April Seasonal Tips

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After the last week of glorious warm Spring weather we look as though things will return more ‘normal’ April weather with the possibility of overnight frosts. Last year we experienced a seemingly endless downpour for 5 days with lawns and flowerbeds sodden. As always with gardening, patience needs to be the name of the game. Don’t be too hasty to plant out potatoes or sow seeds at least until the soil has returned to ‘normal’.

Harden off seedlings of plants sown last month eg. lettuce, onions and cauliflower. Prick out others as they reach the first true leaf stage. Later in the month sow runner beans, leeks, courgettes, marrows and cucumbers under glass. French beans can also be started off in the greenhouse now but don’t be too hasty to plant out in the garden as they hate cold soil. Make successive sowings of lettuce. Pot on sowings of tomatoes.

Outside, when conditions allow, sow crops of peas, broad beans, cabbage, beetroot, spinach, parsnips. Cover strawberries with fleece or cloches for an earlier crop. Trim and feed rosemary. Sow hardy annuals where they are to grow. Plant gladioli corms in groups of 5 or 6. Pinch out the dead heads of daffodils; Feed and mulch roses. Keep the hoe moving to keep weeds down.

Wood ashes should be preserved as they are invaluable, especially when mixed with heavy soils, when planting out sweet peas, gladioli and many other flowering plants that are put out in Spring.


March Seasonal Tips

What a change in the weather last month ! Starting with the coldest for 7 years ( minus 7c ) and ending with the warmest ever ( plus 20.2c ). The recent glimpse of Summer lasting for few hours for a few days, came with overnight frosts on the anniversary of the Beast from the East last year. We’re back to more normal conditions at the start of this month but the garden could do with some rain.

Don’t be in a hurry to sow early season vegetables if the ground is wet and cold. This is the main time for sowing broad beans, brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, parsnips, early peas and turnips; also early potatoes and carrots under cloches. If you have germinated tomatoes and cucumbers in a heated greenhouse, pot them on.

Start tender fuchsias into growth. Plunge the pots into water and allow to drain then prune hard taking out weak shoots. Once new growth starts replace some of the compost and repot.

Sweet peas should be ready to plant out at the end of the month and into April. For exhibition you’ll need to train them singly up canes 2.4m x 30cms (8ft x 12″ins) apart. Tie in the strongest side shoot and remove the others. As the stems grow pinch out all the new side shoots, and all the tendrils and tie in alternate leaves so all the energy goes into the growing stem. Well worth the effort and you’ll get much larger blooms and stems.

Sow seeds of hardy perennials such as lupins, delphiniums and pinks. Now is the best time to divide and replant clumps of snowdrops if necessary and divide overgrown perennials. Tidy up overgrown climbers such as honeysuckle giving it a good trim even down to 2′  or 60cms. Prune established standard and bush roses and give them a feed.

Now is a good time to mulch borders with organic matter but keep it away from the bark of trees and shrubs. Watch out  for slugs and snails on new growth of perennials especially hostas. The cheapest way to remove them is to pick them off after dark by torchlight – far better than using pellets and if you do remember not to use those containing metaldehyde which is toxic to pets and birds and is banned from next year.

Metaldehyde slug pellets banned

An announcement from DEFRA has banned metaldehyde slug pellets from Spring 2020.  Metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals, its role in reducing hedgehog, amphibian and bird populations, poisoned by consuming contaminated slugs or pellets, has been well documented. It is also toxic to pets.

Although not a factor in the decision making, the ban will also stop farmers from creating widespread pollution of rivers and freshwaters with these toxic pellets. Only those using permanent greenhouses will be permitted to continue using metaldehyde pellets (where birds cannot easily venture).

If you have to resort to slug pellets use those that contain ferric phosphate which will degrade harmlessly in the soil.  Use them sparingly, only 4 or 5 pellets per plant, and only occasionally. Note however using this method means slugs will tend to go underground to die so there will be little evidence on the surface.

A number of alternative slug and snail barriers, from egg shells to hair, gypsum powder and copper tape are often suggested but only very wide and thick copper tape works. The thin products sold in garden centres doesn’t contain enough copper. A barrier of gypsum powder or chopped up young brambles also seems to do the job, but definitely not egg shells (unless you want to help snails make their own shells stronger by eating the egg shells, which might distract them from your plants).

Alternatively go hunting after dark using a torch to find them. Best of all, create a pond and encourage frogs and toads to do the eradication for you.




From the Pumpkin Patch

The Summer Holidays are over but the veg garden is still going strong. This is my first attempt at growing pumpkins for Halloween and the weather must have been ideal this year. Planted the seeds back in June and when I cut the leaves back last week this is what I found! All that rain has resulted in some rapid growth. There are only two pumpkins but they are whoppers. They are a bit pale but hopefully now the leaves aren’t covering them they will start to turn a lovely orange. I’m not sure if they will grow any more but I will take my bathroom scales out and weigh them soon. I’ve put them on roof tiles so they won’t rot and put Panda there for scale!




The 125th Annual Show

Chairman’s Summer Message

The Society’s 125th Show will take place on Saturday 28 July 2018 in the grounds of The Stoke Poges School. This an amazing milestone so let us all work together to make it as successful and enjoyable as ever!

Earl Howe and the Countess have accepted our invitation to present the Cups and Trophies. There is a new Trophy presented by Edward Guinness C.V.O., specifically for 16 to 30 year olds, and he is hoping to be able to present it himself.

Many thanks to all those who supplied plants and cakes and who came to buy at the Plant Sale, which raised nearly £1,000 to help cover the cost of the Show. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the Co-op and its members for a generous contribution of £1,638.04 towards the cost of this year’s Show.

Whatever the weather between now and then, I hope everyone will have something to exhibit in the Show; and, also, that we will all encourage our friends and neighbours to look in their gardens and allotments to see what there is that is worthy of being exhibited in the Show. We may be surprised to find things that are ready at the right time.

Entries can come from wider afield up to a 50 mile radius, so if you know keen gardeners, please tell them about the Show, let them know that they can see the schedule on our website, www.hortsoc.org

and enter online. For further information contact Pat Rofe on 01753 662695 or email entries@hortsoc.org

Also, please spread the word about the children’s classes, the art, crafts, home economics, photographic and other classes, there is sure to be something in the schedule that appeals.

Janet Cottrell, Chief Steward for the Show, has provided further information. As she has said, the Show doesn’t just happen, we need volunteers to help make the event as memorable and smooth running,  as in previous years. If you have time to spare and would like to help in any way, please get in touch with me on ruth@rooley.com or 01753 648040 or contact Jon Homan on homanhome@gmail.com or 01753 662166