Five Things You Should Do In May

The air and the soil are finally beginning to warm; seeds are germinating and growing in the blink of an eye. It is tempting to plant out your delicate seedlings, but as they say, never cast a clout until May is out – use this advice for your seedlings. You don’t want months of hard work going to waste.

It feels like spring has barely begun and summer is already fast approaching.

Harden off your seedlings

Now that the days are finally warming up, now is the time to harden off your seedlings in preparation for planting out. You can either harden them off by using a cold frame for a week or two, closing the lid at night or if you don’t have a cold frame available just leave them outside during the day and place them back in your greenhouse or polytunnel at night.


Repot and divide plants

Now is a great time to repot any plants that have out grown their pots and
become pot bound. It is also the perfect time to split any summer flowering plants that have multiplied in size. This will give you extra plants at no extra cost.

Weeds, weeds, weeds…

Back in March I mentioned that you should have weeded and tilthed your plot. Well, now is not the time to slack! Weeds will become more abundant as the season wears on. You’ll thank yourself for keeping on top of it all. This will be an on going job throughout the year. If you have a lot of dandelions on your plot, why not try making dandelion honey.

Erect your bean and pea sticks

Your peas, runner beans and other climbers will be ready to plant out by the end of the month. Make sure you have your bamboo canes, trellises and archways secured and ready for your crops.

Keep sowing

Even though we are now hardening off our earlier seedlings, there is still plenty of seeds to be sowing this month. Sweet peas, lettuce, spring onions, beetroot, carrots pumpkins, cucumbers… the list is endless. Along with March and April, May is a crucial time to get those seeds sown (directly if possible) for that perfect summer harvest.

Dandelion Honey

The grass is a awash with dandelions and has been for a few months now. Dandelions are an important source of nectar for bees early on in the season, so try to avoid picking them until other flowers are available. Now is the perfect time to give this spring time recipe a go.

Ingredients:

– One small trug full or 100g of dandelion petals
– 100g caster sugar
– 250g pectin sugar
– One orange, sliced
– One lemon, sliced

The ingredients and method will give you a dandelion honey that is light and golden, with hints of marmalade and flora and the consistency of a runny honey.

When foraging for dandelions, try not to take more than a couple of flower heads from one cluster. Also, avoid foraging in any areas that would have been sprayed with weed killer and have a high areas of traffic.

Firstly, you will want to rinse the dandelion heads and then separate the petals from the green base. The greenery can add a bitter taste to your honey. This isn’t an integral step, so you can skip it if you’re short on time.

Next, place your petals in a pan with one litre of water, the lemon and the orange. Let this simmer away for around half an hour. Next, you will want to add your sugar. It doesn’t matter which sugar you put in first, but make sure that you put it in the pan in small increments to ensure that it will dissolve. Bring this to the boil for around 5 minutes, constantly stirring whilst doing so. Once you have boiled the mixture, cover your pan with a muslin cloth and allow it to steep overnight.

Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth and place the liquid back in the pan. You’ll now want to reduce the mixture down to around half, or until it thickens. Start to bring the mixture to the boil, stirring as you do so. You will need to pay constant attention to your mixture whilst you are doing this to avoid burning any of the sugar granules. This may take a little while, so be patient.

Once you are happy with the consistency of your mixture take it off the boil an let it stand for around 10 minutes. Pour into your sterilised jars and let it rest overnight.

You can adjust this recipe to your taste. The orange gives you a slight marmalade twang, if you would prefer not to have this then just omit the orange and replace it with a lemon. You could also double the amount of dandelion petals if you want a more floral flavour to your dandelion honey.

Five Things You Should Do In April

The days are longer yet the air is still crisp. Blossom and flowers are immerging from their dormancy. Sunny, warm summer like days are quickly followed with sleet and rain, the weather remains unpredictable throughout the month and there is still a risk of frost.

Sow, sow, sow!

Much like March, April is a busy month for seed sowing. There is even more to get sown this month in order to get bumper crops in the summer. Try sowing successional crops, so that you don’t have a glut of the same vegetables. There is still plenty of time to get potatoes in, traditionally potatoes are planted from Easter and beyond. Whilst there is still plenty to get started with in the greenhouse or polytunnel, you can now get cracking with direct sowing. Beetroot, carrots, parsnips, radish and spring onions are just a few things you can get in the ground.

Get tidying

There’s nothing like a spring clean on the plot to get you ready for the new season. Now is a good time to do the jobs you’ve been putting off for a while; touching up the shed, tidying a neglected part of the plot or even a spot of DIY.

Keep an eye out for pests

With the arrival of spring, pests come out of the woodwork. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, they will decimate any small leafy greens. We use woollen slug pellets. These are chemical free, so they are safe for any hedgehogs or other critters that may be on your plot. They also serve a secondary purpose, they act as a mulch for your young plants. Pigeons and butterflies will also be on the lookout for their lunch, so make sure to keep any brassicas covered.

Clean your greenhouse or polytunnel

You may have already done this by now, but if you haven’t now is the perfect time before you are inundated with seedlings. The days are getting longer and you want to make the most of the sunshine. By cleaning the panes and vents, it will allow much more light into your greenhouse or polytunnel.

Sort your compost

The little critters will have immerged from their hibernation in your compost bin by now, so it is a good time for you to empty your compost and sieve through the black gold you have created. Anything that has not completely composted can be thrown back into the pile and left until next year.

Here’s to spring and longer, warmer days.

Five Things You Should Do In March

As the air begins to thaw and the flowers burst into life, spring has begun to awaken from its long slumber. There is an absolute plethora of seeds to sow and bulbs to plant in March, but try not to get too ahead of yourself. The ground is still yet to warm thoroughly and there is still a risk of frost.

Get planting

This may be stating the obvious, but now is the time to get cracking. Your seed selection for March will be large, so pick the ones you want to get a head start on. Now is also a great time to transplant your strawberry runners. There is also still time to plant rhubarb crowns, although it is best to not harvest the crop in the first year as it may lessen the crop for the following years. Don’t forget to get your first early crop of potatoes in.

Weed & tilth your plot

Since turning over your plot last month, it is now time to tilth your plot and remove any weeds that you may come across. This will give any seeds you sow a great start to the season.

Protect early seedlings

If you are sowing directly in March, it is well worth protecting these seedlings with fleece or a cloche. This will speed up the warming of the soil and you’ll gain a few extra weeks of the growing season.

Prune & tie back

If you didn’t get around to cutting back your autumn fruiting raspberries in winter, there is still just enough time to get them pruned even if there are signs of new growth. You can also prune any other fruit bush, like gooseberry, all varieties of currants, blackberries and blueberries.

Plant your summer flowering bulbs

Although we have just reached spring, it’s already time to plant your summer flowering bulbs. Your bulbs will all have different needs, some may prefer full sun and others partial shade and well drained soil. Gladioli put on a wonderful show throughout the summer. If you want a continual show, plant bulbs throughout the next few months. Our last bulbs that were planted in mid summer flowered right up until October.

Happy sowing.

Five Things You Should Do In February

The days are growing longer and birdsong is all around. The air is cold and crisp, rainfall is frequent and the spring bulbs are finally showing face. Although it is still winter, February is the start of a busy growing season on the plot.

Chit your potatoes

You can get your first early crop in in March, so now is the time to start chitting. For white potatoes, I have never used seed potatoes. I tend to use potatoes that have just gone passed their best and have already started to sprout and have never had any issues. For the purple varieties, I will purchase seed potatoes but I tend to cut the larger seed potatoes in half. You’ll get double the crop for your money! You will need to leave the cut end exposed for a few days to dry out; a new skin should form. Once the new skin has formed you can turn the halves over and the chits will begin to form after a week or so.

Turn over your plot

If your soil is not boggy and waterlogged, now is a great time to turn your soil. This will help break up any areas of ground which have become compacted over time and allow it to air. You may need to do this process more than once depending on how compacted your soil is. Dig in compost if you feel it is needed.

If you are following the no dig style of gardening, apply a layer of mulch and keep the ground weed free.

DON’T turn your compost heap

You may think now would be a great time to turn your compost or move and empty your bins, but you would be wrong. Frogs, toads, insects and even hedgehogs may be hibernating in your compost bin and you do not want to disturb them.

Force your rhubarb

If you want a sweet, early crop of rhubarb then now is the time to force your crown. Make sure that you are only forcing well established crowns, although try to avoid forcing the same crowns every year. By forcing younger crowns, you may inhibit future growth. Little sprouts may already be peeping out of the ground, but by using a large pot or terracotta rhubarb forcer you’ll get a nice early crop. The stems of this crop will be paler and more pink in colour.

Wash your pots

You’ll be sowing a lot of seeds this month, so make sure you give them the best start by cleaning your pots. This will avoid any pests and diseases which may be left over from last years crop.