Vegetable Gardening hints and tips
The ground is warming up and now is a good time to plant vegetable seeds direct in the garden.
Make sure that your ground is well tilled - dig over as deep as you can with a fork and break down any clods of earth. If you have access to a rotovator, then this will till the soil to a lovely crumbly texture, which is best for seed planting. Incorporating a soil conditioner or fertiliser such as rock dust will help crops.
Many seeds can be planted directly into the ground now -
Peas and beans can be planted direct. Both will need protecting from slugs so a sprinkling of slug pellets will help. Put small canes along pea rows to support them as they grow. Make a wigwam or plant runner beans along a fence line, so they have support. Broad beans may require support depending on the variety.
Carrots taste fantastic straight from the garden - but they are very susceptible to carrot fly. The only way to avoid this is to make a netting cloche or cover for carrots to grow under. It is really worth the effort! Slugs like little plants too - use slug pellets. Carrots like friable or crumbly soil. Dig a trench, then mix the earth with some sand before putting back in the hole. Do not compact before planting seeds!
Radishes are fast growing and easy to germinate. Plant short rows at weekly intervals for a continuous crop. Mixing lime with the soil before planting improves the quality. This is a great crop to plant with children as you don't have to wait long for results!
Lettuce can be started indoors and planted out when seeds are a decent size. Plant out rocket and spinach direct into the garden.
Start many other vegetables indoors or in the greenhouse (frostfree), ready for planting out when the chance of frosts has past. Corn, brocolli, cauliflower and brussell sprouts are a few plants that can be started indoors now. Tender plants like tomoatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillis, aubergine, courgette and pumpkin can also be started in trays in the greenhouse or windowsill. Keep potting on until frosts are all finished.
Slugs love this time of year, so be vigilant!
Check seed packets for full instructions. Do not be tempted to plant rows closer than advised on seed packets - it will lead to overcrowding and disappointing results.
Do NOT be tempted to buy tender vegetables from the garden centre if you do not have anywhere indoors to keep them. You will be disappointed!
If you do not have space for a vegetable patch, why not try growing in containers? Use a mix of garden soil and compost to fill tubs. Many vegetables work well in pots and they can be mixed together to provide a lovely edible display. Try lettuce, beans, tomatoes, carrots, peppers and herbs - or really anything that takes your fancy. Just make sure the pot is big enough to prevent overcrowding.
Tomatoes have a number of trailing varieties such as 'tumbling tom' or 'balconi' which work really well in baskets. Plant tagetes or african marigolds next to tomatoes in baskets, or in the greenhouse, will discourage many flying pests that like tomaotes - they do not like the smell. Tomatoes can also be planted in grow bags - each bag can generally hold three plants and should have enough nutrients to last for one season.
Get out and enjoy the garden with the promise of tasty rewards in the months to come!