Early April in the Allotment Garden
Some days you can forget that April is a patchwork quilt of both spring-like and wintery days. You get a stretch of bright sunny afternoons and then you wake up one morning and it’s hailing and ‘blowing a Hoolie’, as the Manx would say. This month, more than any other is one that the beginner gardener as well as the more experienced should be wary of.
Keeping this in mind I’ve been taking my time with seed sowing and only have a a few trays on the go – two types of unusual Caulflower, a Calabrese Broccoli, and Heirloom tomatoes that a friend sent me from the USA. In the allotment it’s been mainly moving perennial plants and slowly pulling back the black plastic that I’ve put down to kill off weeds organically (more tips). So for me, the grand opening of the growing season began not with sowing seeds direct but with planting early potatoes.
Potatoes should be planted about three to four inches under the soil and about a foot and a half to two feet apart. The way I do it is to first line the potatoes up on top of the ground in the places I want to plant them. After I’m happy with how they’re spaced out I begin at the foot of a row and work my way up, digging each potato into its spot. This year I’ve followed this up by covering the two rows of early potatoes with a layer of composted horse manure. The potatoes will love it and they also mark the rows where the spuds are.
To be honest I’m not sure which early varieties they are other than Kestrel. There are four types altogether and they were given to me by a gardener friend who had them spare. I’m not too fussed since I’m sure he’ll have purchased some decent seed potatoes.
After a couple of months of piling soil and compost over the plants as they grow (called ‘Earthing Up’) I should have some tender and delicious potatoes to harvest towards the middle to end of June.
Maincrop potatoes can be difficult to grow organically in Britain due to the risk of Blight but you don’t need to worry about this fungal disease as much with Early potatoes. And even if you do, they’re truly worth every buttery mouthful.
Once you’re finished with a gardening task it’s an official rule to have a break, preferably with a warm cuppa! Actually it’s important to do this since it gives you the chance to wander around and keep an eye on how everything is growing.
Yesterday what was clear to me was that early signs of new plant life are popping up all across our community garden. Hardy Alliums are always one of the first and Rhubarb is showing off rosy red stems just aching to be put into the first Rhubarb Crumble. Everyone seems to get sick of this dish after awhile but one thing you can make with Rhubarb that you’ll never get sick of (unless you drink too much of it!) is sweet Rhubarb wine. It’s tried and tested and I’ll be making a batch when I get back home from Romania.
At the house I have loads to do and an empty greenhouse to fill. It was my Christmas present from Josh and we’ve been waiting to put it up until most of the winter storms have passed. I’m planning on mainly growing tomatoes in it – both Red and Yellow Currant tomatoes in addition to the Heirloom Pear type that I’m growing from seed. The currant types are from plants that I got from Dobies of Devon. The fruit are TINY – like fat pearls that are picked and scattered across salads, pasta dishes, and more. I can’t wait to try them.
I also was sent a couple of Honeyboat Squash plants from Dobies. Though I normally wouldn’t sow squash seeds until May I’m hoping these will grow okay in pots until I can plant them out in early summer. One will definitely go out to the allotment and the other I might put into the greenhouse if there’s any room. Apparently the squash are similar to Butternut but sweeter.
Also at home are a tray of Egyptian Walking Onions that I picked up from the recent Seed & Plant Share. They’re a bit of an oddity in that tiny bulbs form at the TOP of the plant which then weigh each leaf down as the bulbs grow in size. They eventually hit the soil a distance away from the parent plant and then grow into a new plant there. That’s how they ‘walk’ their way across your garden.
Everything is coming to life and the beginning of the season is starting to pick up speed. These early days of April are filled with so much work preparing the garden but also the wonder of little miracles that grow out of the soil. Soon the garden will be overflowing with life but it’s these chilly days of April that the tiniest sign of green puts a spring into our step.
I feel on top of most of the projects I have at the allotment garden but there are still quite a few berry bush supports that need going in, soil to be dug over, and a small pond to create. I’ve been inspired by another UK garden blogger to build a small water feature in my plot to encourage frogs and beneficial wildlife to take up residence. Having a garden is like painting a picture that will never be finished – there’s always creative work to be done!