what to do when

04 Mid Spring

Mid Spring, or April this should be, Sunshine and showers, Sow, Sow, Sow, Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, Mow, Mow, Mow, says it all

OUTDOORS

Make sure no weeds are getting away so now hoe weekly Cut all grass paths and swards weekly, collect clippings to use as mulch and for hotbeds Hand grub plantains and thistles from turf then drop a little grass seed in each hole Sprinkling garden lime over weedy rough turf will encourage grass and clover and discourage veronica speedwells and buttercups Mark the sites of early flowering bulbs for moving later before their leaves fade away Don’t panic if some plants have not leafed up yet, last winter’s cold may have killed some but others are just still dormant and may yet recover. Feed and top dress all perennial plants in pots, tubs and containers Tie in new growths of vines and climbing plants Prune and cut back most early flowering shrubs as soon as flowers fade Almost everything is in bud or leaf now so spray dilute seaweed solution everywhere on everything and anything showing deficiency symptoms more heavily Instead of putting all weeds straight onto the compost heap rot the young lush ones in a bucket of water, full of nitrogen they make a liquid feed Go round oiling all hinges, latches, catches, the wheel on your barrow, and anything else that needs lubrication and make your life smoother Plant teasels, Alchemilla mollis and lupins as all these retain rain and dew in leafy hollows to refresh birds and insects Put a pot of mud on the bird table for those who need it for their nests Don’t forget the birdbath as water can evaporate and leave the birds thirsty AND in orchard and fruit cage De-flower all new fruit trees and bushes to give them a chance to establish Protect blossoms and young fruitlets from frost with net curtains, plastic sheet or newspaper Put out pheromone traps for such as codling and plum moths AND in vegetable plot Plant out all potatoes, onion seedlings, and annual herbs When planting potatoes add wood ashes or comfrey leaves to their soil to replace the potassium washed out over winter by the rains Start to use grass clippings to earth up around potato plants Have some old sheets or newspapers handy to rush out and cover the potato shoots on frosty nights Thin out young onions, carrots, beets and leeks as crowding causes bolting Sow; peas, broad beans, most brassicas, lettuces and saladings, herbs, spinach, turnips, carrots, Swedes, salsify, scorzonera, radishes, kohl rabi, fennel, leeks, parsnips, sweet peas and hardy annuals Sow sweet corn singly directly in situ for the best plants, on a wee ridge and or ideally under bottle cloches (open ended clear tubes made from plastic bottles - aid watering and earthing up) and sow some more seeds in pots to fill in misses Sow clumps of Pot marigolds, Phacelia tanacetiifolia, Buckwheat, and Crimson Clover in little patches to attract beneficial insects through summer Make night time inspections -especially the sowing and propagation area Cut old roots and spuds in half, hollow out and lay besides new sowings to trap slugs, and put slug pubs out now as on warmer wet nights they’ll be about for sure Where you are about to plant out or sow some squashes, marrows, courgettes or pumpkins mix loads of fresh grass clippings into the soil as this works wonders for them Cover those same spots where you intend to grow those squashes, courgettes or pumpkins with a black plastic sheet to pre-warm the soil and exclude weeds Where you are going to plant outdoor tomatoes make a temporary tent come flysheet out of clear plastic sheet to pre-warm the soil and protect them while they establish Control asparagus beetle; leave one plant to form fern attracting the beetles to lay their eggs on it, cut that down and burn it the week you stop cutting all the rest Don’t forget the old trick of cutting a cross in the stem of spring cabbages as you harvest them to get a bonus of small ones later

UNDER COVER

Use up stored fruits and vegetables, clean out stores once empty Pot up house plants- or top dress if their pots are too big already

GREENHOUSE

The sun can get unexpectedly hot this time of year- make sure your greenhouse or coldframe is well ventilated and your seedlings don’t cook. Examine each and every plant in your care for early signs of pests and diseases Make night time inspections with a torch and scissors Having trouble germinating seeds- add powdered charcoal to darken, aerate and sweeten compost. Soak thirsty plants in trays of water for half hour then drain as this is more effective than watering at the top Sow fast growing tender crops with bottom heat, outdoor tomatoes, courgettes, marrows, ridge cucumbers, gherkins, squashes, pumpkins, melons, watermelons in warm to plant out in a months time Sow runner beans in pots to plant out later, mix in some sweet peas to help bring in pollinators Start to feed most pot grown plants Keep potting up young plants regularly before they need it Shade the sunny side of sweet and chilli pepper plant pots to keep roots cool Watch out for red spider mite on plants under cover especially melons and cucumbers- use hand lens to spot the little horrors Sow more batches of sweet peas and night scented stocks for summer scent Pot up disbudded tomato shoots as they make great plants Root the tips of cucumber and melon plants to get more for free Buy or sow trays of French marigolds to pot up and plant out in the greenhouse and by the tomatoes to keep the whitefly at bay De-head French marigold and other such plants until after you’ve put them out as they will establish better and be more bushy Become a spider sanctuary- collect them for your greenhouse as they’re all predators Cut pots in half, tape back together around the base of stems of tomato plants and fill with compost to help basal rooting