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Top April Allotment Tips

A sustained wet spell towards the end of March saturated the ground, meaning patience really did become a virtue. Happily things have improved since as spring has made an early appearance. This highlights the changeable nature of our weather at this time of year. As allotmenteers it is our cue we need to be on standby for the risk of frost, snow and indeed gales.

I’ll be planting my maincrop potatoes “Pink Fir Apple” by the middle of the month. This knobby yet flavoursome variety is a favourite of mine. It is well worth the extra effort in the kitchen for the nutty flavour and excellent winter storing properties.

A recent task has been to harden off my greenhouse planted onion sets. I intend to plant these out on the allotment under cloche protection when the weather allows.

broccoli autumn spearI’ve been chopping and digging in my overwintered green manure, which was on the cusp of flowering. This will prevent the plants seeding and becoming woody, taking longer to rot down. I’ll use this bed to grow Broccoli “Autumn Spear”. I’m sowing this variety now in the greenhouse to plant out at the end of May. Cropping should commence in September.

Do check on your overwintered onions and garlic. They often need firming in after being subjected to the rigours of winter. Sometimes the plants become loose in the soil after sustained buffeting by the wind.

During the wetter weather, when the soil has been too wet to work, I’ve been removing the dead leaves from my strawberry beds. This reduces the chance of fungal disease by increasing airflow near the crowns of the plants. Aesthetically the strawberry bed looks more pleasing too.

My asparagus crowns “Guelph” are starting to awake from their winter dormancy. If conditions are wet, I’ll be keeping an eye out for voracious slugs which will devour the succulent soft spears. A natural way to protect the plants and also fertilise the soil is to use “slug gone” pellets. These are made from sheep wool and when watered in the slugs will not cross them.

seed tapeIn my raised bed with pre-warmed soil (covered over last month), I’m going to make early direct sowings of Beetroot “Boltardy”, Parsnip “Tender & True” and Radish “French Breakfast 3” this month. I prefer using the seed tape with parsnip. The pre-sown seed is quicker to deal with, giving more consistent germination and less thinning out.

Similarly in the greenhouse and cold frame I’ve had a lot of success deterring slugs in pots by using “flexi copper tape”. The copper gives the molluscs a mini shock if they try and cross it.

Talking of the greenhouse, I’ve been busy sowing a multitude of exciting seeds. These include: Courgette, Sweet Corn, Pumpkin, Runner Beans and Squash. When frost is forecast I cover the trays and all tender seedlings with fleece as required. All of this goes to show just what a busy month April really is.

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About Lee Senior

Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn't resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton" says Lee. "It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn't have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don't try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can't wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; 'Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows' which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book 'Walking in the Aire', features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.

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