April Edition: Grow your Christmas dinner
Home grown Christmas dinner
It may seem like a lifetime away and with summer approaching, the last thing you want to think about, but now is the time to start sowing seeds of certain vegetables if you want to grow your Christmas Dinner. Whilst it may seem like a bit of a far-fetched idea, if you have the time, space and dedication then why not?
A homegrown Christmas dinner will not only have the extra special touch, it will give you a huge sense of achievement and the vegetables will be super delicious!
The weather at this time of year can be slightly unpredictable with a Fools’ Spring - warm sunshine one minute and then a bout of frost the next. That said, April triggers our gardens back to life and springtime welcomes more sun and warmer temperatures as well as soft rain which are ideal conditions for sowing parsnips, leeks, Brussels sprouts and cranberries.
Before you start, work out where you will plant each vegetable and remember, vegetables like parsnips and sprouts will be in their location up until point of harvest towards the end of the year. Soil will need to be prepared by weeding, digging over with a fork and then raking level.
Parsnips are a Christmas dinner must and although not difficult to grow, they need a long growing season. For that reason are best sown, before any other vegetables, in April.
Parsnips require free draining soil in a sunny area. Soil must be dug down to a good depth if they are to develop a good root system: digging in horticultural grit or sharp sand can facilitate this.
The seeds can take up to five to six weeks to germinate so it is beneficial to sow in a sprinkling of radish in the same holes. Radish germinates quickly and will not only mark the row, but it will help space out the parsnips and can be harvested as the parsnip grows.
Parsnips belong exclusively to winter and can withstand any amount of harsh weather and remain in the ground completely unharmed unlike carrots!
Leeks aren’t on everyone’s Christmas dinner menu but if you a partial to a few leeks with your turkey breast then these should be sown now.
To establish good and strong root systems on your seedlings use Rootrainers and leave to germinate on a gentle heat in a greenhouse of on a windowsill if you don’t have one. Ensure that the compost does not dry out but always kept moist.
Once the seeds have germinated, they can be moved to a cold frame. They do not need to be pricked out until June or late August when they are ready to be planted out in their final position in the ground. Like parsnips these too are unaffected by harsh weather and can stand right through winter to spring.
Christmas dinner would not be the same without roast potatoes. King Edward (maincrop) are a firm favourite which are well known for making the best roasties.
You don't need to plant Christmas potatoes until August but why not plant some first earlies now as a practice run? When you harvest them it will be time to put in your Christmas potatoes and you will have the know how to grow them perfectly. .
To start your practice run find out how to grow your potatoes here Growing Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts, these are generally the Marmite of Christmas dinner. Love or hate them if you want them in time for Christmas then now is the perfect time to grow them from seed.
Sprouts are another slow growing vegetable which take around 26 to 31 weeks to reach maturity and can be harvested between September and February. Sprouts are hardy and can grow in almost any area where the soil is very fertile. Again, seeds are best sown in a modular tray or Deep Rootrainers at a depth of 2cm and it is important to keep seedlings sufficiently watered so that they do not dry out.
Germination should begin between in 12 days and they will be ready to plant out approximately four weeks later. With regards to transplanting, bear in mind, Brussels Sprouts plants are large and require much more planting space then you would think. Depending upon the variety, sprouts need between 90 and 70 cm between plants and rows.
To care for Brussels Sprouts fertilise a month after they have been transplanted and every 4 weeks there-after.
To avoid Cabbage-root Fly and other pests and diseases protect your crop with Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier at the time of sowing.
It is a tightly woven ultra-fine 0.6mm plant protection mesh with integral bamboo supports that can be adapted to surround various different shaped plots which, allows the sun to still shine on your crop, and you can still water and tend to it.
In for a penny, in for a pound; if you’re growing your Christmas lunch why not go the whole hog and grow cranberries to make your very own cranberry sauce?
Make things slightly easier on yourself though and perhaps consider purchasing rooted seedlings. Cranberries require very acidic soil so you may need to test the Ph of it first and note they’re also sun and water loving too. If your soil isn’t acidic then consider growing them in pots with an ericaceous compost. The roots need to be kept moist so consider using our Water Saucer: before planting simply thread the capillary wick half way up the pot (if the pot has no drainage holes you will need to cut or drill a small hole in the base of your pot). The other end of the wick will sit in the water-filled saucer enabling the plant to independently draw up water as required. Add liquid feed to the water supply and the plant can self-feed too!
These can be perfectly paired with our 5 litre Vigoroot Pots. The magic of Vigoroot fabric comes from its ability to ‘air-prune’ the roots of plants, dramatically changing their formation and their ability to sustain the plant in a limited volume of compost. It prevents the roots from growing too long and helps prevent plants from becoming ‘pot-bound’ which would normally limit the plants’ growth. Take a look at this video for more info on Vigoroot - why it works.
Although cranberries are self-fertile some gardeners plant a couple of varieties at the same time in order to encourage pollination. After the pollination period and the start of the fruiting season it is worth protecting the plants from birds and other garden visitors. We have a couple of solutions for you, one being a Fruit Tree Protection Net, it is wildlife friendly
1mm mesh in soft green with easy to use lift over design and sealable opening side. It protects fruit from cherry worm, aphids, fruit fly, wasps, birds and other pests without the need for chemical sprays, as well as frost, heavy rain and hail. The other option is a Steel round Fruit Cage which is suitable for slightly larger bushes and is guaranteed to ensure you won’t get in a tangle of netting poles.
Sage is essential with your turkey and stuffing and with it being slow to germinate, is best to sown now in well-drained compost in a sunny or partially sunny area.
Things to consider
- Maintain good housekeeping in the garden. Keep on top of pest and diseases and ensure plants are sufficiently fertilised and watered.
- Think about quantities when you sow – it isn’t ideal having hundreds of parsnips ready at the same time.
- The weather can still be unpredictable at this time of year and can still be very cold at times. Be prepared with Fleece Jackets and Easy Tunnels.
- Timing – ensure you sow, transplant and harvest at the correct time in order to have it ready for the big day.
Take a look at the next steps in our Grow your Christmas Dinner - May edition blog for the next vegetables that are ready for sowing and planting!
Or see what expert gardener Pippa Greenwood suggests you plant in April
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