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Top April Allotment Tips

Asparagus tips

Easter is normally a time to get a lot of early spring tasks completed. However here in the north, after weeks of almost incessant cold, it is still largely a game of patience.

However, there have still been plenty of jobs to do, recently when the weather allowed.

A priority has been to make emergency shed roof repairs. The strong Easterly wind ripped some felt from it and now I’ve replaced the felt. I don’t want rain getting in if possible. A shed is an essential piece of kit on an allotment plot. It is ideal for keeping low value tools and accessories in. It also doubles up as a sanctuary from a passing shower.  Finally it can be a “meeting point” to share a hot drink with your fellow allotmenteers. Not a bad thing in this weather!

In a bid to save time in a few weeks, I’ve been building a wigwam bamboo cane structure for both runner and climbing French beans. This will save time later and is a productive job. I’ve erected the structure over the runner bean trench I created in winter.

Climbing beans are prolific croppers when they happy. The long-standing variety “Blue Lake” is my favourite, providing stringless beans in abundance during mid-late summer. I’ll be sowing the seeds (along with runner beans) in my unheated greenhouse without any additional heat in mid April. It is important not to over water the seeds before and after they germinate.

I’ve delayed sowing Sweet Corn until mid-April this year. The young plants are prone to rotting off during cold conditions. “F1 Sundance” is a reliable variety, and grows quickly once it establishes outside after the last frosts. Gentle heat is needed to ensure reliable germination.

It is a similar story with courgettes, pumpkins and squash. In all cases, ensure the seeds are not too moist and simply maintain frost protection. Double layered horticultural fleece is useful for covering young plants and protecting them from frost.

April is a busy month in the potato planting calendar. First and second early varieties are normally planted as the weather allows. Generally two or three weeks separate the planting dates, but this isn’t essential. This year, some of us will settle for simply getting them in the ground.

potatoes

A highlight of April is asparagus. This will soon be making an appearance above ground as the weather warms up. Keep an eye out for slugs that can devour the young spears. On my soil in wetter conditions slug deterrent is essential.

Peach, nectarine and apricot trees will be in blossom earlier than most tree fruit. Severe frosts can be damaging, so keeping horticultural fleece on standby is again a good plan. Dwarf or fan trained trees can be easily covered with a large roll of fleece. If there are few pollinating insects about due to the cold spring we can take matters into our own hands. Hand-pollinate the flowers with a small brush, by going from flower to flower, thus transferring pollen as you go.

peach blossom

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Lee Senior

About Lee Senior

Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and part-time horticultural manager. 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 7 years old and the other who is 4 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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