What I’m planting in April
The chill of March is slowly ebbing away, and we have finally put up the heated propagator. Last year, I got over excited and put it up in February – the outcome being that when the plants outgrew the propagator, it was still too cold to plant them out. So, I’ve held back a little this year and hopefully got the timing right. As always, it’s a mix of veg and flowers – I usually plant way too many things and get overwhelmed, so I’m trying to hold back this year and just keep on top of everything.
The field beans and broad beans from last month are mostly germinated, including the saved seed, so that’s exciting! A few more weeks and I’ll pop them out into the veg patch, hopefully around the end of April as it warms up.
What I’m planting in April in the heated propagator
The nights are still cold and frost is still a risk here in Yorkshire, so I’m starting a few bits off in the propagator. Last year it we tracked how much it cost to keep on, and it was negligible – this year it seems to be about 2p an hour after all of the price rises! So we’re popping it on overnight at around 21c, and the residual heat and sunlight keeps it warm through the day.
A slight cheat as I planted these in March, and they’re just peeking their little leaves above the soil. Our chillies did really well last year so this year I’ve got a few more varieties, all from Real Seeds. Last year, ‘Nigel’s Outdoor Chillies’ did excellently in the conservatory, eventually even turning red, and they’re a great versatile chilli with a medium heat, so more of those this year, alongside a hot lemon aji ‘Lemon Drop’ and ‘Kristian’ yellow chillis. I have a feeling chilli jam might be a project later in the year!
Alongside the chillis are some tomatoes – I never really have much success with them but am trying again – I think the greenhouse is slightly too shady for ripening, as even early tomatoes take until the beginning of autumn to start to redden. This year I’ve popped some optimistic ‘Moneymaker’ in, plus some ‘Latah’ early tomatoes that I saved the seed from last year’s crop. The moneymaker seeds say to plant before 2007, but they came up last year so fingers crossed!
Beans and more
I have also sown runner beans, sugarsnap peas, broccoli, sprouts and both round and stripy courgettes. Last year these mostly got eaten by the supersnails but we’ve got to keep trying hey!
Flowers in the propagator
I’m starting off some flowers too – a couple of trays of lobelia, cosmos and a few sunflowers – ‘Vanilla Ice’ from Higgeldy Garden and a nice dark red one. I’ll leave off and sow more in May. I love to sow Lobelia in trays as it’s so easy to divide and pot on – I just pull a clump of soil off with the little seedlings and pop it into a new pot. Our lobelia lasted until the first frost last year. As it grows I pot it on until in a large pot, where it spills over the sides and looks amazing. It seems to do well located around the front which is in shade until the afternoon, then full sun until sunset.
Flowers in the greenhouse
I’ve planted some sweet peas in the greenhouse too – I always find they go leggy if I plant them too early, so I’ve left them until now then they can go straight out when they’re ready! I’m sure there’s a reason for them being leggy (too little light? too much light? who knows) but they grow pretty fast planted later on so no worries. I’ve also sown calendula, brachycome, alliums, rudbeckia and foxgloves in the greenhouse, as well as a hanging basket full of red clover as a bee feeding station!
When to plant out seedlings
Here in Yorkshire, we are still getting a risk of frost and night temperatures are anything from -1c right up to 8c or 9c, so I’ll wait until the risk of frost has passed – probably the start of May to be safe. I find PlantMaps has a great last frost estimator for the UK, and I’ll leave a week or so after that. It’s worth checking the dates for your location as they vary dramatically! After plants have outgrown the propagator, I’ll put the plants into the greenhouse at night and outside during the day to acclimatise. After a few days, it’s into the ground, with some fleece if temperatures are going to drop. Mostly they’re fine, until they get eaten by snails of course.
What’s flowering in April in my UK cottage garden?
The bulbs are just about to break into full riotous colour – hyacinths are out and filling the air with a wonderful smell, the daffodils are nodding in the breeze, and tulips are just about opening! There are fat bumblebees buzzing around the blackcurrant bush, and the pond plants are shining yellow joyous faces above the wriggling tadpoles. Pansies are bobbing about too, and my favourite primrose is absolutely beautiful with its dusky pink flowers. The dandelions are just coming into flower – I leave them all for the bees, and make jam from the flowers, too. I think I might do a future post about why dandelions are so great!
I’d love to know what’s flowering in your garden, or out and about where you live? If you’re in the southern hemisphere, is autumn in full swing now or are flowers and leaves hanging on?
It feels a little weird as this is the first proper post I’ve written in a few months now. But with the spirit of the season, a burst of activity on the blog is long overdue!
I’m a little late, Beltane was a few weeks ago now, but the spirit of the season is strong – that rush of proper spring, where plants are pushing through soil with vigour. The first tentative greens of early spring are deepening, with leaves almost shining as they unfurl, trees luscious, tulips almost glowing. Isn’t it heady? The explosion of life. I feel it waits and waits and then suddenly withing a couple of weeks, some invisible dam breaks and it all comes rushing out at once. I love it.
Here in Yorkshire, the days are noticeably longer – last night there was still that faint greenish glow on the horizon at past 10pm. I love this feeling – my soul season. Long days, colour, that expectation of summer just around the corner. Do you feel it, too? I spend the winter longing for these days, a little unsettled, out of sorts. The last few weeks, suddenly I fit in, and I languish in the smell of blossom, the buzz of the first bees, the wriggle of tadpoles. My soul stretches out like the daylight. The garden brings me solace each season, but the garden at Beltane is really getting into its own.
We lost a bird box in one of the storms earlier this year, but blue tits have moved into the remaining one, and this week we could hear the first hungry cheeps of the tiny hatchlings inside as the parents pop in and out with a relentless supply of creepy crawlies, from dawn to dusk, it seems. Occasionally, they’ll rest a moment on a bird feeder, bedraggled and exhausted, snatching a few bits of peanut or seed before setting off again.
Magpies have tried to nest at the top of the fir tree for the last few years but succumbed to the winds that blow in down the valley. This year, they’ve moved into the willow and successfully weathered a few storms with the nest staying put – and again, this week, we hear babies squawking quietly in response to the parent’s croaks.
The tadpoles are wriggling furiously in the pond – we were planning on having a good clear out of the pond however the day we planned to do it, we awoke to find it full of frogspawn! So a gentle plant trim and scoop of duckweed was done instead. Of course, the duckweed is back in full flow and has covered the surface entirely. Ah well!
We had our first successful tulip year as well. We treated ourselves to a myriad of beautiful, exciting ones from Farmer Gracy, as well as some extras from shops around and about. What a show! I put some tubs by the front of the house to welcome us as we came home, as well as some optimistic ones in the lawn (all came up but at different times!) and more pots around the back. They made such a difference, bringing such colour to the garden and really lifting our spirits. We also managed to plant a bargain bag of reduced mixed daffodils from B&Q which again, gave a really good show, especially since I think it was £3 for the whole bag!
I think investing in the tulips was a great idea. I’ve never bought bulbs from a ‘proper’ place before, and we were so impressed. I think we spent about £25 including some crocuses as well (amazing orange ones!) and just to have that bit of joy and colour as everything else was getting going was really worth the money. I’d love to hear what you’re growing at the moment – if you’re a tulip fan, how did yours get on this year? Where do you buy your bulbs?
We’ve been busy in the veg patch too, but I’ll save that for another post! Hope you have a lovely day,