In this time of turmoil, with everyone stuck at home, it can be a great escape to get out into the fresh air into the garden. In spite of what’s going on in the world, Mother Nature just carries on with what she does best at this time of year: Tulips and Daffodils are blooming, leaf buds are opening and plants are bursting into  flower.  Add to that some sunshine and the sweet sound of birdsong and you have a heady mix which is a real mood-booster in these strange times.
At Van Hage we are committed to keeping the flag flying (literally!) both for British horticulture and for our Dutch colleagues. Highly skilled growers and nurserymen from both sectors have been supplying us world-class bulbs, seeds, plants and trees since 1954.  That’s six decades of mutual trust, support and commitment between Van Hage, our growers, and of course our loyal customers both from the local communities in Amwell, Chenies and Peterborough and from further afield. That’s a great privilege and it’s not something we are about to lose lightly. To that end, we are determined to keep supply lines open, be it via our website, or closer to home with our local van delivery service.

How’s your garden? Last week’s dry weather means the ground is drying out and it’s time to start sowing seeds. Chris Millborne our horticulture expert, says you can always tell when the soil is warm enough for sowing when you see the first weed seedlings springing up!
 The warmer weather that’s predicted as we go into April means ideal conditions for seed germination. For a good strong splash of summer colour try sowing some Calendula, Cornflowers, Nigella, Nasturtiums, Cosmos and Larkspur. It’s not complicated: simply rake the soil into a fine tilth (i.e. crumbly!) using a rake, trowel or even a cane. Then make a “drill” which is a shallow depression in the soil, in a straight line. Sow your seed thinly along the row then cover the seed with a thin layer of fine soil. The reason for sowing in a straight line, rather than simply scattering the seed, is so that you can differentiate between your flower seedlings and any germinating weeds which may be springing up at the same time.

Give them some support! Supporting herbaceous plants with canes as they are starting to grow is a good idea, to prevent plants from flopping over as they grow taller, and it’s easier to do it now  while plants are still small, rather than later on  when they are overgrown and easily broken.

Glorious Gladioli! These easy to grow, showy summer flowering bulbs are making a bit of a comeback and you can plant these towards the end of April for some glorious colour come the summer.

Time to Spring-Clean! This is a great time to tackle those niggling yet worthwhile jobs like tidying, weeding, and hoeing the soil. The latter is important for breaking up the surface which has been compacted by all the heavy winter rains we experienced this year. Winter-flowering shrubs can be pruned back, and new shoots of climbing and rambling rose, as well as any wall or fence-trained shrub, can be tied in now. The flowers of your Spring bulbs may be fading now, so remove the flowers as they fade, but leave the foliage to die back naturally, as this will provide energy for the bulb to flower again early next year.   As the weather warms up, and grass starts to grow, try and mow lawns once a week.

Grow your Own! This is so simple to do and it’s a great way to keep the kids occupied and get them outdoors.  Even if space is limited, you can grow vegetables in pots or containers.  Try sowing some tomato seeds on a warm windowsill. These will germinate in 10-14 days, and when they’re large enough to handle, pot them into 9cm (3“) pots. They will then be ready for planting out in mid-May. Try the same procedure for peppers and chille peppers. Seeds that are easy to sow straight into the soil (or into pots, too, standing outdoors) include broad beans, peas, lettuces, radishes, rocket, beetroot and carrots.

Plant Power! Growing plants and just being outdoors in nature is something that everybody can benefit from. Gardening simply seems to make us feel good. Now in April the outdoor landscape is starting to change on an almost daily basis as we move further into Spring, and we’ll feel hopeful and  encouraged to see that nature is just marching on at her own speed, whatever is going on in the world.

Please stay safe and enjoy your garden!
From all the team at Van Hage