So April is my “itchy finger” month; my French neighbours continue to chuckle when they see me out in the garden, but I just can’t resist getting started as the weather warms up and the surrounding forest turns green almost overnight.
But my success with an early start is only possible because I use a good quality fleece to protect my plants. I start the hardening off process of my seedlings by moving them outside to an open barn where they get a little direct sun, and cover them with fleece at night for the first few days. I reduce watering at this stage too to help harden the young seedlings off before transplanting. The seeds that I plant directly into the beds (carrots. lettuce, parsnip, sweetcorn etc) I also cover with fleece to give some extra warmth to aid germination.
Once I plant out young seedlings, I cover them with fleece again, and keep them covered until the nighttime temperatures are consistency warmer. It is amazing the difference it makes! In the photo below, brassica seeds (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli) were planted at the same time. They were all hardened off together, but the ones on the right I planted out two weeks earlier and fleeced them. The ones on the left, were transplanted two weeks later and not fleeced. I find this a useful way to spread out harvesting time.
By covering tender plants I am also able to move out peppers and chillies early. Hot chillies and peppadews are slow to ripen and need a maximum growing period, but they don’t thrive in the cold. I transplanted mine this week as we have unseasonably warm days. They get fleeced at night and I open the fleece in the day
It is a wonderful time of year as the forest and fields around us burst into spring growth and in my garden I see changes each day. Fleece over early plantings really helps push harvest times forward.
On the seeding front, I am still updating my sowing timeline to keep a record of what I plant. This month has been busy with sowings of a second batch of brassicas (cauliflower, romanesco, broccoli and cabbage) as well as sweetcorn, beans, cucumber and squash.
But as always with gardening, there are some frustrations! Allium rust is now pretty much endemic in my raised beds, affecting garlic, leeks and onions. Because it only affects the leaves the bulbs are still edible but if the rust is bad bulb size is impacted.
I was very excited to be given a pot of wild garlic (thanks Jackie!) It is a new plant for me – but it’s absolutely fantastic. The whole plant is edible: the pretty, tasty flowers are great scattered over any dish and the leaves or stems add a cross between a chive and garlic flavour (not too potent) to salads. Some interesting information here
So far there is no rust in the Pumpkin Patch where I grow my bulb onions. I can only hope it stays this way!
The bees are very active now that there are so many flowers. Unfortunately we lost two of our hives during the very cold winter. They had all been weakened by a late attack by Asian hornets, so we have to be grateful that at least one hive survived. It’s good to see that hive very active now and we hope to recover another swarm in spring to increase our hives.