Homestead Kitchen Garden update – what can you be planting in April?

Thank you to Jan, the captain of the garden project for this update on what’s been going on here at the Homestead. We have to say, we are so incredibly grateful for all the hard work of the garden team… the weather has been SUCH a battle, and they have cheerfully worked through snow, rain, and mud, mud mud. It’s such a dream to see it all coming together, and we are so excited to see what produce we get this year for the restaurant. 

I have to also put a little plug in for her, which is the most exciting news that she is having her first book “The Alchemy of Gardening” published in early June! We are so incredibly proud and excited to get our hands on a copy!

Over to Jan for the garden update…

Spring is here, but the rain keeps falling..

Once we get into April, it’s all systems go in the vegetable garden.  After battling through biblical amounts of rain and mud throughout March, we were hoping for some gentler and drier weather.. although so far, it’s not living up to expectations.

Despite this the greenhouse is filling up with seedlings. It’s good wet weather work and we tend to prefer to start early crops off inside in modules, rather than direct sowing. This enables us to keep a close eye on germination and we can give our seedlings the tender loving care they deserve, before we kick them out into the big wide world to fend for themselves.  We are loving the results of using Dalefoot organic and peat free compost, which we were kindly sent samples of, and we will definitely be ordering more to keep us going through this season.

There are some seeds which we have started off in a heated propagator as they need higher temperatures to germinate. These include celery and celeriac, which are both slow growing but actually fairly hardy. We have pricked these tiny seedlings out into trays and will grow them on in the greenhouse for a few more weeks yet until they are bigger plants.

Some seed grows perfectly well without any additional heat, although we have them in the greenhouse, simply to stop them drowning in the incessant rain.  These include, spinach, turnip, beetroot, early peas, broad beans and lettuce.  We have direct sown some salad plants in the beds in the greenhouse, to get a quick crop before the tomatoes and cucumbers are planted in there next month.  We are growing Red Frills mustard, wild rocket, Moss curled and flat leaved parsley, and chervil like this.  We will continue to sow salad leaves and annual herbs through the growing season in order to supply lots of baby leaves for the restaurant, although once it warms up they’ll be in the raised beds.

Finally, we have cheated a little and bought in some seedlings, namely Leeks (Musselbrough), Florence fennel and onions (Long de Florence Simane). We will grow these ourselves from seed next year, but it felt easier to buy them this year as we have had lots to do in planting up the edible forest garden, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything!

Next up in the heated propagator will be courgettes, both green and gold varieties, basil to interplant with the tomatoes in the greenhouse and in a week or two, we will sow Crown Prince squash and dwarf French beans (Aquilon).

Next week we will plant out the young plants of  lettuce (Little Gem), spinach (Viroflay) and turnips (Purple Top Milan) into the raised beds. We will direct sow some radishes (French Breakfast) and some carrots (Nantes) and cover them with netting to keep the birds and squirrels at bay.  We sow carrots between the garlic to disguise them from carrot fly. The forest garden will be soon mulched with a layer of woodchip. This will keep in the moisture (or help to soak up the puddles!) and reduce the need to keep on top of the weeds. It will also feed the soil organisms which will make the plants grow stronger and healthier.

Spring is such a lovely time to be a gardener. The promise of growth and abundant harvests fill us with excitement and I for one, will never, ever become tired of watching the miracle of seeing plants emerging from the tiny seeds we plant.  However, I think we all need to do a Sun Dance in the hope that the weather gods will be kind to us for the rest of the month. Will you join us?

If you are interested in Jan’s work, please do check out her website.


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