Whilst the weather can be extremely mixed at this time of year, as we get further into Spring there are lots of garden jobs to be done. Make the most of your greenhouse and windowsill planters by sowing some seeds now! This will give your vegetables a head start for the season ahead and helps to ensure you have strong young plants for planting out later in the season.
Our friends at Pots & Trowels have plenty of advice and dispense weekly hints and gardening tips. In this episode, Martin Fish walks us through seed planting, potting on and apple tree graft preparation. To find out more, read on and watch the video below.
Checking on your early season sown seeds
If you follow Pots & Trowels, or have seen our recent blog post with Martin’s advice on making early sowings and chitting potatoes, then it’s worthwhile checking on your seedlings and seeing how they are progressing.
Any tomato seeds you’ve already sown early in the season will be ready to be pricked out and should be coming on nicely. These may have started life on a windowsill in your house. If so, now is the time to move them into the greenhouse to help harden them off.
Peppers should be starting to establish nicely too. Hopefully, they will be at the perfect stage of growth over the next week or so, making them ready for potting on to slightly bigger pots to help them spread their roots.
Other veg should be growing now too. Shallots will be starting to root, and runner beans shoots will have just started to push through, growing nicely ready for planting out to the vegetable plot later in the season. Potatoes will be chitting and any salad varieties you have already sown and should be starting to form plenty of young plants that can either be harvested as baby leaves very soon, or planted out to produce a row of early summer salads. While these plants may have kept you busy over the last few weeks, there is still lots more sowing to get going on right now.
Sowing peas in March / early April
Peas are a fantastic veg crop to sow now. Although they can be sown directly into the ground, they can be given a strong start by starting them off in cell trays to help combat highs and lows in temperate that we see in the UK early in the season. It’s also a great way to avoid losing your pea crops to mice! Onward peas by our friends at Mr Fothergill’s can be a great pea to start with, it’s a dwarf variety so it won’t grow too tall, but it’s reliable and a good cropping pea.
To sow your peas, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Seed trays/growing tray
- Soil dabber
- Multi-purpose compost
- Our Mini Essentials Tools are also perfect for a spot of indoor gardening
After you’ve collected your equipment, you’ll be ready to sow.
- Fill your seed tray with multi-purpose compost. You can recycle your trays time and time again.
- Label the tray, so you know what you are growing.
- Then use a dipper, or just use your finger, to put some holes in each of the plug holes of your tray.
- Next, drop a pea into each hole. You may have to push it down slightly, but they’ll need half an inch of compost on top of the pea.
- Cover them over lightly with the soil.
- Finally, water the peas. They will germinate quickly, and you will get lovely short, stocky pea plants in three or four weeks’ time.
Other vegetable plants you can start to sow now are leeks and cabbages. Leeks work very well sown the same way as the peas, and now is the perfect time to sow them. Use trays to sow them, putting one seed in each plug of the tray. Leeks stand well, so you can sow lots at a time.
Sowing cabbages in April
Be careful not to sow too many cabbage seeds at once as they crop all at once, so sow 6-10 cabbages at the most at one time, then sow more in a few week’s time. This means you’ll have a regular and continuous supply of fresh cabbages through the summer, autumn, and winter.
To plant your cabbages, fill the tray with soil and make small holes. Add just one cabbage seed per pot. The seeds are just about big enough to handle individually and drop one seed per hole. You’ll normally get a superb germination with cabbages. Next, brush the compost so it goes over the hole, give your seeds a drink of water and write a label, so you know what you are growing. Mr Fothergill’s Sherwood cabbage is a lovely early summer cabbage, and it can be enjoyed through the first part of the growing season.
Keep your cabbages in a cool greenhouse. As long as it’s frost free, they will germinate with no problems and you have nice strong seedlings that can be hardened off in a cold frame, ready to be planted out late April time.
Sowing seed this way is a simple and easy to way to start all sorts of plants. You can try spring onions, lettuce, pak choi, chard, and even beetroot in plug trays, so you’ve got plants ready to go in to the garden at a later date.
How to graft apple trees
Whilst there is lots of sowing that can be done, you’ll find plenty more preparatory jobs waiting for you in the garden, like preparing for apple tree grafting.
Grafting fruit trees every year can be really beneficial, the trees that you have in one garden can then move with you if you move to a new house, or you can start them off for friends and family.
Grafting is very simple. You’ll need some root stocks; you can buy these from a nursery or from a fruit grower – they will supply you with various types of root stocks, or you can graft onto an existing tree to get multiple varieties on one tree. If choosing a rootstock, then MM106 produces a decent size tree, but if you wanted a smaller sized tree, then you’d need a dwarfing rootstock, which can be handy if you are growing smaller trees for ease of harvesting without the need for the use of ladders. It’s a little early to graft right now, but as we move into April it will be the perfect time to start in earnest. Now is the time to prepare though, as the graft wood should be dormant.
Graft wood is the new growth of your tree. It’s the top part of a branch and it equates to around one years’ worth of growth – this is exactly what you need to graft. You don’t want the old, gnarled wood, you want the growth from last year.
- Cut some stems off the tree you want to graft.
- Bundle the stems up and label them, so you know exactly what they are.
- Then you have the choice. You can put them into a pot of compost, pushing the bottom two inches of the stems into the pot to keep them moist. You’ll need to store this pot on a north-facing wall where it is as cold as possible. Alternatively, you can put the stems into the bottom of the fridge in a polythene bag, so it keeps them cool. You’ll want to keep your stems dormant until it’s time to graft.
Why not get your graft wood ready now for grafting in two or three weeks’ time?
Remember, there is always plenty to do in the garden!