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Tokely's Tales - Andrew Tokely's gardening blog

Tokely's Tales - Andrew Tokely's Monthly Gardening Blog

April 2012

Well, what a cold spell we are experiencing at present, and ever since the hosepipe ban was announced for our area it has rained almost everyday. (Read my blog entry on using water wisely).

This month has already been busy on the plot, the peas and broad beans sown earlier in the year under glass have now been planted into the prepared ground. The parsnips, beetroot and more peas have been sown, all the potatoes have been planted and the heat-treated onion sets are just starting to poke through the soil surface. All we need now is a few warmer days to help things grow.

Punching holes for parsnips

The parsnips are the most work when sowing, as I like to get long straight roots for exhibition as well as the kitchen. First I punch a hole in the ground with a crowbar about 45-60cm (18-24in) deep and then fill this with a sandy mix of compost making sure there are no air pockets. Then I sow 3-4 seeds per punched hole and cover with more compost. These seedlings will be thinned to 1 per punched hole once germinated.

I am waiting until the weather turns a little warmer before I sow any carrots as these seeds don’t like changes in temperature, which can affect germination, often resulting in gappy rows, so I think it is better to wait a while to ensure I get full rows.

Brassicas in the cold frame

As I have a range of brassica plants in my cold frame hardening off and waiting to be planted, I have already prepared the ground and put up net protection over the area to keep the birds away. I make these protected areas out of long lengths of electrical conduit tubing with a cane fixed in each end. These are bent into hoops and the net draped over the top and secured. I make them high enough for me to walk in and maintain the crops with ease as they grow. The plants have been in the cold frame for two weeks now and can be planted next week if the weather allows.

Andrew & his son at the allotment

On April 15th my allotment site had its work-in and AGM, bringing all the plot holders together on a Sunday morning where we work together on various jobs from 8.30am to midday, followed by an AGM and a buffet lunch. As in previous years I took my son with me and we worked on whatever tasks we were given, this year we put down road chippings on tractor paths, mended rabbit fencing and cleared up brambles from the hedges. Both my son and I like doing this as you get plenty of banter between fellow plot holders and have a good laugh whilst keeping the site in good order. The AGM doesn’t take long and the buffet and drinks are always very good, although this year the weather was quite cool for meeting and eating outdoors, but most plot holders are quite hardy and spirits were still high.

In the greenhouse the begonia corms have produced some large shoots and are ready for potting on into larger pots. My perpetual carnations have been potted on and moved into the cold frame along with the early sown perennials and some antirrhinums to gradually harden off. Plants in the cold frames are given plenty of air in the day, but are closed in the evenings and covered with blankets if frost is forecast like it has recently.

The geraniums and bedding begonias look very good in the greenhouse along with the other bedding plants I have sown and pricked out, so watering with a small can takes a bit longer these days.

Luckily the evenings are getting lighter and I am making use of the few extra daylight hours to keep on top of potting and sowings. The chrysanthemum cuttings I took last month are ready to pot on into 9cm (3 ½ in) pots. Sowings of marigolds, cosmos and zinnia will be made before the end of this month. I need to sow more lettuce and it’s also time to sow sweetcorn and tomatoes, along with courgettes and squashes for growing outdoors on the plot this summer. I only hope there is enough room for all these plants in my greenhouse.

Happy Gardening!

Andrew Tokely, Head of Horticulture, Thompson & Morgan