Stephanie's Kitchen Diary - April 2012

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 30th April 2012


Well it’s typically April and we have had the wettest month in a long time yet we have a drought on our hands.  We have had pretty rainbows in the sky, ground frosts and temperatures of plus 30 degrees in the greenhouse, what a mixed bag of weather conditions for us gardeners to try to get our heads around.

Our greenhouse is bursting at the seams, our Kitchen Gardener Lynn is keen to take a risk and get planting outside to make more room but the threat of those spring frosts mean that our cold frames and cloches are still in full demand here in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden.
The hosepipe ban imposed on most of us has got the nation’s gardeners thinking irrigation and how to save water.  We have actually escaped the water ban here in our little corner of Norfolk however we will be doing all that we can to save and use this valuable resource responsibly. Luckily we installed several irrigation systems last summer in the kitchen garden but we have found room for another couple of water butts and these I am quick to add are already full after all this rain.

All the seed potatoes are finally in the ground, the wet weather has delayed the planting of this years’ late varieties, ‘Robinta’ and the ‘Pink Firs’ but the first and second earlies are doing very well in the potato planters, those in the greenhouse already have top growth over the top of the planters.  We have got more potatoes in bags than ever in the kitchen garden this year, due to crop rotation the potatoes are in the smallest bed this year so in search of more growing space the potato planters have saved the day.

Some of our tomato plants have their first flowers on so they have now been planted up in growbags in the greenhouse.  We have used plant halos again this year, these simple but effective innovations are a boon to watering and feeding your tomatoes.  We have enough tomato plants to start a Passata company with so many wonderful varieties to choose from it’s hard to sow just a few varieties.  All our tomato planters are being dusted off and brought out of storage with the exception of our new Tomato Success Kit which we are using both in the greenhouse and outside this year.  More on those in the coming months.

Our new asparagus bed has been planted up with ‘Ginjlim’ plants – these are an all male variety and promise to give us a good yield (in three year’s time!)

Our parsnip seeds are in the airing cupboard!  They are often slow to germinate so we are giving them a helping hand by scattering them on damp kitchen paper on a plastic plate and covering with cling film – just waiting for them to shoot before planting them out.

We should have a veritable feast of vegetables in a few months time; the brassicas are out in the seed bed, Beetroot (Boltardy & Detroit) are in the raised beds and growing away; courgettes have been sown in the greenhouse, 5 varieties this year, ‘Defender’ (prolific), ‘Black Forest F1’ (climber), ‘Soleil F1’ (yellow), ‘Genovese’ (Italian) and ‘Rondo di Nizza’ (round).

Squash seeds have been sown we have chosen Golden Apple, Uchiki Kuri, Winter Festival F1 and Hornet F1 this year  and they have a new frame to grow up – more on our new squash Slot n lock frame next month.

The dreaded pests have started to wake up from their winter snooze – we have already got greenfly in the greenhouse (Savona to the rescue there!) and slugs and snails have started to appear, our beds have had their first spray of Nemaslug and Advanced Slug Granules are being sprinkled with a vengeance!  Pest control hunts around the garden have found them hiding in damp, dark places under pots and planters just waiting to munch the seedlings – well not this year, it’s not going to happen!  The slug emerging from the seed tray compost whilst Lynn was sowing seeds reminds us that they are always hiding ready to devour!

It’s been a busy time keeping the kitchen garden up to date with all the new products, Slot n Lock frames, new style obelisks and garden arches have all been installed. The pear blossom on the new Roman arch certainly looks a treat.

Our first Peas ‘Ambassador’ have been planted up our new Slot n Lock Pea & Bean frames – you will see from the photograph that a fortress is needed to save the sweet new growth from the mice.

The Slot and Lock Connectors have been short listed for a new product award at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - only 15 products made the shortlist so we are very honoured.  Judging will take place at the show so if you would like to see them in use and find out how we did in the award stakes come and visit us on our stand at Chelsea for more information – you will find us at 24 Pavilion Way.  

If you are considering purchasing a fruit cage, raised beds or one of our new garden arches remember to bring your measurements to our stand where you can receive a 10% discount on orders placed at the show.

Here’s what we’ve got planned for May here in the kitchen garden:-

• Lots of outdoor planting of peas, beans, sweetcorn and brassicas.
• Continue with pest control with 6 weekly application of nematodes.
• Plant sweet peas up the new obelisks and tie in.
• Plant aubergines, chillies and peppers into Quadgrows and Chilligrows in the greenhouse.
• Succession sowing of carrots, beetroots, lettuces.
• Plant up maxi manger with salad leaves.
• Continue to earth up potatoes as required.
• Maintenance around the kitchen garden, keeping control of weeds and removing raspberry suckers which seem to appear everywhere!
• Hopefully if the weather warms up we can remove the cloches.
• Plant up new herb parterre.

And if you're planning to spend more time in the garden growing your own this year, you can pick up loads of handy tips by using the expertise we've got to hand. We're always here to offer advice and support - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and Daily Express published horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!     

With spring well and truly established and gardeners across the country busy at work, why not join the social media revolution and get access to gardening tips and horticultural advice galore! Sounds complicated? Well, it's not as all you need to do is click on either the Twitter or Facebook icons below to visit our bustling Twitter feed and Facebook pages.

TwitterWe're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use
Twitter or Facebook to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!
Our 116-page Spring 2012 catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas, products and solutions to the problems every gardener faces. There's even a 19 page Garden Structure section for all your arches, obelisks, plant supports and much more - if you haven't already, request a copy and find it on your doormat in a couple of days time.

And finally, just a reminder - as if one is required - that the RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place in May, from the 22nd to the 26th. Please come along to 24 Pavilion Way to say hello, view our garden arches and other structures up close for once - and see what all the fuss is about! We've also got our fingers in the Sneeboer pie, and you can see these world renowned, hand-forged Dutch tools on their very on stand - also on Pavilion Way, this time at number 13.  

Let's hope we can put those umbrellas away!