The National Allotment Society - National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd

Grow with the Garden Doctor

With so many people having to spend time at home in the coming months, fresh air, exercise and good food will be more important than ever. But what if you have never grown before? which books are the best to buy? when should you start? Well, now the advice will come straight to you! Look out in the coming weeks for posts from the National Allotment Society and Head Gardener Aaron Hickman for regular instalments of what to do, when and how!

Some of the up and coming advice will suit new-comers to growing, some will suit seasoned gardeners as reminders.  The growing that I do is mostly within the walled gardens (nearly one acre) of where I am employed, so be prepared to scale down appropriately, also, virtually everything will grown in the ground but a lot of what we will be doing is perfect for pot growing. You can also follow the posts on the NAS facebook page.

My first piece of advice is to PREPARE!! If you haven't already get together your seeds, (perhaps you still might be able to order some online.) compost, pots and containers or whatever else you are going to grow your produce in and anything else you can think of! Lots of household items and packaging can be used as seed trays and containers. If you intend to grow in the ground then make sure your soil is well dug if you still dig. Maybe your space is limited and you intend to lift a bit of your lawn for the coming months? Well, now is the time to get everything ready to go! Click on the titles below for Aaron's advice.

COURGETTES Here is a method that can be used for courgettes, squashes, vegetable marrows, pumpkins etc.

BROAD BEANS Broad beans can still be direct sown now.

LEEKS Now is a good time to plant out leeks raised from seed indoors. If you haven't grown leeks before then this guide will explain the process.

SOFT FRUIT

SEEDS Its time get all of the long season crops sown as soon as possible if you haven't already done so, these include leeks, main-crop onions, tomatoes, peppers, summer cabbage, celeriac, celery (self- blanching and trenching) and summer cabbage. It is still a bit variable to be sowing outside, but these will keep you busy indoors.

PRICKING OUT - If you have been busy sowing seeds indoors and they have now all nicely germinated, you might want to think about moving the seedlings on into individual pots or modular trays to grow on for a few more weeks - we call this 'pricking out'.

SOWING SEED DIRECT - In some areas conditions will now be right to start on with the direct seed sowing. Ideally the soil should be dry on the surface but damp beneath and if a little dust can be raised from the surface when the soil is disturbed, then that is a good sign that conditions are perfect. if the soil is damp or sticks to your boots then leave the job and come back to it in a few weeks. It is important not to get carried away with sowing out of doors just yet, but keep a look out over the next day or so for a list of what to sow now.

POTATOES These tips are all about the potato! By now you should have ideally got the first earlies planted, so if you haven't - that's your weekend job sorted! Early April is a good time for planting second earlies (Kestrel have always ranked as a favourite for me) and this series of photos should help you on your way if you haven't grown them before. Potatoes can also be grown in large pots or even compost bags, using a multipurpose compost with plenty of fertilizer mixed in. Plant the tubers in the bottom 6-9'' of the pot and keep adding more compost throughout the growing season. You can also set your maincrops tubers to chit now, but we won't plant these for a few weeks yet. These photos were taken a week or two ago when I planted the last batch of my first earlies, but the process is the same for all.

Watch out for frost! We have some cold nights forecast so if you do have potato shoots showing draw the soil over them.

RADISHESa quick and easy crop, perfect for growing with children.

STRAWBERRIES - it's time to clean up your patch.