ITV’s Love Your Garden presenter Frances Tophill on the emerging life that spring brings and what to plant this April
The days are getting long, the earth is getting warm and the sun shines more and more on our coastal plots. There’s a pure spring light around that will kickstart our plants into active growth. Even those famous April showers give our gardens the kiss of life that makes this time of year that gorgeous green colour. My sister calls it ‘naughty green’. I love that expression. It evokes something of the cheekiness and unabashed nature of spring colours.
Spring is all about new life. The lambs, the birds, the bees, and yes, the plants too. The wind that blows in from the sea will mean plants are hampered, progress in spring is slow and that by summer most specimens will tend to be stumpier and more robust than the nursery or plant catalogue led you to believe. Right now though, it will be all systems go and you will begin to see signs of life bursting from the soil.
My favourite of these emergents is sea kale. Both beautiful and edible, it’s a winner of a plant and the uncurling of its handsome maroon or purple new leaves is something I look forward to each year. But there are also the rosettes, the foxgloves, teasels and poppies, which will be popping up, absorbing all the bright seaside sunshine ready to flower when the time is right.
MUCH TO DO
Now is the time to sow lawn seed in any patchy areas of the garden and start feeding it with a fertiliser that’s high in nitrogen. Sow your tomato seeds in the green house or under protection. (In lieu of a greenhouse I tend to put mine on the windowsill!) Divide gladiolis, hostas and primroses. Dig in the mulch you had laid on your beds as now, with any luck, all signs of frost will be a thing of the past.
With that in mind, start planting out some more delicate crops. Strawberry beds can be planted, as well as potatoes. Put your radish, parsnip and brassica seeds directly into the soil.
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Growing up on the Kent coast, Frances has the sea in her blood. A presenter on ITV’s Love Your Garden, she studied horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and is the author of First-Time Gardener (Kyle Books). She now lives on the South Devon coast and works on her own plot and community projects. francestophill.com