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Mike’s Monthly Blog…April
I don’t think that I have ever seen kitchen gardens empty in April before. The Long Winter is being dragged out by the bitterly cold north east wind blowing down from the Artic. The sun is climbing higher in the sky and will eventually warm the air and we can start gardening. The relentless wind has driven the cold into the soil but it is not all bad news for gardeners. The drying effect of the wind is creating perfect conditions for preparing seed beds. The surface of the soil has dried out making it easily workable so we must take advantage of every opportunity to cultivate the soil and rake it down into fine crumbs.
Another benefit is that we can start to “stale seedbed” the surface of the soil. The “stale bed” method is to hoe the top 5cms/2ins of the soil to create a dust dry layer that will act as a barrier against the drying wind and sun but also any weed seeds germinating in this layer will shrivel and die. Keep this up all through the summer when the weather conditions allow.
Don’t be tempted to force the pace wait and allow the soil and the air to warm up before sowing and planting out. If you have cloches or frames you can use them to get the garden started but don’t forget to ventilate them on sunny days when the temperatures will under glass. Use plastic sheets or tunnel cloches to warm the soil up for potato planting and seed sowing but sow the seeds of early cultivars of vegetables because they require a shorter growing season to reach maturity. This will help to pull back some of the growing time lost up to now.
Talk to the gardeners from north of the River Trent on how they manage their gardens and they will probably say they are used to this problem because they have always had a shorter growing than the southern half of the UK. The gardeners in Scotland have to endure even harsher conditions and they are severely limited in what they can grow. There are still 20 growing weeks in front of us so there is no need to panic. Yet!