Notes from West Dean Gardens in April

Alitex Growing On

Welcome to the Costa del West Sussex! Recent warm weather has Jim the gardens manager, cracking the horticultural whip to make the most of this benign weather before the mid-season maintenance schedule of the gardens and crops under glass takes over. And who knows what the weather will be next week or next month anyway, so we just get on with it.

Spring time is full of the promise of things to come and as the days lengthen more crops are planted into the vegetable cold frame at West Dean. I love these young crops in all their flavours and diversity. The crops are planted or sown closer together than recommended traditional spacings as they aren’t going to develop beyond a juvenile state in the frame. Hence one of our tasks is to keep sowing seed new crops at regular intervals and this means finding space under glass for the module trays of germinating seed. We need not only somewhere for them to germinate but also a place for them to grow on and acclimatise to outdoor temperatures.

It seems that plants are constantly on the go here in April moving from one temperature environment to another. In my opinion this is one of the most practical ways of growing a great variety of edible leaves and baby vegetables.

All trained fruit trees such as cordons, pyramids espaliers and goblets, have been fed with a slow release compound fertiliser and we’re on the final leg of pruning. Yes folks unbelievable I know, but we do not seem to get the entire fruit tree pruning completed in the dormant winter period and yet, obligingly, the trees survive. Desirable though it would be to finish pruning by the end of February it’s not essential. We’ll also be carrying out another batch of pruning in summer too so as to keep the trees in shape and to encourage them to produce spur systems. Trained forms of fruit trees look fabulous in spring covered in blossom and continue to look great all season long. It’s a clever way of growing fruit when space is limited in your garden.

Potting on crops also keeps us fully engaged at this time of year not only the ornamentals but also the chillies and the first crop of tomatoes. Our 300 chilli varieties make up the display collection you see when you come to the West Dean Chilli Fiesta which this year will be from 27-29th July. The tomatoes are just one of the crops we will be displaying at our show called Medfest - a taste of the Mediterranean- on the 23rd-24th June.

Fun and frolics for all the family abound in which seasonal vegetables and herbs feature. We all love a bit of the Mediterranean don’t we?

Please click here to find out more on these fantastic festivals which really celebrate food and the growing and nurturing of things we eat.

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