dobies april newsletter header

Spring is finally here. The time for us to really start putting plans into action so that the wonderful summer garden we hold in our heads can become a reality. The clocks have sprung forward, the days are lengthening, and the soil is warming.

By now most of us will have lined our windowsills with trays full of seedlings. But if you haven’t started sowing yet then it’s not too late. Better to start late than too early and seeds sown now will quickly catch up. Read below for guidance on sowing hardy annuals direct in your garden.

The big news from Dobies this month is the launch of our 2019 Summer Garden Planner catalogue. This bumper edition is four catalogues in one and includes everything you need to make your 2019 garden/allotment both beautiful and bountiful. Rob Smith’s Heritage Veg range includes some fantastic varieties to choose from, including the Beetroot Rouge Crapaudine that caused such a stir last year on MasterChef. In addition to new and old veg plant varieties the catalogue has a fabulous range of flower plants, fruit and garden equipment. Click here to order your catalogue!

Even a bumper catalogue cannot hold our full range, for example, online you will find we offer over 900 shrubs together with many more items that we simply couldn’t squeeze into the catalogue. Happy shopping!

dobies gardening jobs to do for april
  • Sweet peas can be sown direct this month. No garden should be without some of these perfumed beauties.
  • Many seeds can be sown direct this month, but first check that your soil has warmed up. Sowing dates shown on seed packets are for guidance only and need to be adapted to local weather conditions.
  • If your sage is looking straggly then rejuvenate it by cutting to just above ground level. This will encourage fresh new shoots that will grow into a neater looking plant.
  • Late frost will kill off fruit blossom so keep some fleece handy. But do remember to remove it to allow pollinating insects access.
  • This is the last month for ordering bare root fruit trees so if you want to benefit from our “Buy a single tree for £22, add a 2nd for just £11” offer then you’d better be quick
  • Seedlings in the greenhouse may struggle on sunny days so give them some shading. Carefully laying newspaper on them will do the trick.
  • Put supports in place for peas and beans, ready for planting out.
  • Plug plants potted on now and kept in the greenhouse will put on a glorious display this summer. Dobies’ colour themed collections are a perfect, and easy, way to fill your tubs and hanging baskets with colour.

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Most gardeners are aware of the term “the hungry gap” and many try to avoid it each year but somehow end up getting caught out. The hungry gap is that period in early spring when the veg patch is almost devoid of anything to harvest. By April many stored and over-wintered cops are running low yet it’s still far too early for summer crops.

Brassicas are one of the few veggies holding their own in the April garden. Amongst brassicas purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) is king, the asparagus of early spring. Even the pickiest of children can be persuaded to eat PSB, especially when it’s been grilled and dipped in a lovely soft-boiled or poached egg.

Only harvest as much PSB as you wish to eat although it does store well in a paper bag, popped in the fridge. When cooking you need to do it fast as that will keep the lush purple colour. So, grill, stir-fry, lightly steam, roast or griddle but please, never over boil!

Best mates to PSB include:

Garlic                     Tomatoes            Chillies                  Pasta                     Bacon                    Pancetta

Lemon                  Cheese                 Eggs                       Butter                   Anchovies           Capers

Walnuts               Almonds              Crab                       Mustard               Ginger                  Parsley

Sowing Hardy Annuals

Hardy annuals are easy to grow and to look after, are great in tubs, baskets or sown direct and will flower within just a few weeks. What’s not to like?

Annual weeds starting to appear is a good indication that conditions are right to sow your Dobies hardy annual seeds. This is usually from the end of April to mid-May but does of course depend on where you live and on what sort of spring we’re having, the timings given on seed packets are for guidance only. The soil needs to be warm enough to allow and encourage the seeds to germinate and cold frosty nights need to be a thing of the past. If you are happy to sit out in the evening with a cup of tea or glass of wine, then the chances are that the time for sowing hardy annuals has arrived.

Pick an open sunny site and give it a good hoe to remove any weeds. Tread to firm the soil and rake it over so the surface is a fine crumb. Hardy annuals do best on poor soil so resist the temptation to add fertiliser.

If you are going to sow several varieties of hardy annuals, then it’s a good idea to mark out their designated areas using sand or grit. Create drifts of semi-circles or just lovely sweeping curves. Using a hoe create shallow drifts, going in different directions within each marked area. This means that although you will in effect be growing in rows the blooms will not look at all regimented. Rather than creating drills you could just scatter the seed, but this will make both weeding and thinning that much harder. With drills you know that anything growing outside of the row is a weed and needs removing.

The depth of the drill depends on the size of the seed and advice is probably given on the seed packet. As a rule, the drill needs to be twice the depth of the seed. If the soil is dry, then water before sowing.

Sow the seed thinly and then carefully rake the soil back over the drill. Now wait for the seedlings to appear. Once they have formed their first set of true leaves thin them out to about 1 seed every 4cm, then as they grow thin them to a spacing of 9cm to 14cm. For exact spacing for each variety refer to the seed packet.

Within just a few weeks you’ll be enjoying a blaze of colour as will visiting bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. And all for just a few pounds spent on Dobies seeds and a few hours of enjoyable gardening. Marvellous!

Saved from Extinction – Tomato “Sutton”

Managed by the wonderful charity Garden Organic, the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) exists to conserve vegetable varieties that are not widely available and currently holds about 800 varieties. These rare varieties are maintained by HSL for future generations to enjoy.

tomato sutton dobies newsletter

Working closely with the HSL Dobies provide seed on rare varieties each year and last year we produced enough Tomato Sutton seed to now be able to offer a limited number of plants to our customers. For the full, interesting story visit

Tomato Sutton produces fruits that are ivory to pale yellow in colour and fresh and fruity in taste. A beefsteak type, Tomato Sutton is best grown in the greenhouse as a cordon. The plants are very productive, bearing slightly flattened fruits, perfect for salads and sandwiches.

Primrose Day – 19th April

This year, Good Friday is also Primrose Day, a useful/useless fact to drop into the village quiz. Once recognised nationally, the 19th April is now just another date on the calendar that bears little or no significance, unless like this year it clashes with Easter.

The primrose is the prima rosa of the year and belongs to the primula family of which there are roughly 1,000 varieties. The one we see at this time of year, adorning banks, verges and hedgerows across the country is the common primrose. An insignificant name for a lovely little plant with its soft yellow flowers rising on hairy stems from tough leathery leaves.

primrose april dobies newsletter

The 19th April 1881 was the day on which Queen Victoria’s favourite prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, died. Queen Victoria sent a wreath of yellow primroses with a note referring to them being “his favourite flowers.”  Naturally it was assumed that she was referring to the primrose being Disraeli’s favourite flower, but it was later believed that she had in fact been referring to her beloved Prince Albert. Nonetheless Primrose Day was formed, and wreaths of primroses were placed on Disraeli’s monument for many years.

Not only does the common primrose have its own day it also has its own county! In 2002 the organisation Plantlife led a nationwide campaign to identify and designate a native wildflower to each county. The people of Devon voted for and elected the primrose and so it is of special significance to all of us here at Dobies. Being based in Paignton, Devon, we are lucky enough to have the lovely primrose as our county flower.

If you don’t already have primroses growing in your garden, then it’s too late for this year but perhaps make a note for next? Preferring cool semi-shaded areas of the garden these plants are ideal for woodland edges, banks and for growing under hedgerows. In a well-drained yet moist soil primroses will flower year on year and will readily self-seed and naturalise.

Why not surprise your friends and neighbours by wearing a primrose buttonhole in honour of Primrose Day? Queen Victoria would be amused.

“And all England, so they say,

Yearly blooms on Primrose Day.”

Henry Cuyler Bunner

Calling all Bee Keepers

Our sister company, National Bee Supplies, has just launched a new catalogue offering everything needed by both new and experienced bee keepers. The catalogue has a complete range of beekeeping equipment, including starter kits, replacement frames, clothing, feed and a wide range of bee friendly seeds and plants. National Bee Supplies is also proud to now offer sterilised wax foundation, free from all known pathogens and so protecting the hive and the bees.

For full details and to request a catalogue please visit National Bee Supplies.

Real Sunflower Lamps

Our team of horti experts travel the globe all year round and today, have made an exciting discovery in Germany which we’re thrilled to be sharing with the gardening nation here in the UK. It’s the finding of varieties of flowers that are so phosphorescent they give sufficient light to read by.

real sunflower lamps

Under proper conditions the flowers of the clematis glow like stars, while sunflowers, if correctly nurtured, make it quite possible to read a newspaper by their unaided light.

We can’t say too much at the moment, but it could be a combination of bio luminescent marine bacteria with a plant genus breeding programme to create varieties so phosphorescent that they appear to glow.

Click here to order your Sunflower Lamps today.

Plant of the Month

To welcome in Spring, April’s Plants of the Month give you a great excuse to get out into the garden and sunshine. For a limited period, we’re offering a range of fantastic 5 litre potted shrubs, with prices starting from just £12.99 each. That’s a 5 litre plant for the price of a 3 litre plant, which means your shrubs will be more mature when reaching your door. Stocks are limited so be quick as when they’re gone, they’re gone!

suttons april newsletter shrub offer

Click here to view our selection and order yours while stocks last.

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