April Gardening Opportunities
April is a magical time in the garden. This month offers us so many wonderful opportunities. There are so many seeds you can sow now, so whether you favour growing vegetables, herbs, fruit, or flowers, don’t miss this chance to grow the plants that hold a special place in your heart.
Viola tricolor, often known as ‘Heart’s Ease’ is a dainty, yet easy to grow plant, which produces edible and very pretty, purple, yellow, and white flowers that have an attractive painterly quality. These edible flowers have a delicate flavour, which is rather like young salad leaves – sweet but mild. Viola tricolor flowers are ideal for decorating salads. The more flowers you pick, the more your plants will produce.
This wild flower has medicinal properties, which can help to strengthen blood vessels. Viola tricolor flowers were said to heal broken hearts, they were frequently used as an ingredient in love potions.
I find that Viola tricolor grows almost anywhere, in sun or shade. It’s a sweet plant, ideal for window boxes or containers. Seeds of Viola tricolor can be sown direct this month, choose a spot where you can be charmed by these pretty flowers’ whiskery faces, which smile at us so cheerfully, whatever the weather.
Nasturtium ‘Summer Carousel’
Nasturtium ‘Summer Carousel’ produces vibrant flowers in shades of shocking pink and creamy yellow. Nasturtiums produce edible flowers and seeds with a spicy, peppery taste. They’re great plants for wildlife: the flowers attract bees and the leaves are a food plant for the cabbage white butterfly. Seeds can be sown directly in the ground or in containers.
Another plant that’s good for bees and butterflies is Ammi daucoides. This hardy annual produces charming lacy domes of ivory flowers, which are popular with bees, butterflies, and other insects. The blooms are complimented by fresh, green lacy foliage, it makes a fabulous cut flower! Sow seeds directly in the soil, in full sun or partial shade. Add some twiggy pea sticks to support your plants, which will grow to around 1m (3.3ft) tall, depending on your soil.
Broad bean ‘Express’ is a really fast-growing broad bean, if you have room in your garden or allotment, this is an ideal variety to sow directly in the soil this month. Alternatively, Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ is a productive dwarf broad bean that’s a great choice for container growing.
Broad bean plants often attract black bean aphid. If your plants succumb to this pest, don’t worry, just pinch out the top of your plants and they’ll soon disappear – I promise.
Turnip ‘Tokyo Cross’
‘Tokyo Cross’ is a versatile and fast-growing turnip. Every part of this plant is edible, the leaves and roots are both very tasty. Roots can be harvested when they’re radish sized, as baby veg, or left to grow on and harvested between radish and tennis ball size. Sow a number of Tokyo Cross’ seeds every week or two, from spring until autumn, for a regular supply of mild, creamy white turnips and sweet, tasty greens. Seeds can be sown directly where they are to grow, either in containers or in the ground.
It’s lovely to grow your own lettuces and salads. I mix seeds of my favourite lettuce varieties, perked up with a few fennel and basil seeds and sow in window boxes. I enjoy baby leaf salads, I cut the leaves just above soil level after just a couple of weeks’ growth. For a continuous supply, I harvest the leaves from one container one week, and leaves from the other planter, the following week. Keep your plants well-watered and they’ll provide you with crisp, fresh tasting salads, all spring and summer long!
Are you growing any tomatoes? The sooner you sow your tomato seeds the better, as your plants need a considerable amount of time to grow and develop. You’ll find lots of information about tomato varieties I’ve trialled and tested, and the best performing composts for tomatoes, in my Tomato Trials. Tomatoes can be started off inside a glasshouse or on a bright, windowsill. Plant out after all risk of frost has passed, at the end of May or beginning of June.
For more gardening advice for April, please click here.
This article was first published in the April 2019 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.
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