Purple Dream tulips in their second year, spinach behind was transplanted August, broccoli to right

April 2022 plant raising, how to transplant, using covers, no dig fun, compost, salads, beautiful food, NEW weekly advice

Spring is here, in its usual stop start fashion. If you still have snow, may it melt soon. Be prepared for frost in many areas, and do not rush to sow plants which need warmth. For example I sow cucumbers and courgettes in mid-April, indoors and with warmth.

It’s important to know your average last frost date at this time of year. You may need to cover potato leaves, if they have grown before your likely last frost. Here, that is usually mid-May, and my timeline + now reduced Calendar reveal some results from that.

Meanwhile there are spring flowers to enjoy. Probably some watering too: rainfall here in March was 60% average at 44mm/1.8in. We water by hand, not much yet and only to new plantings.

How to plant and space

Setting plants in the ground is a skill to learn, especially spacing them correctly. My Useful Information lesson has spacing tables, and we shall offer this for free to subscribers of our new weekly-advice email, see below.

One thing that advice on spacing finds difficult is… the distance between different vegetables. Best approach is to use the wider spacing so for example if you want to grow lettuce close to potatoes, and the potato plants on average need 45cm / 18in between them, then 45cm / 18in is the space I would allow between potatoes and lettuce. There is some flexibility in this: radish and turnips if you transplant them now, will finish before say potatoes need the space. Space has a time element. Einstein would have enjoyed growing vegetables, or perhaps he did :). And for more about spacing, this module of Skills has loads of information.

The two beds photographed below are my dig / no dig trial beds and you will see them in a video we publish this coming weekend, which is also about how I grew cover crops of mainly broad beans on these beds over winter. Growth of the bean plants looked pretty similar from December through to 10th March, but after we harvested, cleared and weighed, there was an intriguing difference! Much more than it appeared to the naked eye, and that is an interesting subject again.

Using covers in spring, on new plantings mostly

At this time of year, covers are to convert the excess of light into warmth. And at the same time they keep pests from eating your seedlings. My garden is quite white by the middle of April, when three quarters of beds are planted. Ny early May, we remove most covers, for reuse the following spring.

I’m still looking for non-plastic alternatives and find problems with natural materials. Cotton for example is less warm and five times the price of horticultural fleece. A wool cover I was sent to try it is just too heavy and dark, plus it drops bits of wool on leaves.

Do watch this video on which covers to use and when. We filmed it during last year’s cold April – I mention frost a lot. For a wider view on using covers, including through winter, see this module of my Skills course.

Often I lay covers on the plants. Fleece in particular is so light that new growth can easily push it upwards. Having it flat on the plants means that warmth is better held, close to the plants.
For heavier covers and in frost, steel hoops mage from simple lengths are good, in the UK from Sharanya. Space at 1.5m apart and lay more horizontally than the ones you see on Sharanya’s homepage, because if hoops are bent too vertical they will lose the covers in high wind.

 

Seedlings, and size for transplanting

There are many ways to start seedlings and if you’re a beginner, it might be worth watching this video and this one about first steps in early sowing, and then this one which explains about plants which need warmth.

I start the tiniest seeds in small trays, for eventual pricking out as tiny seedlings. The green tray could have as many as 200 celeriac seedlings, so it’s an efficient way to get a lot of seedlings underway. Then you need a decent compost, a whole subject of itself (most “multipurpose” should work), and then decide how big you want your plants to be before transplanting.

The ones below right are bigger than I normally like to plant out, because larger transplants suffer a check in growth after planting. These are big because probably surplus to requirements, but I keep spare plants for a fortnight or so in case of needing to fill gaps after pest damage.

Raising transplants

The module trays I designed are proving popular, and you can set plants in the ground from them at 3 to 4 weeks old, without needing to pot on. This saves much time, see this comment from You Tube, Chis Foster in Georgia 27th March:

Your module trays make things SO much easier. It’s great to be able to pop smaller younger plants into the garden, for less transplant shock, and speed of growth. Yesterday,  I transplanted radish and turnips from your trays that were less than 2 weeks old! The root balls were already developed and they were ready to go in the ground, from smaller cells that require less compost.

I’m certainly finding they meet requirements for raising all transplants except those who seeds are enormous, such as broad and runner beans. You can buy all three sizes from different suppliers, according to where you are and including North America, as in my links page

In the ground, they look small, and carrots can be difficult

New transplants often look disarmingly small and vulnerable. Yet in my experience they often survive better than larger plants, because they can adapt more quickly to the new situation and start growing almost straight away, which gives strength to resist pests such as slugs. With no dig you should not have too many slugs (those ground beetles you spared by not digging will be eating slug eggs)  but if you do suspect them, I would go out with a torch at dusk to see what’s crawling, and cut or remove them.

Sowing direct is another matter and I have only today seen my first miniscule carrot seedlings, from seed sown two weeks ago. Cold nights are slowing progress.

Making no dig beds

I see more and more posts now on social media of people doing this and it’s lovely that the simplicity of it is being noticed and used. You need a decent amount of compost and that can be the main restriction in terms of how much space you can take in. Do check out Woodland Horticulture in Somerset, and any local supplier. Even make a new bed for planting asparagus, if you can find crowns (plants).

For the bed of rosemary plants below I’m using old woodchip. It’s an experiment, because there may still be too much wood in it, which will be taking nitrogen away from plant roots. This can be an issue with ‘hugel’ beds which have much wood at the bottom, but many of them also have a lot of decent soil and compost above the wood, to feed growth for a year or two until the wood is decomposing.

In the new bed below, by autumn the roots of the rosemary will be into the soil below and even if the plants are weak at first, they should finish the year strongly and go on to be successful. We shall need to remove regularly the bindweed / convolvulus and probably some dandelions. See my no dig book (also in digital) and online course.

No dig fun with interplanting

Thanks to the absence of weeds with no dig, it’s considerably easier to pop in new plants almost anywhere you find space. There are no absolute rules for which plants like other plants because in my experience they all enjoy variable company.

The key factor to consider is that main growth periods should not overlap too much. For example the broad beans below are now starting to grow strongly and will soon need all the space. Therefore we shall soon remove the salad plants, which have cropped over winter.
Back in November we had transplanted the chervil, mustards and Claytonia, at the same time as sowing broad beans. The bed has been under a mesh all winter, and received the annual 3cm dose of compost before setting out the salad plants.

Removing cover crops to transplant

Most beds here are full of vegetables for most of the growing season. Then sometimes we sow or transplant a cover crop / green manure in late autumn. It’s a gamble with the weather because sometimes they hardly grow but this winter they have. And then, how do you remove the plants?

Photos below show removal of broad beans which were sown in November. We cut them just below ground level to leave roots in, including nitrogen nodules, then we transplanted beetroot on the same afternoon.

With no dig, a few larger plants are easier to remove than many small ones. You could cover the cover crop (!) with cardboard or plastic, but then you lose time while waiting for plants to die, plus slugs accumulate under such covers. If dug in, they rob soil of nitrogen initially, plus there is digging-damage.

Making compost and red worms Eisenia fetida

I have modified my new worm bed after advice from an expert, John Atack. I’m amazed how little I know about worms and how they may or may not be involved in making compost.

You can certainly make great compost without worm contributions.  Or you can set up smaller heaps which get less hot, attract red worms, and don’t kill weed seeds! We are trying all of these, you see them on courses here and during the special compost-making afternoon course in June.

 

Spring salad harvests

Vegetable harvests now get more exciting every day Not only in terms of there being new vegetables, but also for the improving quality. Extra light and warmth means the leaves have a lustre which was not there during the winter.

We notice this when harvesting every week from the same plants, since November. In mid winter the leaves are small and matt, while now they are vibrant and shiny. The radish are a wonderful bonus – we interplanted them where a few lettuce had died from cold and mould.

Eating the vegetables

Vegetables have amazing colour and for me it’s one of the best aspects of eating them! Equally impressive is the flavour of homegrown, and an extra but invisible quality is the health-giving microbes you eat, without ever seeing them!

The photos below give an idea of what we serve at lunch on courses here, all grown at Homeacres except chickpeas. The dishes illustrate what our chef, Catherine Balaam (@catherinebalaam on IG)  is working on for recipes in her book. All being well this appears at year’s end.

My favourites are in the right-hand photograph, celeriac remoulade with radish around, Swede/rutabaga chips, and Crown Prince squash roasted with a tahini sauce in the middle.

Seed saving

This is not always easy and I’ve had problems this spring from different batches of my own 2021 seeds saved at different times.

You need extra space in your garden for seeding plants. For many vegetables you need more than one plant to ensure a large pool of genes, which prevents inbreeding.

Learn more on Real Seed’s website where you can download a free booklet, and in the module about Seeds and Sowing that we are selling at a discount now.

Weekly advice NEW – subscribe monthly

We receive requests for advice in the form of weekly reminders of jobs best done during the coming few days. Everything grows better when the timing is good. So we have started a new weekly advice newsletter. It gives advice on sowing, transplanting, protecting, weeding and harvesting for the week ahead.

In the photo below is Anna, who helps me with books and website. She has never gardened before, is busy raising children, and now wants to have a go. She’s creating new no dig beds, where she’s standing in her garden. Anna will contribute to the weekly email, with a beginner’s perspective.

The ‘What, When and How’ will run for 9 months each year, from February until October, and costs £5/month. New subscribers receive a free one-week trial period, and subscribers will not be charged during the months of November, December and January. You can unsubscribe at any time but without refunds for cancellation part-way through a subscription month.

We offer this free if you are on universal credit, run a community garden or an allotment association, or garden for schools.

You can subscribe here, via Campaignzee

Or by visiting the signup box on the home page.

29 thoughts on “April 2022 plant raising, how to transplant, using covers, no dig fun, compost, salads, beautiful food, NEW weekly advice

  1. Hi Charles,
    I have big trouble with seedlings leaves getting burnt by the Sun. The only place I can start seedlings inside is in my back bedroom, which has a West facing window .Unfortunately a lot of the seedlings go leggy quickly and seedlings such as Brussels Sprouts are very easily burnt by the Sun in the evening. I have put up a net curtain but this still doesn’t solve the problem.
    Where do you suggest I move the seedlings to? because the rest of the house is heated or better insulated, but the back bedroom is still single glazed.

  2. Just catching up. I was doing quite well sorting my seeds for sowing and then I caught covid in the middle of <arch and am only now fit enough to carry on. I seem to have missed some vital weeks for sowing . is it too late to catch up with my parsnips, tomatoes and anything else that should have gone in the ground by now?

    Liz

    1. Hi Liz, sorry to hear that, and it’s fine to sow parsnips now, even until mid-June.
      Onions can grow but will be smaller, tomatoes is just possible – sow today!!

  3. Hello Charles,

    Firstly thank you so much for educating us all- it’s absolutely amazing how much free information you provide. I tell many many people about your videos and website and no dig.

    But, I have one question that I can’t find the answer too and I’ve scrolled through so many of your videos and posts. Can I lay cardboard down this late in the year without having problems with my plants rooting through the cardboard?

    I have started the project this year to bring life back to the once thriving veg plots in the campsite that I work at in NW Cornwall. There is healthy fertile soil on two plots that had been overgrown for years. I have prepared them and removed weeds, and the huge roots that were throughout the beds. Now I have lay cardboard down ( collected from the local bike hire shop) and I have ton bag filled with well rotted horse manure from the farm next door and also ton bags of compost ready to mulch. My question is- is it okay that I am laying the cardboard down this late in the year with the plan to start planting very soon?

    I am being questioned about it- that the plants with deep roots will have problems rooting. I have lay the cardboard down and literally so ready to mulch but am having debates about the cardboard- after much searching and reading of your posts I can’t find the answer I’m looking for. I would appreciate if you could advice me.

    Thank you again for all your time and efforts to educate us all.

    Take Care,
    Bobbie

    1. Hi Bobbie
      Thanks for your nice comments it’s a good question but difficult to answer for two reasons. Firstly if the weather stayed damp, the cardboard remains soft and within average two months it’s soft and roots can pass down, while weeds also can pass upwards. Taproots like parsnip & carrot may not be long in year one. If the weather were dry when laying the cardboard, I would water it.
      However, I wonder whether you even need this cardboard, because you say you have removed weeds, which I guess means at least the big ones. Now you are putting a lot of horse manure and that could well be enough to smother remaining weeds, say if it’s 4 inches/10 cm.

  4. I’m anticipating having to cover my early potatoes to protect new growth from frost at some point. I know on our allotment site here in Norfolk, people have had varied success. I wondered if black plastic as a temporary overnight cover might work. Or cardboard under a thermacrop cover. Do you have a favoured method Charles? Many thanks.

    1. The quickest is a double layer of fleece.
      Cardboard risks blowing away – it’s amazing how often there is still a breeze at 9 pm, before frost, so your idea of a cover over cardboard is a very good one

  5. Can I just say that Kale “rising to flower” is no reason to dispose of the plants…I have discovered this year the beauty of the Brassica family.One example is my Brussel Sprouts.The sprout buttons were not the best but the sprout tops,the upper leaves and finally the the flowering stalks are a tasty addition to any meal!! PSB is another example with the upper leaves and flowering shoots being gorgeous!! Ok, I think my allotment is probably “looked down” on by the “pretty boy” gardeners but the food coming out of it is very welcome.

  6. Just been down to the plot to remove the fleece from the beetroot, turnip and kohlrabi as the weather is predicted warm and sunny the next four days. All have done well under the fleece, although the soil is still not as good as the back garden (3rd year no dig vs 8th) as evidenced by little nibbling of leaves and roots on the radish crop. Still going to be an excellent April harvest, but not the sort of professional perfection I’ve achieved at home the past two years. It does show how important compost making is in no-dig gardening.

    I’ve also noticed no harmful effects to pea shoots, lettuce, coriander, kohlrabi, cauliflower and onions from being transplanted into no dig beds now covered with 18 month old wood chip. Basically, the dibber holes get down through to the no-dig soil below and the plants look great not having been watered since 3 days after being transplanted. The test is what final harvests are going to be like, but so far, it does seem that it’s going to be a viable strategy for water retention in the warmer, drier SE of England.

    Also wondering whether watering celeriac and celery from below is necessary – just watering transplanted plants in 40 module trays does seem to lead to a few keeling over. Still got enough to set out though…

    1. Sounds good Rhys.

      Be careful not to generalise, for example when you say the importance of compost making for no dig, because that applies to all gardening.

      Watering from above has never caused my plants any damping off problem, and I think that’s more to do with ventilation, or watering too late in the day although I think you water in the morning, or the quality of compost, or just giving too much water. In your case I would suspect the compost

  7. “Something always eats pak choi” (No Dig Gardening Course 1 p. 193) – at the moment it’s my wife and myself. Thanks to you, Charles, we sowed all those leaf vegetables in August/September, and the pak choi, under mesh ever since, is now supplying endless beautiful stir-fries, together with the broccoli from one of those very useful mixed seed packets which do your succession for you. Kale I have just put on the compost, after removing loads of leaves, as it was rising to flower. Question about spinach (‘Matador’): it is the last of those leaf crops to start growing again. Is that normal?

    1. Thank you for this nice feedback Alan, it delights me to know people are eating lots of healthy food. Especially in winter.
      Yes spinach is definitely slower than those brassicas, but from now it should grow very strongly. Spinach leaves at this time are highly nutritious, very good at converting the abundant light to high value growth.

  8. Thanks for specifying how far apart you place your hoops. I was trying to find that information everywhere on your website/old forum, couldn’t find it anywhere, and magically, its appeared this week!
    Just purchased mine now from Reddifast 🙂

    1. Hi Danielle
      I’ve emailed redifast several times asking for a price for the cloche wire, but no reply yet.
      Could you let me know the price you paid.
      Many thanks
      Phil

  9. HI Charles
    I sowed my lettuces ion 14th Feb and pricked them out in CD60 modules when small as usual and put in the unheated greenhouse but they have not really grown very much, despite the warmth we had for 2 weeks just gone. i have used the Dalefoot seed compost and wondering if it is the cause of the slow growth. Any ideas anyone?

    1. Sorry to hear that Ali. The seed compost does have fewer nutrients than potting. Hard to say because they change the mix year on year.

      1. I use Melcourt Sylvagrow multi purpose for seeds, pricking out etc (it’s peat and green waste free). Although it’s coarse and the recipe does change, I’ve had no problems with CD60s. Cost seems to vary a lot but luckily a nursery near me stocks it at a reasonable price.

        1. I’ve just done a trial of Melcourt Sylvagrow multi-purpose peat-free versus the same brand organic peat-free. The organic was much better. Multi-purpose produced small, yellowish seedlings and for the peas, they had purple edges. Organic were sometimes twice the size after a few weeks and much healthier colour. That was for rocket, mixed salad, peas and kale. Didn’t notice a difference with broad beans.

      2. Thanks for responding when this cold has gone I will put them out with fleece and see if they are happier

  10. The steel rods are a bit too expensive for me. But for anyone with access to decent sized bamboo rods (I inherited a small bamboo forest of 4 metre plus here in SW France), a Japanese 4-way bamboo splitter provides a good alternative source of fleece support rods. The material can also be used to make small cloches, or rabbit-proof chicken wire covers etc. Even hurdle-style fences. Amazon and others import and sell them.
    They retain their shape which may or not be an advantage depending on storage area. Once past their best they can be chipped for path mulch and renewed with fresh.

  11. Morning Charles, I wonder if I could ask you a question, I have had leek moth etc., on my leeks for the last few years, even though I cover them, last year they were covered in fine enviomesh from planting out and still they all got destroyed, I have read that 30g fleece would work instead or as well as the mesh, what is your opinion. Many thanks.

    1. Hi Chris
      If the mesh is not working, neither will fleece because it’s the same principle of trying to exclude the moths from flying in. What you describe makes me wonder if you have Allium leaf miner, which burrows into leeks and causes much damage and is harder to exclude, often living in the soil. Best look it up!

      1. Thanks Charles, I think it is Allium leaf miner from your description I will try again this year, much further down the garden, hopefully the little pests wont discover them, if not I will give the allium family a miss for a year to see if that eradicates them.

  12. I already subscribe to your YouTube channel, is there a chance I could get a small discount if I now sign up to the weekly advice email?

    1. Thanks Martin and we receive no income from people subscribing to YouTube. I wonder if you mean that you are a member? Even so the logistics of that are beyond us for now, we only just have time to sort all this out and feel free to message again later

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