to create a nice light soil.

By the end of February, you can start to sprout your spuds. For best results use seed potatoes. Lay them out in egg cartons on the windowsill until they start to sprout. Turn them so that the side with the most ‘eyes’ is face up. Let them sprout for 5-6 weeks, before planting them out.

For other veggies, it is best to delay sowing until early March, if you can wait that long.

Happy gardening!

Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies!

Gardening Jobs in January

Gardening Jobs in January

Winter is a trying period for gardeners. At the latest by the middle of the month, they are itching to do SOMETHING in the garden! But the life-juices are dormant beneath the surface, the ground is frozen and covered in snow. There isn’t a whole lot to do. But there is always something.

Prepping

 

Cleaning up the Tool Shed

You might also want to use the quiet time to organize the tool shed, and do some maintenance work. Make a note of materials you might need for projects you might be planning for later in the spring.

Planning the garden

Use the quiet time of the year to dream and prepare for the season ahead. What do you want to grow and where? Survey and organize your seed library and make a plan: What would you like to grow this year? What worked well last year? Maybe there are some new varieties you would like to try? Check your favorite seed suppliers and get your order in early.

Start planning – find seeds at Seeds Now

Or join the Seed Exchange network: https://exchange.seedsavers.org/

For impatient gardeners

If you are really impatient and have a frost-free cold frame you can start some early varieties of lettuce, kohlrabi, and radishes. Or, if you don’t have a cold frame, why not build one?

If you live in a cold climate zone and want to grow species that normally grow in much warmer regions, such as aubergines or peppers, you could start them off early. A corner in the basement could be modified and fitted with a grow light. Neutral white light LED strips will work well.

Bird Feeders

Finally, don’t forget the birds. They happily visit your feeder. It is a great joy to watch them and attracting them to your garden will also help you later when they forage for insect larvae.

What to sow in January

What to sow in January

If you are one of those impatient gardeners (like me), who are itching to get going with the garden year, you’ll be wondering what you could possibly grow this early in the season. In the northern hemisphere, January is one of the coldest months of the year. But don’t despair! There are actually a few things that you can sow, even as early as January. But of course, not out in the open while temperatures drop below freezing.

There are ways around that limitation though – like, discover a new use for your window sill, or you can make a cold frame – or maybe you are the proud owner of a greenhouse or poly-tunnel.

Here are some veggies you can sow (indoors or under glass) at the end of January (about 4 weeks before the last expected frost):

Lettuce

There are many different varieties, so pick one that is hardy in your area. Lettuce prefers cooler weather. Once it gets too warm it will quickly bolt.

 

Kohlrabi

There are purple and green varieties. The purple one is a bit more flavourful. Kohlrabi is pretty tough and winter kohlrabi can stay in the bed until needed. Summer kohlrabi should be started under glass, but need the cold temperature to trigger germination. They should be hardened off before transplanting them outside. Remember, though, that like other members of the cabbage family, kohlrabi does not like the company of other crucifers in its neighborhood.

 

Radishes

These crunchy, peppery fellows are a lovely early spring crop since they are very tolerant and are quick to grow. Best to sow in intervals, every 2 weeks to optimize the harvest. But make sure you pick a spring variety as radishes are daylight sensitive.

 

Pick open-pollinated heirloom varieties so you can save your own seeds for the next growing season.

Before they can go out into the regular bed they should be hardened off. Don’t plant them out as long as temperatures fall below zero. The ideal temperature range is

For heirloom seeds see: https://exchange.seedsavers.org/

 

Topiaria gaudium fever

Topiaria gaudium fever

Have you heard? There is a strange fever going around. Strangely, it only affects gardeners. I call it ‘Topiaria Gaudium Fever’. It is a special condition marked by high levels of excitement caused by the anticipation of the new gardening season. Round about now you can find gardeners up and down the land working up a sweat as they are feverishly studying long lists that look like pages of the phone book (phonebook? Who the hell still uses these?) It is impossible to catch their attention. Their eyes glazed over, they are almost drooling with febrile excitement as they utter strange sounds and incomprehensible words that make no sense to most other mortals.

It is an annual condition and immunity does not seem to build up over time.  Despite the fact that the land is buried under a thick layer of snow, gardeners are getting excited about future possibilities, exotic varieties, rare beauties, and even over bog-standard varieties of garlic or potato. They are not the same, you see. There is a world of difference between a Butte Russet and Russian Banana, wouldn’t you know?!

Our gardening friends are studying their seed catalogs and they can agonize over such lists for days. With so many varieties, what should one choose? Which variety is best suited to their specific climate and will it get on with the neighbors? Decisions, decisions…

What pains them are all the seeds that they have to say ‘no’ to for lack of space or adverse climatic factors. And yet, it is amazing how much even a relatively small area will give you if you know how to make the most of the available space.

A good plan is half the work

Garden planning is the ‘unseen’ work of the gardener, but if you want success, it is one of the most important stages. A good plan is half the work. And it is such fun, too! Skilled gardeners optimize the available space by intercropping, companion planting and vertical gardening. That way you can make the most of each season. Some early crops, like spinach, peas, rocket or radishes are ready to harvest before the main summer crops just get going. But timing is everything, so you have to be on the ball!

‘Intercropping’ means to grow several crops together or in close proximity. But planting willy-nilly won’t do. Some plants compete more than others and some need a lot of space once they get beyond the seedling stage. Ideally, you should aim to grow plants together that don’t go after each other’s resources, both in terms of space and in terms of nutrients. In horticulture, this practice is also known as ‘companion planting’ and you can actually grow a lot of different veggies all in the same bed as long as you give them enough space.

In colder climates, it is important to start seeds off early, indoors, to give them a head start. By the time it gets warm enough for them to go out they will be strong little plants. But starting them off too early can also be problematic. Every window sill eventually runs out of space. And also, some plants have a tendency to get dangly if they are kept indoors for too long. Instead of growing strong, they grow feeble. Thus, studying the seed catalogs, which provide information about the optimal growing conditions, planting and harvesting times, is time well spent. If you limit yourself to those varieties that are hardy in your climate and can withstand the odd weather adversity, you are doing great!

To visualize what your garden will look like, and to get an idea of what needs to be done at which time of the year gives you a huge head start. You will be reward with a steady harvest for the most part of the year.

P.S. And while you are contemplating seeds, think about the bees and the butterflies as well. Use open-pollinated seeds and don’t forget to put some out for the birds!

Eager to find out what you could sow this month? Check out ‘What to sow in January‘.

Pin It on Pinterest