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On your marks . . . grow your own season gets underway

PUBLISHED: 11:08 08 April 2014 | UPDATED: 13:59 10 April 2014

cucumber seedlings

cucumber seedlings

Archant

The race is on to get vegetable beds ready for the growing season, says gardening expert Belinda Gray

garden nettinggarden netting

It feels a bit like the starting pistol has been fired in the garden and I’m racing to get prepared for plenty of vegetable growing this year. There’s nothing more uplifting than an afternoon of seed sowing in the spring sunshine, listening to the radio in the greenhouse. It gives me a huge sense of getting on.

Seeds that have passed their expiry date can be disappointing so replace favourites now and don’t miss out on a healthy crop because of failed germination. Reflect on your successes from last year and try extending to more varieties as well as trying out some newcomers.

There are certain crops I can’t get through the year without enjoying and I keep a keen eye on sprouting seedlings to ensure success.

Plenty of mixed salad leaves – many different types to ensure a year-round harvest and daily pick, some with crunch, some with heat, some with depth of colour, all creating an exciting salad bowl. Don’t forget edible flowers like crimson nasturtium, blue borage and violas to scatter on top, lots of healthy greens like chard, kale and spinach, plus sorrel and the valuable brassicas like Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli, white and purple and cabbages to feed us in winter.

As we reach April we’re still enjoying the stored crops from a late autumn harvest – they’re so precious to grow as they keep the plot to pot flowing through the hungry gap of late spring.

Specific varieties of squash and pumpkins (mini and giant) do so well if stored in a cool, frost-free place and October dug-up beetroot, celeriac and carrots remain in part buried in wooden boxes of sand to keep us through spring.

Feel inspired to get on with sorting and replenishing your seeds, placing them in a monthly sowing order to keep abreast and start sowing outside, now that wondeful spring soil is warming up.

Seed tips to get you going

• Hardy vegetables – seed can be sown directly outside

• Tender vegetables like beans, courgettes and tomatoes can be started indoors and planted out in May

• Keep seeds until needed in a sealed, dry container in the fridge

• Always use tap water to moisten seed compost

• A top layer of Vermiculite helps prevent ‘damping-off’

• If short on seed sowing space use guttering

• Find space for a seed bed, then transplant in early summer

• Heated propagating mats speed up germination dramatically

• Visit the RHS web site for recommended crop varieties (AGM)

• Try and buy organic, heritage seed www.realseeds.co.uk

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