By Jon Gunson of TTL

A hundred and fifty years ago, all the farmhouses round here would have had pottery mugs for beer and cider. Many of them would bear the motto, ‘GOD SPEED THE PLOUGH’, and under that, a verse from a song called ‘The Farmer’s Toast’: ” Let the wealthy and great roll along in their state: I envy them not, I declare it; For I eat my own lamb, my own chicken and ham, And I shear my own fleece, and I wear it”.

Not a bad target to aim at, if you are interested in sustainability – unless, of course, you are vegetarian. Which, given the difficulty of keeping a herd of Friesians in a suburban garden, might not be a bad option. The state of the economy being what it is, why not invest in onion futures?

April, then. Let us hope is is not as cold and dark as March has been. Keep some fleece handy, just in case. You can also use this to protect your carrots from root fly, though they are reasonably safe in raised beds or containers. Time to sow more peas, the last broad beans, and the first runners – but these last are vulnerable to late frosts, so it is perhaps best to start them in pots and plant out in May. Still time to get some onion sets in, and shallots, if you are quick. Easter is the traditional planting date for potatoes, but they are not very fussy. Get them in when and where you can, but don’t forget to feed and water. Sow beetroot, chard, perpetual spinach, land cress, rocket and spring onions: plant out spring and summer cabbage, garlic, horseradish, jerusalem artichokes and cauliflowers.

As that lot will keep you pretty busy, you might prefer to buy your greenhouse plants – the tomatoes, indoor cucumbers, peppers and aubergines – as plug plants. And if, like me, your garden microclimate is fairly humid, it might be worth waiting a little, and spending more, on grafted varieties. Partly because it saves work, partly because the crop is larger, but mostly because they are more resistant to disease.

With all this, of course, have one eye on the calendar, and the other on the sky. Last year started dry, and got very wet indeed. This one has started wet, and ….well, we shall see.


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