My tomatoes are already looking like young plants as opposed to seedlings and the peppers, aubergines and chillies are almost racing away. It always amazes me how quickly a longer day and some warmth really does kick plants on and it's a joy to watch.
Of course, alongside the early starters, other seeds are now on the go. I always say it feels like springtime is like raising an army, a green, joy-filled army that will give back so much later in the year. It's staggering how much growth an allotment will put on over a season, all from something I could have held in one hand in the month of April.
However, it’s not all done without a lot of effort and currently, you find me drowning in the meditative process of ‘pricking out’, that gentle stage of moving the young seedlings from seed trays to a bigger space, a delicate process that involves being careful only to touch the leaves as you prize out your new seedling with a dibber and re-plant it in its very own pot. I am a big believer in pricking out, it makes for a stronger plant later and, you can re-plant your seedling deeper allowing it to fill out its new space more effectively. This is even more important if you are growing plants on a windowsill setting as they tend to stretch and become leggy due to the light only coming from one angle.
In London, it’s also time for the salad and root crops to start going in. I know our northern gardening friends will be hanging back still, but their longer daylight hours through summer means they will soon catch up. These plants, from beetroot to the leafy rocket will be regularly sown at intervals throughout the growing season, providing me with fresh organic produce at the fraction of the cost of shop-bought veg - sure I understand that it takes graft but that's a bonus, not a downside, in short, its exercise and healthy eating all round. Just as an aside, this year I’m growing a carrot called ‘Ibiza ‘ which will take me back to my dancing days.
Another little tip I thought I should share is one regarding starting off parsnips, literally my favourite root veg, which when I sow in the ground tend to put on a lot of top growth but very little parsnip. I start the seed now in saved toilet roll centres, they germinate on the balcony and then are planted straight out on the allotment with no root disturbance, and it really seems to help them produce decent parsnips. I wonder if it's a southern thing or whether it is practised throughout the country?
I cannot go from this month’s blog without mentioning the incredible plant genus that is magnolia that has put on a display this March/April that is second to nothing. The sheer effort that these plants, who were among the first angiosperms on our planet to produce insect pollinating flowers, really is something to behold and all this time later they are still doing it in our front gardens and parks, they truly are heroes.
Just before I go, don't forget to check out the new Garden Organic ‘Grow along’ on Instagram with yours truly and then why not join in and we can all get happy gardening together.