April is a wonderful time of year for garden growers

For garden growers, April is the most wonderful time of the year.

All of nature is in major growth mode – the most detested weed and the most beloved seedlings are growing almost in front of our eyes.

Leaves are emerging on trees and flowers appearing in the garden practically overnight. There is a lot to do in April. From sowing loads of seeds to keeping on top of weeds, hardening off seedlings.

Here is this months growing calendar to inspire you to get growing.

Preparation

April is the banker month - if poor weather in March has hampered your outdoor work, then April is the month to catch up. Fork over and rake the soil in preparation for the crops.

To do list

Two words; weeds and slugs. You need to stay on top of them both.

‘Earth-up’ your spuds - this means drawing up soil around the stems which creates additional depth of soil and therefore encourages the plants to produce more potatoes. A ridging hoe is the ideal tool for earthing up.

Water your tunnel/greenhouse – things can get pretty warm on a nice sunny April day and seedlings will dry out quickly.

As the weather improves, ventilate the polytunnel during the day.

Cabbage root fly attack brassicas by laying eggs at the base of plants. Cut discs of soft material, like carpet underlay and lay flat around the base of the plant. Depending on the weather, cabbage butterflies will also soon be laying eggs. Check the undersides of leaves and scrape off eggs before they hatch.

You will need to keep this vigilance up in the coming months - collect the caterpillars and feed to the hens.

Sowing Seeds & Planting Out

Sow indoors - oriental greens, lettuce, annual spinach, summer cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, beetroot, celery, courgette, kale, perpetual spinach, swede and chard.

Sow direct in the soil outdoors - peas, onion sets, shallots and main crop potatoes.?

Hardening off – seeds raised indoors/under cover, need to be acclimatised outdoors before planting out. Bring them outside during daylight hours for at least a week. Plant out cabbage plants when they are 15/20 cm tall into well prepared soil that has been manured. Water the plants well the day before and lift each plant with as big a root ball as possible. Firm the plants in well and water. Tomato plants might be ready for planting out in to the greenhouse/polytunnel ground this month but hold off if the weather is very cold. If space is at a premium, use plant pots to grow herbs and strawberries.

Harvesting - What’s In Season?

Stored fruit and vegetables are likely to be a distant memory at this stage and new crops are only starting to trickle in which makes April a tricky proposition. The middle of this month might see the first asparagus and the first early spring cabbage. The other two star performers this month are sprouting broccoli and rhubarb. You could also be harvesting leeks, spring cauliflowers, kale, spinach and chard, lettuce, carrots (in polytunnel ), radish, spring onions and wild garlic.

Pick bundles of tender young nettles - divert some to the kitchen for a delicious nettle soup or blood-purifying tea and use the rest for an organic fertilizer. Nettles are extremely high in nitrogen so if you soak a large bucketful in water for a week, you produce a brilliant nitrogen-rich fertilizer which will be hugely beneficial for any plants which need leafy growth, for example lettuces, cabbage, kale etc. Put a kilo of nettles in a hessian bag and soak in 20 litres of water and leave it to stew for a month or so. It gets pretty stink so put a lid on top. Mix one part nettle liquid with ten parts water when applying to plants.

 

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