What to do in April

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As temperatures warm and days get longer, seeds become easier to sprout and seedlings will grow in front of your eyes on sunnier days.

There is loads of stuff you can sow now. Just keep an eye an eye out for those pesky slugs waking up after winter.

If you’re new to growing, this is one of the best times of year to start on your first growing projects!

Advice below is based on the UK climate. While it’ll be relevant for most other Northern hemisphere countries, exact sowing dates will vary from region to region. Look on Google for a seed sowing calendar for your neck of the woods and use together with the tips below.

This month

  1. What you can sow outside
  2. What you can sow inside
  3. Other jobs: slug and snail purge, “potting up” tomatoes,  rejuvenating old compost, acclimatising seedlings to outdoor conditions, starting a wormery.

1. What you can sow outside

The following can all be sown outside this month – either direct in their final pots or in modules or seed trays.

  • Snap peas, mangetout and broad beans.
  • Root veg: spring onions, radish, beetroot and carrots (you’ll need to start these in modules or in their final container as the baby plants do not like their roots to be disturbed).
  • Salads: lettuce, rocket, and most other salad crops.
  • Oriental greens: pak choi, mibuna, mizuna, mustard red giant etc. (‘Officially’ you should wait until after the summer solstice to sow most Oriental greens as the lengthening days at this time of year may encourage the plant to produce flowers rather than leaves. But I like them so much I can’t resist sowing some now – and you’ll still get a reasonable crop).
  • Leafy veg: kale, swiss chard, and leaf beat. You can also sow spinach and traditional cabbages now – but I’ve always found leaf beat and Chinese cabbages to be easier and more productive in containers.
  • Potatoes: if you sow ‘first early’ potatoes now, you should get a crop before the end of July. This will give you time to grow another crop – like runner beans or a courgette – in the same pot later in the year. When sowing potatoes before the last frost, cover the top of the container with clear plastic  or horticultural fleece to protect the emerging shoots from any late frosts.
  • Herbs: including coriander, chives, parsley, sorrel, lovage, dill.  By the way, dill, coriander and chives all produce flowers that will attract beneficial insects.

 

Salads can be sown outside now (particularly in warmer areas) or started inside for faster germination and then outside as seedlings.

Salads can be sown outside now (particularly in warmer areas) or started inside for faster germination and then moved outside as seedlings. Here are some baby chard and rocket seedlings.

2. What you can sow inside

Although it’s getting appreciably warmer this month, you still can’t sow the following tender plants outside until the risk of frost in your area has passed (‘tender’ means they’re killed by frosts). In the UK this is usually the end of April / mid May, depending on where you live (if you live in the UK, USA or Australia, you can find the date of the last frost in your region here).

  • Tomatoes: you still have time to start tomatoes from seed – sow them as soon as you can – and by the end of the month at the latest.
  • Runner and French beans: if you want an early crop, you can sow some inside now to move outside after the last frosts. Starting beans inside is also a good strategy to protect them from slugs. Slugs just love emerging seedlings!
  • Courgettes, squash, cucumbers: sow these indoors this month if you want an early crop. These crops can grow big quite quickly so you’ll just want to check you’ve got enough space to accomodate them inside until the risk of frost in your area is over.
  • Herbs: including basil and green perilla (a tasty Japanese herb, a nice alternative to basil).
You need a bright space  to raise seedlings effectively inside. If your indoor space is not very bright, you can germinate seeds inside and then move the baby seedlings outside on warmer days, provided you give them plenty of protection (a seed tray with a plastic cover – a “propagator lid” – is perfect for salads).

You can, if you prefer, sow most of these crops outside next month once the risk of frost in your area is over. The one exception is tomatoes – as May is a bit late for most varieties – but you can always buy plants in May or June if you prefer.

 

3. Other jobs

 

Do a slug and snail purge

Before putting your precious seedlings outside, hunt for lurking slugs and snails in your growing space. Slugs love seedlings and can decimate a whole crop in one night. Look under pots, in cracks, behind any foliage (eg ivy or other evergreen creepers). The trick with slugs and snails is to keep on top of the population all year – and a purge early on will help a lot. A few not do little harm, but a population out of control will quickly get demoralising.

Here's a bunch of snails that were, until a week ago, lurking behind some ivy on the wall. I found at least 20 in total! Getting on top of the population at the start of the season is one of the best ways of keeping them under control later on.

Here’s a bunch of snails that were, until a week ago, lurking behind some ivy on the wall. I found at least 20 in total. Getting on top of the population at the start of the season is one of the best ways to keep them under control later on.

Potting on

When a seedling grows too big for its pot, it needs to be moved into a bigger pot in order to maintain healthy growth. This is called ‘potting on’. How do you know when a plant is ready to ‘pot on’? A tell tale sign is when you see the roots of the plants beginning to appear through the holes in the bottom of its pot. Move your tomatoes, aubergines and chillies into larger pots filled with good quality multipurpose or potting compost. Mine are already beginning to get quite big…. which is good as long as I can find space to accommodate them.

 

The roots of this tomato are just appearing at the bottom of the pot - this is a sign that it's just about time to move this one to a bigger pot.

The roots of this tomato are just appearing at the bottom of the pot – this is a sign that it’s just about time to move this one to a bigger pot.

Acclimatising plants to the outside

‘Hardening off’ is the term for adapting the plants you’ve started inside to the colder, windier, more fluctuating weather conditions outside. Move your plants outside for a few hours each day on warmer days and remember to bring them in at night. If you need to leave them outside all day while you’re at work, try to provide them with some sort of cover – eg in a mini greenhouse – or, failing that, just put them out on the warmest days (when it’ll be over 10 degrees for tomatoes and not too windy).

Rejuvenating old compost

You can re-use old compost to grow in again this year. The nutrients in the old compost will have been depleted so you’ll need to add some fertiliser, like some worm compost or chicken manure pellets. You can read more about how to re-use compost here.

Start a wormery

If you’re thinking of getting a wormery, spring is one of the best times to do this. It takes time to get a new wormery established. If you start one now, you’ll get lots of wonderful worm compost in time for next year. You can buy a wormery or it’s easy to make your own, here’s how.

 

 

44 comments… add one

  • Really informative post. Thanks

    Reply
  • Hi Mark and Conor,
    When I was young I was told that if one had three feeds of young nettles (stewed) in the Spring,they would remain healthy for the whole year.

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  • Hi Mark
    I’m interested in making feeds from what ever’s around the place ie nettles and manure , I’m aware that feeds can be made from comfee but can it be made with borage leaves as they are aboundent on my plot as well as in my back garden.
    Regards
    Conor

    Reply
    • Hi Conor, I think you can make a feed from just about any green plants – they will all contain some nutrients. Comfrey mines for minerals which is why its so good, but I’m sure I’ve heard that borage (and definately nettles) makes a pretty good feed, too. I’d experiment with it and see what results you get. This is also something on my list to learn more about in the future!
      Mark

      Reply
  • Hello Mark, I am so happy to have stumbled upon your site! We are moving to a house with a nice compact yard where I plan to do a lot of gardening.
    I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the U.S. We have just gotten rid of our snow. I have some plants started in the house and itching to transplant now that the soil is warming. The property has a wonderful but unsightly, galvanized chain-link fence encircling the yard. I was thinking I could grow cucumbers, squash, melon on the fence. Will the galvanized metal leach into the plant making the vegetable unsafe to eat?
    I know I will be looking forward to every post!!! Thanks again Mark! Jen

    Reply
    • Hi Jen, I can’t claim to be an expert in such matters but as far as I know there shouldn’t be any problems with leaching between the climbers and the galvanised fence. It sounds like a wonderful idea to transform your yard! You might needs some netting or ties to help the plants climb or they may do unaided – worth keeping any eye on. Do let us know how it goes.

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  • hi mark

    here in Teesside the seedlings are growing quite nicely,(hope we dont but the kybosh on this). radish,beans,peas an carrots are well away, beetroot poking thru, onions hmmmm not as prominent, but hey its early yet. Spuds sown 3 weeks ago in pots(an old plastic bin) parsnips in covered place indoors, and early salad leaves are showing.

    lets hope for a bumber crop.

    good gardening

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  • Hello Mark,Thank you so much for your useful information.Your Chard looks really good.Its raining here in London after a long dry spell.I have just planted out some Sonsma cabbage plants into a long trough and will plant some more into a large pot.I haven’t grown them before,but managed to get the seeds from Tuckers.
    Im re potting my tomato seedlings Moneymaker into larger pots.Much too early to put out yet.

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    • Sounds great, Brendan. What sort of space do you have to grow in London? Yes Chard is a great container crop – sow it in August / early sept and it keeps going for a full year or more.

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  • Hi
    I followed your advice in the autumn and sowed pea seeds for pea shoots to have in salads. Having bought dried green peas from the grocery rather than expensive pea seeds, I sowed thickly and often, to the point that I couldn’t eat them all! I left one pot to grow on just to see what happened. They have now flowered and are gaily producing pea pods! Obviously much earlier than from a normal spring sowing. When they are fat I will try cooking them. A very interesting experiment, thank you,

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy, that IS a really interesting experiment – and a great discovery, getting fresh peas in April is amazing. Well done and thanks for sharing your very interesting experiment with us.

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  • Hello! This is my first attempt at growing vegetables & fruits. So far everything seems to be growing well! I have peas, tomatoes, basil, carrots, strawberries, hot chili peppers, and parsley. Most things I started from seeds so it has been very fun to watch. My toddler loves helping and even knws what each plant is. It has been a great learning experience for us to share. I do have a few questions though…

    Is it okay that my peas are climbing not only my bamboo but also one another? Will this hurt them? I have 2 in one pot and 3 in another. Each has a bamboo teepee.

    Also…
    It looks like some of my containers have moss/mold growing on top of the soil. Will this hurt my plants?

    Reply
    • Hi Denise,
      Sounds amazing, well done! Your peas will be OK if they are in their final pot – you can just leave them to climb and rome, you may occasionally just need to tie them on to the bamboo as peas are not always the best at climbing straight sticks (they prefer netting or bent twigs but canes can work OK too with a bit of tying). If you need to move the peas and seperate them then it can sometimes be a bit tricky if they climb over each other as they can form quite a tangle – and untangling without damaging the peas can sometimes be a bit tricky.
      Moss won’t hurt your plants but it sometimes a sign of either over watering or poor drainage. Check the pot has good holes in the bottom and feel the compost with your finger a couple of inches down – it should be damp but not wet, if that makes sense (like a rung out flannel).
      Mark

      Reply
  • Wow!
    It’s facinating to read what gardeners are doing across the ocean! And even more surprising to see that in the UK you have almost the same season as here in eastern Canada! Us too are starting our tomatoes and herbs. Eggplants and peppers are sprouted since a good month and onions are in the soil since the end of February (inside of course). It is still quite risky to sow peas outside but lettuces and spinach seeds are outside (in my garden anyways) working on their eclosion (but not in straight lines unfortunately because a huge flood, caused by the melting of so much snow this week, probably took them away. Maybe far away!)

    I just discovered a fantastic sharing network sprouting in Montréal (Canada) and slowly spreading through out the world. It’s called PlantCatching, maybe you’ve heard of it? We simply write in information about our surplus perenial plants, seeds, seedlings, gardening tools and harvest. Or write in our needs. And then we can take contact with other gardeners of our community to give, receive or share the goody gargening goods!
    Of course it works better when many members of a community use it, so I’m in the process of making it known in my area. You could make it grow into your community!
    Here, look it up! http://plantcatching.com/en

    Looking forward to your next mounthly post.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing that Christine, hope all is continuing to come up well and I will check out that website.

      Reply
  • Hello!
    I must take the chance to say I’m so happy to have come across your super pedagogical film about how to make a wormery. I’ve been thinking about doing one for many years but it never happened. But your film made me super inspired so now I about to get started! I even think I have found a neighbor who can “lend” me a couple of worms.
    I have 20 tomato plants in my living room, growing fast. I suspected that roots trying to get out through the holes was a sign of them needing more space, so now I have that confirmed. I have a lot of potting on to do (At least I know what to give friends during the coming weeks.)
    I live in the middle of Sweden and I have only been growing food for a couple of years, slowly expanding and trying new things. Beet roots have always worked great for me so I will probably start with them soon. I am a garlic lover and I have garlic popping out here and there in a couple of boxes and the other day I put broad beans among them, inspired by a gardener friend who meant that they are great nitrogen supporters which might do the garlic good, we’ll see.
    My living room is also crowded with my “safe cards” (having tried them a couple of years with success): leeks, yellow pepper/paprika and chili. I also have two small artichokes (which I’ve never grown or eaten before so we’ll see what happens) and cauliflowers. Last year I tried cauliflower but they were eaten by cabbage larva (?) so my plan was to start them inside earlier this year and do better in covering them up for some time in the beginning. My dream is to succeed with a couple of them this year. I think I also will try scorzonera (salsify?) which I stumbled upon but know nothing about (more than it’ll need a deep container). But it is still cold here and I feel so impatient.
    Thank you for your wonderful inspiring website and facebook page! I have secretly enjoyed reading your posts here and there for some time!

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  • What do you do with the snails when you find them, Mark? I heard on the radio just this morning that a large percentage of uk gardeners admit to throwing them over into a neighbour’s garden! Victoria

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  • Hi Mark
    At last I have a garden after moving house. I have sown some herbs inside on window sill two weeks ago, they are looking good, will harden off when bigger. I have a disability so will have to container garden until i can afford raised beds or work out how to make my own. Very exited and eager to get started. Going to go through all my packets of free seeds collected from gardening magazines and friends. Must contact local council for free compost. Should i mix in some garden soil to improve the structure of the compost? Now going to drill holes in old small blue recycling bin nto create wormery thought no idea where to get worms. Would worms that you buy for fishing do or would any worms i find in the garden help.

    Reply
    • Hi Lorraine, sorry for this long overdue reply, I got rather behind on all my correspondence. I love your enthusiasm! The question about whether you should mix in some garden soil is a tricky one as it depends on lots of things – in particular the quality of your garden soil, and whether or not it might have been contaminated (not uncommon for soils in towns to have been). It can work well but is usually not necessary. It might be interesting to try it in few pots and see if it makes much difference.

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  • Hi Mark, thanks for this post. We’ve been thinking to build a small wormery (more or less the size of the one of your post about how to make one). But we are wondering, how to “harvest” the compost and how to know when it is ready to do so. We’ve been researching the internet, and find very different ways. As we’re religiously following your advices, we would like to know how you do you do it.

    Right now I already sow different kinds of salads, also some Asia greens (Pak Choi and Mizuna), nasturtium, spinachs, chards… We’re still deciding if we should sow carrots or kale on the last empty box, though I have no idea how to harvest and maintain kale. Here is quite traditional, but for autumn, usually harvested after the first frost (then made into a traditional dish, where the kale is cooked longer along with a very greasy sausage, we don’t like at all that way of eating kale), otherwise you don’t find fresh kale on any supermarket outside autumn time…. So it is ok to grow kale in spring/summer time? We have no idea!

    We bought small plants of tomatoes and pepper bells. Going to plant them on the bigger box along with basil (read last year that basil keeps bugs out of tomatoes and peppers, help with the flavor and growth- nutrients? ). Last year we did so, and despite the terrible weather (a lot of rain and quite a cold summer), the tomatoes went relatively ok (not at all close to the tomatoes of your photos, how did you achieved that!?).

    And also planted yesterday the 4 strawberry plants we bought, 2 early crops, 2 summer crops, in my vertical grid with felted bags (as pots). Last year as well, even with the cold weather, the plants grew relatively ok. Let’s see this year. (see photo: http://bit.ly/1ivZpjs)

    And also slowly we’re getting our terrace in order and building up new and old shelves after the last october storms broke down everything (the one that hit us very hard here in North Germany and Denmark).

    Thanks again for your posts and info!

    Van

    Reply
    • Hi Van, sorry this slow reply, I got a behind with correspondence. Worm compost is ready when it smells like soil. I don’t there’s any one best way to harvest it, it just depends on what wormery you have. But I must write a proper post on this as I am being asked about it a lot! Ha, your comment about sausages and kale made me laugh. Kale can pretty much be grown all year round (in the UK at least). Here it is often known as a good ‘hungry gap’ plant – one of the few you can eat in the gap between winter and early summer. For early spring leaves it needs to be sown in the late summer and it will keep going through winter and then put on a growth spurt in early spring. I love the sound of all that you are achieving in your growing – do send me a photo one day. Very best, Mark

      Reply
      • Hi Mark, sorry for the slow reply. I knew you would laugh about the kale story.. well its a true fact. Anyway, they started to appear a couple of days ago! Same as the swiss chard and the spinachs.. happy! Today I covered them with a transparent foil that its supposed to help the tomatoes growth. Let’s see how it goes. A common household transparent foil already helped with the seedlings of celery and nasturtium flowers, so let’s see. I already shared some photos in your facebook page.

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  • Hi Mark, nice to meet you in the Station Masters Garden Whitley Bay. I am experimenting with making a container veg garden in an old ‘dumpy’ bag, the kind used for transporting square metres of gravel etc. These are often not returnable, so end up in landfill. I am folding/rolling the bag inwards to the required depth, which also gives some rigidity to the structure. I shall place other containers around to disguise the outside, but you could use willow screen or the like, cut to size, to make the garden more eye pleasing! I hope the potential depth of this garden will be an advantage for root crops and tall plants like runner beans and sweet peas. Looking forward to a workshop at Whitley Bay soon. Happy gardening, Sue

    Reply
    • Hi Sue, old dumpy bags make great containers (you pretty much get a raised bed). I really like your idea of surrounding it with other containers – and the willow screen idea, that would disguise it beautifully. I much enjoyed my visit to the Station Master’s garden, a wonderful place, and I look forward to watching it continue to evolve – and to visiting again! Mark

      Reply
  • Hello all,
    I have recently moved onto a small piece of land on a farm where I work. I have a small area to grow what I like and as I have a young dog and a mischievous puppy I am growing most things high up to avoid plants and veg being dug up!
    I am growing 2 blueberry plants in a big pot, various herbs, rockets and watercress. Some other things I have are clematis, ferns, fatsia, dogwood in pots and crates. All are growing well. I will plant more lettuces, climbing French beans and ‘finger’ carrots soon.
    I have a question about a young aloe vera in a small pot which I have on a windowsill inside, in the last week I’ve noticed a mass of what I think are greenfly and their eggs both on the stems and in the soil. I don’t like using chemical pesticides on it because I bought it for medicinal uses, so can anyone offer advice on how to get rid of the pests, before they kill the plant?

    Thanks, Alison

    Reply
    • Hi Alison, the best way to deal with greenfly in a small space is to squish them with your fingers. If you do that every few days you should soon get rid of them. Or you could try making your own organic spray out of garlic, for example – if you google “organic aphid spray” you’ll find some recipes. Mark

      Reply
    • Hi Allison,
      A mixture of some tabac ( de content of a couple of normal cigarettes is enough) and ordinary soap sprayed on the plant proved to kill those greenflies, no damage for the plants. Let the tabac overnight in half a bucket of water, add some soap, filter and set in a spray bottle. Success! Mirta.

      Reply
  • Hello everybody….

    So interesting to read how things are going in the container gardens. Everything is germinating now and the birds are getting on collecting nesting material and doing what birds do, a sure sign. In my side garden where my spuds are planted I covered the area with fleece and transparent plastic to warm the soil. I had a peep under the other day and there were little potatoe shoots just looking out of the soil. This pleased me as I thought I was a bit premature in planting them owing to the cold and should have put the plastic and fleece on the ground earlier. The greenhouse and cold frames are bulging at the seems with trays and pots of seedlings. I sowed Runner and french beans in the greenhouse yesterday, and also red flowered broad beans. I hope I am not breaking any rules here but I found a good idea from Marshalls website. These are called “Greenhouse Grow Beds”. They are very handy if like me you have a small garden and limited space. I bought 9 of these bags, 5 for the greenhouse and four for outside. They are 85cm long, by 54cm wide and 30cm deep. They have slots along both sides and across both ends for sliding bamboos just to stiffen the bags. I had a glut of metal poles from my old allotment which were just perfect. Skinny bamboos might have bulged too much on the sides. I have put the garden ones in place and have filled them with a mixture of topsoil and good multi purpose compost. They make a wonderful bed. I will make wood surrounds later on when time permits from pallets which are in abundance where I live, they can’t wait to get rid of them. Just good to see other gardeners just loving what they are doing.

    Mike Peirson.

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  • Thanks a lot for your update Mark!
    It’s nice to have something to cling to when you’re embarking on a gardening adventure :)
    I have a question about hardening my plants off. I am growing broad beans and bush beans inside but they are getting bigger, and the weather is getting warmer.
    I’ve started putting them out on my balcony a couple of hours a day, but how long does it usually take before it’s safe to replant them outside?
    Thanks, Laerke

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    • Very good question Laerke!
      There’s not really a definitive answer, but here’s some info that I hope will help you…
      It’s a good idea to extend the time they spend outside gradually. So now that you’ve left them out for a couple of hours for a few days, you could start leaving them out all day and bringing them in at night.
      Probably a week to ten days is long enough for hardening off. But before putting them out, check the forecast. If the next few days are predicted to be warm and not too windy, go ahead with moving them outside, but if cold and windy, delay it for a bit longer. (Plants that have been raised inside don’t do well in the wind – and need to be adapted gently to it).
      When to put your plants out also depends on what they are. Broad beans are pretty hardy and can cope well with cold weather even frosts. So if you put them out now and then it gets cold in a week or two, they should be fine. Bush beans, on the other hand, can be killed by frost so should only go out permanently once all threat of frost is over (unless you can easily move them inside again if frost is forecast).
      Does that help Laerke?
      And very good luck on your gardening adventure!
      Mark

      Reply
      • It helps a lot! I’ll keep an eye on the temperatures and wait a while before I move the bush beans out. I’m planting them in styrofoam boxes, so it won’t be easy to move them.
        Thank you!

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  • hello. I’m yura from korea.
    i’m interesed in urban agriculture.so i visited this web-site!
    if anyone could give imformation or share your experience about farming, give me a mail please;-)
    yura0308@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Nice to see you here, Yura, thanks for visiting. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about growing food in containers.

      Reply
  • Sarah, beware of that willow branch! They root easily, and then immediately seek out all the nearest water to suck up greedily. Trouble is, most of that water is in…your pipes! Most cities in the US have ordinances against planting them, which is why, here, we only see them in old graveyards or in parks, near water.

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    • Mark: I think actually it was too little water that killed them. I’d kept them in my big container, together with chives and carrot seeds, I filled the bathtub with water, but not that much, precisely out of fear of suffocating them, but then I went away for almost 2 weeks. I guess my habit of going away often and not really planning ahead just doesn’t make me much of a tomato person. The chives and carrots did well, but tomatoes need more water.

      Lee: Wow, I didn’t know that! Fortunately, my willow is in a plastic container, so there’s no way it will find a pipe to destroy. But the fact that they can do that.. I’m amazed. Quite cool actually -unless it’s your pipes, of course. I adore willows, I was told a story as a child that the willow got its catkins because it saved a bunch of kittens that the owner tried do drown in a lake. When it heard them cry it pitied them so much it bent down its branches and the kitties climbed upon them and got transformed into catkins. I love that story very much.

      But enough babble, I’ve got some good news: I dug a little into my wormery yesterday – and I found some neat little baby worms! I guess they’d just waited for warmer weather to hatch, which is quite reasonable.
      And while my newly sown tomatoes might be a little late, my pepper plant is doing well, my beets are still alive, my radish and salads plants are doing ok. And I sowed a whole bunch of new stuff yesterday when I’d finally gotten around to cleaning the balcony and putting together the shelve.

      I also wanted to share this with you all, because I think it’s a brilliant idea for people who don’t have much space and I plan on trying it out soon:
      http://youtu.be/-uDbjZ9roEQ
      I don’t remember how I found it, so please excuse me if someone has already posted it here!

      Another question I have: How would you plant potatoes? How much space do they need? I read recently about someone who put an old potato into his compost heap, only to find later it had grown and made enough children for a whole meal. I just happen to have some old, sprouted potatoes here that I don’t want to eat any more. Do you think I could just put some in with my worms? Might be worth a try. Or if I want to put them in regular soil, how big should the container be?

      Greets to you all,
      Sarah

      Reply
      • Thanks Sarah – and for the bottle tower link. I’ve posted that on the Vertical Veg Facebook page but not on here – so good to have it here, too. Potatoes. A container the size of a bucket is probably the smallest size that’d be worthwhile – big enough for one (or two small) potatoes, a recycling bin (50 litres) is even better and big enough for four or five. Seed experts recommend you only use seed potatoes as disease can be spread from normal shop bought potatoes. However, if you’re only trying a few I can’t see it’ll do much harm. Potatoes plants have sprouted before in my wormery but they’ve never grown much because the lid prevents most of the light getting to them. Might be an interesting experiment!

        Reply
        • Hi again, thanks for the info about the potatoes. Yeah, I think I’ll just try that.

          About the bottle tower: I don’t use facebook, so I didn’t know you had it already up there, but I guess there’s no harm in having it here as well. I have an update about it, too: I built it the day before yesterday and it seems the water isn’t really spreading through all the bottles. My guess is that’s because of gaps between the soil in the bottlenecks. I’ve just tried to fix it and watered a bit more, I’ll see if it works better now. If not, maybe I’ll cut the bottlenecks off. Or maybe the hole in the upper bottle is not sufficient and needs to be a bit bigger. I’ll post here when I’ve found a solution.

          Bye,
          Sarah

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          • Here’s the update on my bottle tower.
            There were two problems that I’ve fixed now. The first one was about the placement of the upper bottlenecks vs. the placement of the plants. Because each bottle is watered from the bottle above it, the soil above the place where the upper bottle ends will remain more or less dry. That means the seed or plant should be placed below the neck of the bottle above it. That problem can be easily solved by taking the two bottles in question apart and putting more soil into the lower one so that the upper one comes to sit a little higher. One should also take care that there are no gaps in the soil at the place where the bottles join: the water is distributed by gravity, but I think it still works better when it can travel through the earth.

            The second problem was about the hole in the upmost bottle: it tended to clog very easily, and when i cleaned all the little bits of dirt away, it was letting out the water far to fast. This was solved by putting some sand in it, like they propose in their video. So the sand doesn’t only act as a filter, it also helps getting the water dose right.
            Another change I made was to replace the container for catching excess water: In the video, they use the lower part of a bottle, but I found that the tower always slided into that container and that made the lowest bottle stand in the water so no draining could happen.I just placed a plate below the tower so I can catch some excess water but it would sooner flow over than drown my plant.

  • I love your growing ladder with the hoops Mark – inspiring and practical.

    Reply
    • Thanks Julieanne. It’s very easy to make and of course the willow hoops could easily be replaced with plumbers piping or similar. I must admit it doesn’t yet look very beautiful when covered in plastic but I’m working on that – and if it helps get the plants through this winter then it will be a good thing. Cheers, Mark

      Reply
  • Hello again, Mark, here I am with an update on how my little balcony garden is doing. Which is not too well, apparently. I figure it’s good to write about the failures as well, since people might learn even more from those. I killed some salad and radish sprouts by leaving them out in the cold over night. Stupid, but I’d just forgotten them. And maybe my worm cocoons froze to death as well, since none have hatched yet. (But I’m not giving up hope entirely just now, since it’s just started to get a little warmer here during the last few days.)
    I also built a water reservoir from an old juice carton, some pipe and a yoghurt cup (inspired by your tutorial) for my biggest container, an old clothes basket I found an drilled holes in. Well, it leaked, so when I first watered I floated my whole room! Now I’ve used silicone to make it leakproof and all’s ok. But my tomatoes didn’t survive my gowing away for the holidays (even though I put the whole container in my bathtub!), so I had to sow new ones. Well, I figure I’m still learning. On the upside, I improvised greenhousees for my smaller seedlings by putting the pots in freezer bags, leaving a small opening for air to get in, but not enough to let much water out. That worked really well, except for two pots that didn’t get very much light. In those, I found some white fungi and only dead plants. Next time, I’ll put everything _on_ the table, not _under_ it.
    So I’m left with only 4 salad plants, some chives, about a dozen physalis plants that need more space to themselves, about the same amount strawberry plants which I have to keep alive til next year to harvest from, some oregano, basil and parsley of which I’ll probably want to sow more, four very healthy upshoots of some flower I don’t know the name of, no tomatoes until the new ones start seeding, one pepper plant, one Schrödinger’s wormery, one willow branch I put in the earth out of curiosity, and of course my old friend, the lavender from last year, that I left outside the whole winter and that is already starting to grow.
    For the weekend, I plan to clean the balcony, glaze the shelf I want to put the plants on, and sow some more plants. I’ll let you know how that goes.
    Good luck with your plants, Sarah

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing, Sarah, I’m thouroughly enjoying your updates. And, absolutely, when stuff goes wrong is when we can learn the most. The trick is to approach all this with an enquiring and inquisitive mind, enjoy the successes and learn from the setbacks. When I have time I’ll write with more – have a couple more thoughts on what you’ve said. Cheers! Mark

      Reply
    • Sarah, so enjoying your adventures in growing. I had a thought about the tomato in the bath – did you leave water in the bath? If so, it’s likely that the soil in the tomato plant pot will have got waterlogged. When this happens there is no air in the soil and the plant roots suffocate (the roots need air to breath), and the plant dies. It works fine to put plants in a bath of water for a few hours to give them a really good water, though.
      Looking forward to hearing developments!

      Reply

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