Sow & Grow: April

I've been reading the Grow your own fruit and veg magazine for a while now as part of my Readly subscription, and I find it a great read. It is one of those magazines that comes out really early - for example the May magazine is already out, and I find that confusing because I never know if they mean the real month or the magazine world month. I'm hoping it's the real month or otherwise all of my veg sowing could be a little out, but I digress.

They have a feature every month on the month's crops to sow and harvest, which I find a useful checklist as to what I probably should be doing veg-wise, and so I thought I'd share where I am against this guide on a monthly basis. I'd been contemplating a new Sow & Grow series of posts so it all seems to work together. 

So let's catch up with April's advice, as I've finally got around to getting started with my seeds. My garden is north facing, and so it takes the greenhouse a while to get the sun, which is always my excuse for starting later than I plan to (every year!).

ONIONS GALORE, AND ALMOST TIME (AGAIN) FOR NEW GLOVES

ONIONS GALORE, AND ALMOST TIME (AGAIN) FOR NEW GLOVES

Sow

  • Aubergines: I'm not growing aubergines this year, and haven't for a while. I grew them many years ago with mixed success, and while they were pretty plants there weren't too many good sized aubergines on them.
  • Brussels sprouts: I'm tempted to give these a go, and am pleased I'm not too late to get them started - well I've a few days left of this month!
  • Broad beans: Yay!  Mine are sown and I'm waiting for them to do their thing. To give them a head start I soaked my bean seeds for thirty minutes or so before planting which helps break down the shell around the seed, and I like to think gives them a head start.
  • Cabbages: Goodness, I'm not sure I've picked the last ones yet, actually I should check on those red cabbages on the plot again soon.  I will grow some, but I need to find some space first.
  • Carrots: I'd love to grow some of those baby carrots, but I think it's probably worth waiting until we have improved the soil at the allotment. It's currently so full of stones that I'd be the sure winner of the funniest shaped vegetable. I do have a tyre, which I could grow some in so maybe I'll try that.
  • Celeriac: We gave these a go last year, but didn't have much success. We managed to grow a ball of roots, and I think they suffered from the soil conditions too.  Maybe I should grow a couple of these in my tyre instead?
  • Celery: Maybe one day, but not this year!
  • Chillies: Something else I planted at the weekend. I've a tray of chillies sown ranging from Chocolate Habanero, through to Aji Lemon to more normal Jalapenos, and a free packet of seeds from Seeds of Change which we picked up at Taste London in the autumn.
  • Cucumbers: I've six of these planted too in small pots. This year I've got two varieties sown, a couple of seeds left over from last year and a new mini-variety which I've not grown before, but which promises to be a prolific cropper.
  • Florence fennel:  I think I'll give these a go, I've found some old seed - I'm not sure how old, or how active they are, so I will try some of them on a damp kitchen towel to see if there's a chance they'll germinate.  
  • Herbs: I've some chervil, garlic chives, basil, coriander, vervaine and tarragon on the go and I'm hoping I'll be able to use some of these in the new herb planter I've got planned, more on that soon though.
  • Kohl rabi: No, I'm never going to grow this vegetable, I ate it once and really didn't like it. It's a no, no, no, from me.
  • Peas: Yes, I'm planning on some peas so I'd better get cracking. I like to grow a pot for pea shoots for salads too and if I'm honest usually have more success with these.
  • Potatoes:  Well they're chitting and as I said earlier in the week they appear to be taking over...
  • Salad leaves:  I haven't any planted yet, and must remember to do succession sowing. I'd love to grow lettuces in lines, but in reality I'm quite often a cut and come again kind of salad girl.
  • Shallots:  I've sixteen of these on the go too, the fancy French-type which I like a lot roasted. In fact I like these any which way, maybe I should have got some more.
  • Sprouting broccoli: Goodness, this is up there with the cabbages although I had less success with my own plants last year. I'm definitely growing this again, and will be getting this started soon. It was the first plant we planted on the allotment in our first year, and probably my favourite vegetable (or one of them anyway)
  • Sweet peppers: I had some success with bought plants previously, but these aren't on my growing list this year.
  • Tomatoes: Yes, yes, yes. The tomato farm is swinging back into action and these are by far and away my favourite plant to grow. This year instead of over-sowing I've tried to restrain myself sowing two seeds to a module. Even taking this restrained approach I've still two seed trays full and more varieties I've not sown yet. This year I'm growing a couple of my favourite varieties again for the first time since we've had the allotment, so I'm looking forward to plenty of Tigerellas and San Marzanos.
  • Turnips: I'm going to grow these again, but little and often. I had some success with these last year but failed to harvest them all so the last of them rotted in the plot. Must remember to avoid that this year. 
TURNIPS IN 2016

TURNIPS IN 2016

Plant

  • Asparagus: Erm no, I love to eat it, but I think I'll leave the growing to the professionals. I think there's something special about buying the local grown asparagus on our Norfolk visits, it really is way superior to the imported stuff.
  • Blackberries: I'd like to grow these, and now have the plastic-covered wire fence that I could grow these up on the plot, but I think it might be one for next year, when I hope we're a bit more organised on the plot.
  • Blueberries: I have a plant in my greenhouse, which has come on leaps and bounds (see the picture below), it's even flowering this year and I'm hopeful we might have a handful of berries this year.
  • Gooseberries: This is on my list and I may be inheriting a bush. I have reservations, well, because I've heard about gooseberry bushes... Seriously though it's not a fruit I buy, but I think having grown it ourselves will make all the difference. I don't think I've had gooseberries since school dinners, and surely they'd have to be better than that...
  • Onions: Tick. I've got onions on the go, although I do need to plant them out.
  • Pears: We've a pear tree in our garden, I've no plans to add to this. We've not had much success with fruits from our tree though, but I think that's because we don't prune it correctly; the squirrels though have great fun with the pears and leave them half-eaten all over the garden.
  • Raspberries: We have some raspberry canes on the allotment and for the first time I think we've got the pruning right. These were one of the highlights when we finally checked in with the allotment this year.
  • Strawberries: I've another trough-full of strawberry plants from the garden to plant out over at the allotment, so this is something to add to the growing to do list. Some of them are already in flower, which surprised me, but that's a good thing I guess.  And it may mean some funny shaped strawberries if I leave it too long before I plant them out!
WILL THIS YEAR BE THE FIRST YEAR IT FRUITS?

WILL THIS YEAR BE THE FIRST YEAR IT FRUITS?

Harvest

  • Cauliflowers: I've none left to harvest. I grew four plants last year, one got decapitated by foxes, the other failed and I picked two. So not a bad result as two were weaker seedlings. But mine have all gone.
  • Endive:  I didn't grow any, and this is on the maybe list for when the plot's established.
  • Kale: I've picked what was left of mine already - it was slightly on the miniature size and very much enjoyed on our plate.
  • Rhubarb: Something I can grow. I need to get back over to the allotment and pick some. We've a disagreement here about rhubarb, I think it's perfectly acceptable at breakfast with greek yogurt and granola, but MOH disagrees. It's ok isn't it?
  • Salad leaves: Nothing to pick here, but I wish there was...
  • Spring onions: Hmmn, another one I struggle with. They should be so easy, but somehow it never seems to be. So I've none to harvest. Again.
  • Swiss chard: We do still have some on the allotment, but it was shoved into a corner and so hasn't been treated that well. But it's a hardy plant and I'll be cutting some more, MOH isn't a big chard fan, but I'm sure I'll be able to sneak some into meals at some point.
RHUBARB - AND GRASS - ANYONE?

RHUBARB - AND GRASS - ANYONE?

It's quite a long list isn't it?  But an interesting one and one that'll help focus my efforts i think. I'll be back with May's Sow & Grow in a couple of weeks, and maybe, just maybe, I'll get somewhere close to aligning with what I'm supposed to be doing!

How did you fare against the list? 

A beautiful storage chest

For quite a while I've been looking for the perfect storage solution for our spare bedroom. Nothing has quite been right. Back in October I'd seen a lovely wooden chest in the same place I was wowed by all the crockery, but it needed work and they weren't up for budging on the price and so I walked away, reluctantly. On our recent visit to Norfolk I headed back down there to see if it was still there, it wasn't, and I didn't feel as sad as I thought I would. 

There was another chest there, this time tin rather than wood. Again though it was tattier than I'd like and I wasn't sure how we'd repair it. This time I'd gone armed with measurements and it was the right size for the space I had. We did a lot of umming and ahhing and once again walked away. 

But a seed was sown. 

It wasn't long before I was looking on eBay for tin storage chests, and I was amazed at what I found - as I so often am when I discover you can buy almost anything on there. I mean you can buy bricks, as well as lovely storage chests...

And yesterday I arrived home to a very large cardboard box. Inside was this:

Inside the large cardboard box was this beautiful storage chest

Yes, a beautiful storage chest, sold as a 'second' on eBay. 

unwrapping further revealed the chest

It's newly made, but made to look slightly more lived in. And that's a great compromise for us. I was keen for something that wasn't too pristine, while MOH preferred something brand, brand new. I didn't tell him until it arrived that it was sold as a second and it came with some added character.  

And a lovely chest - sold as a second on ebay - was revealed

And it fits perfectly in the spot too. 

Moving it into position

I'm really pleased with it, it was just what I wanted but wasn't able to articulate. The inside is lined with a plain brown material, which means it won't need any work and can be put straight to use storing the bedding for the spare room.  

A look at the detail on the top of our new storage chest

That means no more lugging the pillows and duvet down the stairs each time we use the room, and you don't know how happy that makes me. It's just a small thing, but it's often the small things isn't it... 

A look at the front of our storage chest sold as a 'second'

And filling it with the bedding will start off a new batch of Spring rearranging, as the space the bedding is taking has already been earmarked and the new-last-December Christmas tree will be moving in. 

The new storage chest in situ, waiting to be filled

Yes, I'm finally getting my act together! Well, almost... 

Home Etc

My greenhouse is already full...

Along with my potato delivery was the onion sets. I'm late starting both of these I know, but I'm relatively relaxed about that as our plot is much more open than our north-facing garden and so I think they'll stand a better chance, and will hopefully catch up pretty quickly. Saying that though, we didn't have much luck with onions last year and I grew what I affectionately called miniature versions.  I've since read that onions do well where potatoes grew the previous year so that's my plan. 

I do have rather a lot of onions though, and that's ok as I'm always buying them. If they'll all fit into the space last year's potatoes had, is another matter. 

I'm starting the shallots and both red and white onions in modules in the greenhouse, which will start them growing and developing roots away from hungry birds, so when I do plant them out they'll be more established and be able to fight back. It also gives me some time to clear a space for them - there's (some) method in my madness.

shallots in the greenhouse

I put these in on Saturday shortly after they arrived and already there's sign of activity. This is good news because at the moment I have six seed trays of onions, plus the smaller one of shallots and they take up quite a bit of greenhouse space. 

Just some of the onions I'm starting off in the greenhouse

As I was planting them up though I started to run out of compost. Not wanting to use the new seed compost  I found myself digging into one of the composting Daleks. It's been a year or so since we emptied this one and it was good to see compost inside. It means we've another job for our list, to empty both of the daleks this year, that'll be good news for the allotment though.

calling in the compost big boys

I told you there were a lot of onions,  but I'm liking the uniformity and order they bring.

yes more onions

My sowing really got started last weekend 

I've also planted some herbs in pots; there's savory, coriander, tarragon, chervil, garlic chives and basil. I'm hoping to use these as decorative plants around the garden as well as in the kitchen. I've a bit of a thing for herbs, which is one of the reasons the tables at our wedding were named after herbs, and my next cat will be called Herb. MOH is fully aware of this and isn't quite sure if there will be another cat, but deep down I think he knows there will be at some point, just not yet.

Herbs are also sown and I'm hoping to use these as decorative plants in the garden as well a functional ones

The giant fuchsias are growing well, still not giants as they're in the smallest plant pot I have, but they've grown so much. Their new job is to supervise the cucumber seeds through germination.  

The giant fuchsias are coming along nicely, but don't be fooled they're still in the smallest pots I have

I'm growing two varieties this year with seeds left over from last year and a new-to-me mini version which promises to be a prolific cropper. 

I've flowers on my tiny blueberry plant which is into its second year now. I'm hopeful for some fruits this year and if I'm lucky there'll be enough for us both! 

The blueberry is doing well, it's in its second year and has grown tremendously

As well as my usual tomato farm - I always grow a lot of tomatoes - this year I've already planted some flower seeds. The seeds are a little old so I hope I have some success, as I'd love to fill the garden and pots with foxgloves, teasels, delphiniums and a statice or two.  

I've even started to sow some flowers, not sure how these will do

But along with some broad beans, borlotti beans, sunflowers and chillies it means all of a sudden my greenhouse is choc-a-block, and I'm not sure how that happened! 

I've already moved in my temporary staging in and have space for four more seed trays before I will be officially unable to move  

peering in through the window (and that's not even more onions, I've just rearranged them)
a whole seed tray of chillies - I'm hoping it's going to be hot stuff this year

But it's a great feeling.  

A suddenly very packed greenhouse, I've a feeling the next few months will be about moving seedlings about

And gives me the perfect excuse to potter around of an evening and to check for signs of growth. And I wonder what took me so long to get started this year... 

 

What are you growing this year?