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Posted on 2nd October, 2023
Is it just me, or has this year got off to the slowest start? Last March, we had unseasonable heat which fried all the seedlings I planted. I had to resow and everything was late. So I started earlier this year. And then we had all the cold! I spent quite a bit of time in the greenhouse last month sowing as it was so wet, so the seedlings, if little else, are on track.These ones are particularly important, not just because a cucumber cost me 75p this week… but because the West Farleigh Annual Plant Sale is on! This fabulous village event is on Saturday 20th May at the church from 11am to 4pm.Please come along to pick up a bargain, and any extras you have will be gratefully received. All proceeds are to the Farleigh Bloomers and the Church, and I'll be donating some slightly more unusual varieties of plants as well asbeing on hand to try to answer any of your gardening queries..
April is one of the lovelier months in the garden I think.Though spring displays of daffodils are waning, hyacinthsand tulips give an amazing display at this time. I like goingfor unusual varieties and in particular Parrot tulips, some ofwhich defy all rules when it comes to colour combinations!
In the borders
With the warmer weather coming and Spring displays out, it's time to look at Summer displays. I try to sow flowers in the first part of April, the days are long enough to ensure the seedlings don't get leggy..and there isa bit more room in the greenhouse as the geraniums are now in the coldframe to harden off. I found a fabulous sunflower this year in anticipation of the annual Sunflower Growing Competition in the village! 'Ms Mars' is an unusualpink variety, still reaching 6' in height and I'm looking forward to seeing how these turn out.
Other summer flowering annuals can be sown now, cosmos, scabious, lobelia and gazania, as well as theflowers I'll be using for companion planting. Calendula 'Needles and Pins' gets to 50cm height and I love the vibrant orange quilled petals.Many summer flowering annuals should be pinched out to encourage a bushier growth. The topmost part of the stem is removed to encourage growth further down the plant. This applies toantirrhinum, sweet peas, petunia, fuschia among others. Dahlia can be pinched out once the stem reaches 1'.It is worth keeping an eye on temperatures inthe greenhouse, surprisingly ours
got to 30⁰C at the end of March, so opening the doors during the day, and closing at night is a must to ensure temperatures don't get too extreme under glass. I won't be putting anything tender out just yet, the dahlia and canna are still under cover and will go out at the end of the month at the earliest.
In the Veg Patch
I've been looking into companion planting more over the last couple of years in my ongoing quest for the ultimate organic garden. Mint or basil with their strongly scented leaves deters aphids which seek out host plants through scent, and can be used near carrots for carrot root fly or tomatoes for aphids, for example.My mint always goes in pots, as it can take over everything if planted in the ground. Planting nasturtium near runner beans to deter blackfly is another method.
The nasturtiums are sadly a 'sacrificial crop', but attract pollinating insects which should dispose of this pest. Calendula, when plantedwith courgette, attracts insects which help with pollination and lead to a better production.If you haven't done so already, carrots and parsnips can be sown outside now, as well as the salad leaves, spring onions, leeks, beetroot and turnips. These are best done as successional sowings to ensure you have produce, all the way through the growing season. Because they need a long growing season, celeriac and swede should be planted at the end of April.I've actually planted my lettuces, rocket and spinach in modular trays, preferring to bring the leafy crops on a bit more before planting out, because if they are bigger, they are more resistant to terminal damage from pests. Squashes and courgettes can be started indoors, as can beans.April is the best time to start feeding all of your plants. I'm experimenting with seaweed fertilisersthis year, rather than artificial, so I'll be able to give you the results later in the year..
Happy Gardening!

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