April is a busy month in the garden and March and April have been especially busy this year so far, with COVID19 lockdown generating a lot of interest in seed sowing!
In the garden, April brings hopeful sunshine by day and can bring seedling killing frosts by night! It is the season of seed sowing, and our first lot of veggie seeds are being sown direct outdoors here in the Seeds to Sow garden in West Yorkshire. Things may be slightly different where you live, so always keep one eye on your local weather forecast.
Our outdoor seed sowings include; Beetroot, Carrots, Peas, Radish, Spring Onions and Salad Leaves. Parsnips are sown (last month) and we are continuing to sow indoors some other ‘tender’ veggies like cucumber, courgettes and squash, which will be then hardened off and planted outdoors after the last risk of frost (end of May here in Yorkshire).
What is ‘hardening off’ you may ask? A strange term, but simply means ‘toughening up’ and acclimatising to outdoor conditions. Seedlings that have been protected and tenderly nurtured since being sown, will have become used to the lovely warmth and wind free conditions of a greenhouse, conservatory, or windowsill in your home, and are not yet used to the changing temperatures of an outdoor spring day and night, or gusts of winds and big fat drops of rain that could kill them off.
To ‘get the seedling used to these conditions’ (which basically is hardening off) you should gradually introduce the seedlings to outdoor conditions. Do this across a 7 to 10 day period, putting the seedlings outdoors for a few hours at a time, gradually increasing the period each day, and putting them back ‘to bed’ each night.
This way the seedlings get used to outdoor weather conditions, learn to toughen up, and will have a much better chance of survival once you finally plant them out to their final growing positions outdoors. Even then, if harsh frosts appear in the forecast, it is advisable to ‘cloche’ any tender seedlings to give them extra protection. We are currently hardening off our Black Tuscany Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages, Calabrese and Broccoli as well as Sweet Peas and a few other flower varieties.
What if you do lose seedlings to frosts? Don’t be disheartened! It may happen, because as well as frosts there are other things to consider. Pests, like slugs and snails or hungry pigeons are all on the look out for a quick tasty meal. I swear the pigeons in our garden sit watching me plant out seedlings and contact the Pigeon loft hotel nearby.
Seeds can be sown to make up for losses. We have sown seeds direct outdoors without ever having sown any inside and still had a fantastic crop at the end of the season. We’ve even started as late as June and had great crops. Whilst pots or containers will probably require more regular watering than those grown in conventional beds, pots can offer a bit more protection from frost.
Plenty of time, plenty of seed choices. Happy to help provide the seeds of course, but bear with us on stock availability and delivery times in these strange times.
Stay safe everyone and happy gardening, love from Jo and Wendy.