Easter was timed just right for the start of the growing season so, after attending to their spiritual duties, they would rush home to sow their vegetable patch. The practice continued through Georgian and Victorian times, among farm workers and country cottagers who needed a garden to support their large families. Today Easter weekend is often the first chance people have to get out into the garden. It only takes a few spring days and suddenly everything needs doing at once.
There’s grass to cut and lawn edges to trim, beds and borders need clearing of weeds, the patio will be ready to be gone over with a stiff broom or pressure-washer and containers will need planting with something spring-like.
Primroses and violets are the traditional Easter flowers, though cultivated polyanthus, violas or pots of well-budded spring bulbs are the modern equivalents.
A few hardy souls will get the garden seats out and crank up the barbecue. Now growing your own is fashionable again, the kitchen garden is firmly back at the top of the Easter to-do list.
Once the soil preparation, fertiliser spreading and raking has been done, it’s time to get sowing. Most of the hardy veg can be sown now – carrots, parsnips, radishes, lettuces and spring onions, Swiss chard and spinach. I’d delay sowing beetroot for another few weeks since it often bolts if the weather is a tad inclement. If you want to raise your own leeks and brassica plants, prepare a small area as a seedbed.Work in plenty of old compost, rake the soil extra-finely, then sow short rows.
You can happily sow any of the late summer/autumn varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese and Brussels sprouts but don’t sow late varieties of these or sprouting broccoli till May since they aren’t cropped till late next winter or the following spring. When seedlings come up, thin them out to an inch or so apart to give them more space, and transplant young plants to their growing positions later.
It’s too soon to start frost-tender veg outside, though now’s the time to sow indoors. I put two to three seeds of runner beans, sweet corn, outdoor cucumbers and courgettes in pots of seed compost on a warm windowsill indoors; they’ll be ready to plant out in six or eight weeks when late frost risk is past.
The one job I’d suggest putting at the top of your list is a trip to the garden centre. Easter weekend is the peak season, when all the “occasional” gardeners do their one big annual garden shop.
So if you need to stock up I’d get down early. It’s the way to be sure of a Happy Easter in the garden.