April Update from the Community Garden

Every year, I wish I could have two Aprils – I would willingly sacrifice November or December in exchange. After a fabulously wet March, April has brought longer days, faster growth, fecundity in every direction. Having sown a mass of hardy annuals in February and March (think lettuces, kale, beetroots, peas), April is the main moment to get the more tender, but fast growing crops into seed trays. Beans, climbing and dwarf, are my favourites- reliably undergoing a magical transformation from dry lifeless seeds into vigorous seedlings which almost grow in front of your very eyes! And they’re delicious – what more could we ask for..

Some tender plants need a long growing season in order to ripen, so these need to be sown early, in warm conditions such as a windowsill or, if you’re lucky, a heated mat or hotbed in a greenhouse. These include chillies, peppers, aubergines, and tomatoes. If you are buying little plants instead of raising your own from seed, have a look out for the grafted varieties – they really are superior and seem to race away much more quickly.  It’s the moment that we all buy compost for raising seeds and plants – please do avoid peat based composts – they are environmentally destructive, causing CO2 emissions and destroying unique and valuable peat bog habitats. I find Sylvagrow, a wood based compost, to be an excellent alternative – it is sold extensively, including at Van Hage garden centre in Chenies.

This year, we’re trying to make better use of the polytunnel and greenhouse by filling them with early salad crops before using the same space to grow later tomatoes and cucumbers, then planting salads again in August for some Autumn and early Spring ‘24 pickings. We’re also trying our hand at growing some chicories for harvesting in Autumn – fingers crossed for success! So far an over familiar fox has thwarted some of these plans, by sleeping in the polytunnel during the wet weather – I keep finding round indents with ginger hairs, and one sunny day, I caught it sunbathing in the phlox, completely relaxed!

The team from Mission EmployAble have returned to the SCG this month, and have been helping with weeding, sowing, pricking out, and planting out. They were delighted to see the bulbs that they had planted last year flowering away. We’re also working on a dedicated pollinator patch with them, which should give speedy results that can be appreciated within the school term (they work to an academic year, which is not ideal for market gardening!).

Two lads from Kings Langley Secondary School have come to do their 10 week community service for their Duke of Edinburgh award with us – so far they have been a great help, and seem to be enjoying themselves! Recent jobs include concreting in posts and tension wires for tayberries, planting potatoes, and copiccing a huge old hazel. I hope to get them painting the new shed, but as yet, we haven’t had a truly dry Saturday on which to do it..

The picture shows them with Colin and John, getting the posts in.

I hope by now you have seen (and bought?!) salad bags, rhubarb and posies of Spring flowers in Sarratt Stores – remember every penny (after the shop’s cut) is re-invested into the garden, helping to produce fresh, nutritious food and flowers, grown to organic standards with minimal packaging, on your doorstep…

As ever, get in touch if you’d like to be involved. Email is best – [email protected], or ask to join the SCG WhatsApp group (it’s very well behaved – not too much activity!)