April Grower's Calendar

Preparation

April is the banker month. No, not those bankers - 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. Slugs. You need to stay on top of them both.
  • Check your early spuds regularly and 'earth-up' as required – this mean's drawing up soil around the stems to prevent the tubers from going green from sunlight.
  • 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 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 hens.

Sowing Seeds

Indoors on a sunny windowsill: lettuce, tomato, pepper, chilli-pepper, cucumber, celery, celeriac, fennel, basil, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, courgette, marrow, globe artichoke. Indoors in small pots for planting outdoors later: beans (dwarf French and climbing French), runner Bean, sweet corn and pumpkin. Outdoors: broad bean, pea, beetroot, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, parsnip, spring onion, leek, carrot, radish, broccoli, turnip.

Planting Out

Hardening off – seeds raised indoors/under cover, need to be acclimatised outdoors before planting out. Begin by giving the plants less heat and water and more light and air. Bring them outside during daylight hours on goods days for at least a week. You can now get your second earlies and maincrop spuds in to the ground. Last chance to plant onion sets until late autumn (when you can sow over-wintering varieties). 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. Plant out tomatoes in to the greenhouse/tunnel soil before the middle of the month. 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 huge bundles of tender young nettles - divert around 5oz to the kitchen for a delicious nettle soup 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.