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Things to do this month...

 

1.  Pests and diseases:-

Pigeons are hungry and love eating brassicas so keep them netted.

Slugs will eat newly planted seedlings

Flea beetle can be a problem this month, leaving tiny little holes all over leaves. Plants do usually recover, though when they are badly affected it can stunt their growth.

Cabbage root fly can cause a problem by laying their eggs at the base of brassicas, so it is best to fit cabbage collars around the base of them.

Continue to check for ‘big bud mite’ on blackcurrants. The buds will actually look big and swollen if affected.

Check gooseberry and currant bushes for the sawfly larvae which look like caterpillar’s and pick them off.

 

2. Complete the planting of onion sets and carry on making successional sowings of beetroot, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, spinach, spring onions, kohl rabi, radish, turnips, early peas, Swiss chard. By sowing little and often you will avoid having a glut of produce at one time.  Sow in shallow drills made with a stick, watering the drills before sowing if the soil is dry.  Sow the seeds thinly and cover with soil and label them.  Thin out when the seedlings are large enough to handle.

If seedlings are not thinned out the plants will become straggly and wont crop well at all.  The distances to thin each type of vegetable will vary and it is best to check the seed packet.  The thinnings of most vegetables except root vegetables can be transplanted.  The advantage of this is that these thinnings, having been disturbed, will mature a little bit later therefore extending the succession of cropping.  Water seedlings before and after thinning in dry weather.

3. Sow under glass, in pots and trays filled with fresh seed compost, the seeds of runner beans, sweet corn, courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, outdoor/ridge cucumber.

4. It is now safe to transplant the cold greenhouse tomatoes in to their final positions.

5. Plant out globe artichokes, either by slicing slips off the sides of main plants or plant out bought in roots. Seed raised plants sown earlier are best planted out towards the end of the month. Water well and feed regularly to build up the crowns removing any buds that may form as soon as possible.

6. Plant out Jerusalem artichokes but don’t allow them to overrun the allotment, if left unlifted at the end of the summer they will quickly develop into an impenetrable jungle.

7. Plant up a new asparagus bed but it will take two more years to establish before producing succulent shoots.

8.Early sowings of Brussels sprouts will need thinning out this month and the soil for next month’s transplanting of sweet corn, courgettes, marrows, pumpkins and outdoor/ridge cucumbers will need preparing.

9. Put up the runner bean poles and start to support the growing peas with brushwood or netting.

10. Prepare seed beds for outdoor sowing of main crop vegetables next month.

11. Check over top and soft fruit for the first broods of aphids and take appropriate action; spray the plant with soapy water (diluted washing up liquid) or squash the flies with your thumb and finger.

12. Cut back silver leaved shrubs once the plants approach the size to which you want them to grow.  If lavender plants are left unpruned, the centre of the shrub grows sparse, they don't like being pruned into older wood.  So it is wise to prune them every spring to keep them bushy and compact.  Other silver leaved plants that should be pruned this way are Helichrysum serotinum (curry plant) and Santolina (cotton lavender).  Go over the whole plant,  trimming off 2.5-5cm of growth. Use shears for speed.  If you didn't last month you should now also trim winter-flowering heathers with shears.

13. Deadhead daffodils now the flowers are going over, snap the heads off behind the swollen parts.  If the spent flowers are left on, the plant's energy will be diverted into the production of seeds.  By removing the old flowers, the plant's energy is instead diverted into the formation of next year's flower bud within the bulb. For this to happen the foliage must be left on the plant.

For many years the practice was to allow the foliage of the bulbs to die back completely to give the plants the longest time to build up that flower bud for next year. However recent research has shown that the foliage can be cut down six weeks after the flowers are over.

14. Continue with planting out the seed potatoes; aim to complete the job by the end of April.  Earth up early potatoes.

 

 

Seasonal Vegetable



Spring is here, and very shortly we’ll see the start of the short British asparagus season in the UK. Here is everything you will ever need to know about how to cook asparagus.

Blanched and Steamed

When cooking asparagus, you can tie them into little bundles, which makes them easier to remove. Drop these bundles or individual spears into some boiling water, cover and cook for three to five minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Take them out, drain and plunge into some ice-cold water, or serve straight away. To steam, place the spears in a steaming basket with a little water underneath. Cover and cook for three minutes.

 

Griddled

Asparagus loves to be griddled in a pan – simply drizzle with a little olive oil and turn occasionally or try  with olive oil, lemon and Parmesan.

 

If you’ve got a barbecue going, lightly coat the spears in oil and cook on a medium heat, turning often so that the spears do not burn.

 

Roasted

Asparagus develops a lovely, rich flavour when roasted. Simply pre-heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7, line a tray with foil or baking paper, lay the asparagus spears onto the tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can add a couple of fresh cloves of garlic and a little freshly grated of lemon zest. Roast for ten minutes. You can use your roasted asparagus to stir through a risotto, or a creamy pasta dish.

 

Stir fried

Asparagus is often used in Asian cooking, either in salads or in stir-fries. It needs only a minute or so in a hot wok, so always remember to add it in towards the end of cooking the rest of your dish. A splash of soy and a sprinkle of sesame seeds work well.

 

Raw

You can, in fact, eat asparagus raw. It is great with feta cheese and radish.

 

Accompaniments

The best accompaniments for asparagus are olive oil or a little butter – in both cases, season with a little sea salt and fresh black pepper, too.  As mentioned, freshly-shaved Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese are great partners, as are little goat’s cheese, or strong cheddars. A simple Polish recipe called Asparagus á la Polonaise is to cook  the asparagus in water seasoned with sugar and salt and then topping it with butter, slightly browned in a pan mixed with fresh breadcrumbs.

 

Asparagus and eggs are a timeless spring combination too. Try dipping fresh spears into a softly boiled egg, or make asparagus soup and top it with a poached egg and a drizzle of olive oil.

It would be a crime not to mention hollandaise – a classic French sauce made of melted butter, fresh egg yolks, lemon juice and a little mustard or a pinch of cayenne.

 

Notes on asparagus

Thin spears of asparagus tend to be younger and fresher in flavour, whilst thicker spears will have been left to grow for longer and have a more pronounced flavour.

Try and use your asparagus as soon as possible, but if you don’t use it straight away, a good tip is to store it standing up in a jug of water in the fridge.

 

Leave in the pan to cool for 10 minutes, then divide equally between the sterilised jars. Seal and label.

 

Dates for your diary...

18th April, 2019 at 11:30am-13.00 Chelsea Physic Garden


Propogation for Beginners

Are your seedlings long and spindly? Do your cuttings sit and sulk for ages and then die? Then help is only a booking away! Learn how to give your seeds and cuttings the best chance of turning into healthy plants with CPG's Head of Propagation or another senior member of the gardening team.

https://www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/Event/propagation-for-beginners-april-2019

 

Interesting facts

 

Eggplants and potatoes are part of the same family.

Watermelon is actually a vegetable and so is rhubarb.

Tomatoes are fruits and the most popular fruit in the world at that.

Broccoli and cauliflower are the only veggies that are also flowers.