April is great, the soil is warming up and spring should be here. Do keep an eye on the weather forecast though, even in the south of England a cold snap and snow are not unknown in April. Keeping horticultural fleece on standby in case of cold weather is a good idea.
We’re in the ‘Hungry Gap’ between the last of the winter crops and start of the early crops but there are still a few things available, late sprouting and chards for example plus you may have some early salad crops from the greenhouse border.
Do re-check your stored crops. On a fine day, empty out the potato sacks and check for any rotten potatoes. If you’ve strung onions, watch out for the odd rotten one and remove it before it spreads,
General Gardening Tip
If you have any horticultural fleece, you can peg that onto the ground a week or so before you plant. The small rise in temperature of the soil can make a big difference
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
There’s quite a list to sow and plant outside, especially if March has not been suitable.
Do remember the weeds are springing into action, so keep the hoe going. Don’t forget, a sharp hoe is the best friend a gardener can have. Just slide it back and forth slightly below the surface of the soil and you’ll stop the weed seedlings in their tracks. Hoeing is also good in the event of drought as the disturbed soil surface stops the water being sucked to the surface by capillary action and evaporating in dry winds.
Things to Sow
- Broad Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
- Kohl Rabi
- Beet spinach
With your carrots, covering with a fleece and ensuring the edges are buried will stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by your carrots. The eggs hatch in larvae that burrow into the carrot root, killing the plant or at least ruining the crop.
Globe and Jerusalem Artichokes
Onion & Shallot Sets
Easter is the traditional potato planting time. If you have a comfrey bed and it has sprung back, the first cut laid in the trench under the potatoes will provide nutrition to get them off to a good start.
On the subject of comfrey, if you make a comfrey tea it will help you to a great crop to use it on your potatoes. Many novice growers wonder why they have small crops of potatoes and most often this is just down to lack of food for this hungry crop.
Sow in Heat (Greenhouse or Windowsill)
- Outdoor Cucumbers
- Tomatoes (if you’ve not already done so)
A good tip in a windowsill is to stick some silver cooking foil onto cardboard and place on the inside to reflect light back onto the seedlings. This will help revent them being drawn.
Sow Outdoors Under Cloche
- French beans
Alternative Method for Sweetcorn
I like to pre-chit my sweetcorn, I lay the seeds on a layer of damp kitchen paper and then place a layer of paper over in an airtight box. An old ice-cream carton or a Tupperware type box is ideal. Check carefully each day and as soon as the small white sprout appears, plant the seed about half to an inch deep in a 3″ pot of general purpose compost in the greenhouse.
When the shoots appear about an inch high, plant out under cloche being careful not to disturb the root (sweetcorn hates root disturbance) under a cloche. Sweetcorn needs a lot of nitrogen and a teaspoon of dried blood per plant or water with urea (this is a chemical, I do not mean pee on them!)
Many of the crops you can sow directly will also benefit from cloching, especially as you move northwards or started off in modules in a cool greenhouse or coldframe and then planted out later.
Strawberries can be planted out now, it’s best to remove flowers in the first year as you conserve strength for growth and gain larger crops in subsequent years. An easy way to gain strawberry plants is to plant the runners into pots and when rooted cut the runner. The plants don’t last forever so you need to rotate them ever three to five years.
Hand pollinate peaches and nectarines. Tickle the flowers with a small paint brush to spread the pollen. Cover if a cold spell threatens.
A good layer of compost around the base of fruit trees will ensure they have the nutrition to provide another good crop for you.
I’ve mentioned the carrot root fly but the gardener’s worst enemy is awakening. The evil slugs and snails are coming out to eat entire rows of succulent young seedlings overnight so take action now.