One of the driest Aprils I can remember.
We have just had one of the driest Aprils I can remember in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden. At one of the busiest months of the growing calendar, the dry spell has added to our workload with many hours spent watering our crops. Water is always crucial for fruit and vegetable plants, but particularly so when they are young plants and putting on lots of growth. The watering cans have been well utilised and the water butts ran out of water around mid-April leaving us to resort to the tap.
Thankfully, as I write this, we have just experienced a few days of heavy rainfall and the garden seems to have sighed with relief – as have the gardeners! The water butts are full and we can concentrate more of our efforts on growing rather than watering. Unfortunately, the weeds enjoyed the rainfall too so we have been out with our hoes, handforks and kneelers to rid the ground of any interlopers before they get a chance to take hold.
The rainfall also means that the soil is now a nice damp environment for our arch enemy the slug so we have applied a dose of nemaslug to deal with any slimy pests that may have made their way to the surface of the soil and our precious crops. At this time of year, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for the first signs of pests and diseases appearing in the Kitchen Garden. We’ve put up yellow sticky traps in the greenhouse having spotted a few aphids on our chilli plants. We also spotted a few whitefly appearing in the greenhouse; a pest that we haven’t suffered with in previous years. We have some nematodes on order to nip them in the bud before they become a real problem.
Inside the greenhouse we have been potting on plants and seedlings. Every inch of staging and shelving is covered and we have been unable to transfer them to the cold frame or outside due to a late cold spell of weather including some overnight frosts. Beans, courgettes, squashes, celery, celeriac and salads are sitting shoulder to shoulder with the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and chillies.
In last few days of April, we took delivery of our sweet potato slips. Sweet potatoes are an amazing crop to grow and are possibly my favourite. They look amazing all summer long and then deliver a lovely crop at the end of the season. The slips were unwrapped and popped into water as soon as they arrived. They are droopy, sorry looking specimens when they come out of the box, but they soon recover. They will be potted up and will remain in the greenhouse until late May before they take pride of place in the garden.
Despite the cold weather, it has been warm enough to plant out our brassicas and these are now settled into the vegetable cage. They have been given a good feed of fish, blood and bone which the rain has washed into the soil and down to their roots to give them a good boost. Also outside, our potatoes have started poking their noses out of the soil. Cold frosty nights could nip the new foliage so we have used the draw hoe to earth the potatoes up. This will protect them from the frosts and give the roots and tubers more room to grow away from the light. Our strawberry plants are now in full flower, and it won’t be long now before they start to set fruit. They have been covered with bird netting to stop the opportunistic birds from snacking on our precious crop.
We have been enjoying a bumper harvest of rhubarb this month; the forced plants in particular have been cropping really well. The freezer has been topped up with fruit to be enjoyed later in the year. We have also been harvesting lots of lovely salad leaves and are sowing plenty more trays in the greenhouse to fill the gaps that harvesting creates.
The long dry easter weekend gave us plenty of opportunity to tend to the maintenance of the garden and we have been busy jetwashing paving and oiling decking. The grime and algae of the winter have been washed away. Necessary, but very satisfying work.
Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden is a working vegetable garden and a trial garden for product innovation, but it is also used as a photo shoot location for our catalogue and website. This month, we started replacing some of our wooden raised beds with our new metal raised beds and planting them up ready for photography in the next month or two. This will be complete by early May. It’s always very exciting to change areas of the garden and change the look and I can’t wait to see the finished result!
Here are some of the jobs we’ve got planned for May in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden:
- Plant out runner beans and climbing French beans.
- Apply nemaslug to the soil.
- Pot on seedlings.
- Plant out courgettes and squash plants.
- Plant out celery and celeriac.
- Sow more salads, peas, beetroots and carrots.
- Keep watering when conditions are dry.
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