As we’ve already seen, April can be a tricky month. On warm, bright days it’s tempting to be out in the garden planting and sowing, with a feeling that summer is only just around the corner. But then we get a few cold days and nights, with frost and even snow, which can severely disrupt our plans. Blossom and tender new growth are highly susceptible to dry cold, and one night of sub-zero temperatures can really set-back, or even kill, what looked so promising.

So, the watchword for this month is: keep an eye on the weather forecast, and don’t be in too much of a hurry.

If you have a greenhouse, or a warm and sunny windowsill, do make a start on sowing seeds. Always use peat-free compost, as the environmental impact of peat extraction is well-documented. There are some really good peat-free composts out there: I use Sylvagrow, but there are others just as good. Light is as important to seedlings as warmth as the days lengthen, so make sure that trays and pots are rotated regularly and have good ventilation too.

Ukraine’s national flower, the Sunflower, has been very prominent in our thoughts over recent weeks, so why not sow some seeds in pots ready to be planted outdoors when it gets warmer? If you want to impress your neighbours, try a variety such as ‘Titan’ or ‘Giant Yellow’ which will grow to 3 metres? These are good for growing with children too, as they can have great fun keeping track of the plants as they race upwards. Other varieties worth trying include primrose-yellow ‘Valentine’ and ‘Claret’, which starts out deep red and then shades to orange.

If space is limited, don’t forget that there are lots of vegetables and salads which you can grow in pots, planters and window boxes. These can be just as ornamental as flowers, or better still try mixing them up. A few red-leaved lettuce plants can be combined with a dwarf Sunflower (such as ‘Micro Sun’) in a large pot to make a great display outside the back door or on a windowsill. The salads can be harvested by cutting a few leaves at a time, so the show will go on for several weeks. Add a few Nasturtium seeds and these will add yellows, reds and oranges later on – as well as providing delicious peppery leaves to add to your salad. In fact, the flowers of Nasturtiums are edible too, and look fabulous scattered across the top of a ‘green’ salad.

Stephen Hackett

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