It’s time to get down to serious gardening

With new growth breaking out all over, and the long Easter weekend a matter of days away, it’s time to get down to some serious gardening.

Saturday, 13th April 2019, 3:29 pm
Some of the plants are ready to go in, but make sure you factor in the weather and your location. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

But if you’ve been inactive all winter, best set a limited target of achievement, for example, mow the lawn or fork over a small patch of land, then take a break.

There’s been a gradual build-up to the traditional spring bank holiday in this garden, which has seen fruit, vegetables and ornamentals off to a flying start.

Opportunities have come with the relatively mild weather.

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It has encouraged germination and growth under glass.

Two weeks ago, there was no sign of life on the dried-up vine rods that run overhead, but suddenly they’re bristling with green shoots.

Embryo flower bunches that will become grapes are already clearly visible.

Once these lateral fruit-bearing stems have six leaf joints, their growth will be stopped in order to channel all energy into the developing fruits.

Soft and top fruits have received their organic feed and mulch, so apart from keeping weeds under control, it’s a waiting game until the pollinating insects do their job.

They’re all hardy, reliable plants, now awake and back in growth mode.

The ‘Conference’ pear was first into bloom, and it’s being followed by the ‘Victoria’ plum. Early apples are showing flower buds, as are the currant bushes.

Certain vegetables are truly frost-tolerant and give no rise to concern.

Brassicas (broccoli, sprouts, cabbage), along with spinach and rhubarb, which we’re currently harvesting, are the mainstay of our winter vegetable beds.

However, the approach to growing summer crops is slightly different. It’s all about their individual sowing times, hardiness and the facilities to hand.

If you’re keen to make a start in the vegetable garden, sow seeds of plants known to be tolerant of cold conditions.

Peas and broad beans will accept low temperatures just short of frost so approaching mid-April is a reasonable time to start them in drills.

Potatoes, onion sets and shallot bulbs can also be introduced to the soil now, but it’s a shade early for outdoor sowings of courgette, runner bean and sweet corn, the problem being lingering thoughts of harsh winds and late frosts as we negotiate April and May.

As a rule-of-thumb, look at the suggested outdoor sowing date on a seed packet, add two weeks for living in the North, and factor in the current weather.