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Top April Allotment Tips

April has begun with settled weather and the soil is starting to dry out again now. What a contrast to last year, when many of us wondered if spring would ever start.

If you haven’t already done so, this is a great opportunity to plant our early potatoes. A couple of weeks later our second early varieties can follow.  Fingers crossed, by the end of the month, the maincrop types will be in the ground too. April is clearly a busy potato month!

My overwintered onions and garlic are doing very well now. The garlic stems are thickening up and are responding to the recent sunshine and gradual increase in temperature. Typically the weeds are responding too, and it is a good tip to keep the area in between the rows weed free. This reduces competition for vital moisture and nutrients.

I’m going to sow my first direct crops of the year this month, under previously covered soil. I’ll be directly sowing broad bean ‘Masterpiece Green Longpod’ and also the distinctive ‘crimson flowered’ variety. If you think broad bean flowers are always black and white this variety will make you think again! The flowers are attractive and don’t look out of place in a large container, potager or flower bed. It is worth pointing out the beans are the usual colour. However, if you want to harvest crimson coloured broad beans then ‘Karmazyn’ is the one to go for.

Broad Bean Karmazyn

I’ll also be sowing the heritage parsnip variety ‘Tender and True’. I used to grow this in my student days and it is still as popular today. However, if your parsnips generally suffer from canker, try ‘F1 Gladiator’. This variety has good resistance to this unsightly disease.

I sow a fast maturing crop with the parsnip, such as radish ‘French Breakfast’. This is another variety that has been around forever and with good reason. It is reliable, good value for money and easy to grow. The radish marks out where the parsnip rows are, due to the quick germination of the seed versus the slower, sometimes erratic germination of the parsnips. The radish is ready to harvest in about a month and it won’t interfere with the growth of the parsnips. If the weather turns inclement, I’ll hold off until settled conditions return.

Finally, beetroot ‘boltardy’ is a must sow on my plot from mid-April onwards. Boltardy is less likely to go to seed than some other types and can also be bought as plug plants. Over the years, during cold spring weather, I’ve even set off the seed in a tray in the cold frame. They can then carefully be transplanted outdoors into their final positions. It is a misconception that beetroot can’t be transplanted. With care they can, though they don’t tolerate damage to the roots. There is also a risk some could be misshapen. I don’t mind that too much, as we pickle it in white vinegar and it tastes divine.

Beetroot Boltardy

During dry spells, getting the hoe out early, to deal with annual weed seedlings now will save time later. Pernicious weeds like dandelion will need digging out, but it isn’t all bad news, as dandelions are edible.

In the greenhouse, I’m now sowing the majority of my tender summer crops; dwarf french bean ‘safari’, climbing french bean ‘blue lake’, courgettes ‘golden zucchini’ and ‘black beauty’, runner beans ‘scarlet emperor’, pumpkin ‘F1 Becky’, ( a real all-rounder, great for carving and eating) and sweet corn ‘F1 Sundance’.

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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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