HERE'S the latest column from our allotment columnist Sean O’Dobhain, from Cwmbran


THE only seeds I sow direct on the plot these days are root crops that don’t like being transplanted. Everything else I tend to raise in modules or pots for planting out when they are established. I’ve found this to be the most reliable method and it reduces losses. While a small greenhouse makes growing easier, windowsills and a homemade cold-frame will provide loads of plants for the allotment.

Even with a greenhouse, April is the time where growing space can be an issue for me. Brassicas sown last month are developing well; tomatoes are sitting in their individual pots; leeks are taking up room in a large tray and the first wave of salad crops are jostling for light. Added to this green mêlée are further modules containing a second batch of salads for successional cropping and a few trays of annual flowers for good measure.

Into this mix now appear some of the larger vegetable plants. April is the time to sow climbing beans, courgettes and winter squashes with heat indoors. However, it’s important not to start them too early as they won’t tolerate cold weather; these plants can develop into large monsters, taking over greenhouses and windowsills while waiting to be planted outside. If you want to sow direct then wait until mid-May.

I’ll be sowing Blue Lake French beans (a climbing variety) and Scarlet Emperor runner beans. When placing in pots, sow the seeds with any ‘scar’ downward; the bean canes and plants will be set out next month. In the last week of April I’ll be starting off a few courgette plants, four plants should be enough for an average family as they are prolific croppers.

I’m also sowing a couple of pumpkins for Halloween (Jack O’Lantern); some small stripy squash called Sweet Dumpling and a Butternut squash called Hunter F1, bred to ripen in the cooler British climate. Sow squash seeds in a warm place and on edge to help germination. These won’t be planted on the allotment until late May if it’s warm or more likely, early June.

From mid-April onward the main-crop potatoes can be planted out in their trenches. I’m trying the blight resistant Sarpo Mira for the first time this season in the hope that they will continue to grow on into the autumn so the tubers become larger. Another new crop for me are the curious Cucamelons; they are sown this month and will be transplanted into large pots and kept in the greenhouse. On the other hand, an old family favourite is sweet corn, I’m growing Swift F1 this season. If you want those sweet golden cobs, freshly picked from late August onward, then sow indoors now.

Allotment jobs for April:

• Thin out brassicas sown in modules last month. Continue to sow summer cabbage, broccoli, kohl rabi, cauliflowers and F1 Brussels Sprouts.

• Every few weeks earth up early potatoes and plant main crop varieties.

• If the ground is not too wet, directly sow root crops such as parsnips, carrots, turnips and beetroot. Peas and broad beans can continue to be sown too.

• Start off runner and French beans in pots along with sweet corn and squashes. Wait until the middle of next month to sow direct to the plot.

• A few raised lettuce can be planted out now but protect against slugs. Keep sowing salads, including spring onions, every three weeks for crops throughout the summer months.

• Keep onion sets weed free, they should be sprouting green leaves now.

• Keep up the digging and allotment preparation.