Allotment and Vegetable Garden in April

Pear tree blosson

by William Brennan, Blarney Park Community Garden

April is great, the soil is warming up and spring should be here. Do keep an eye on the weather forecast though, even in Ireland we can still get cold snaps and snow is not unknown in April. Keeping horticultural fleece on stand-by in case of cold weather is a good idea.

The current weather forecast is not looking great for the beginning of April, protect young plants.

Harvest:

We are in the period known as the ‘Hungry Gap’, which goes between the last of the winter crops and start of the early crops. However, there are still a few things available, like late purple sprouting broccoli and chards. You may also have some early salad crops from the greenhouse border.

Late purple sprouting broccoli
Late purple sprouting broccoli
Chard after a few harvests
Chard after a few harvests

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 is 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. Do not 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 will 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 Outdoors:

  • Beetroot 
  • Peas  
  • Broad Beans  
  • Broccoli  
  • Brussels Sprouts   
  • Cabbage  
  • Cauliflower  
  • Kale   
  • Chard  
  • Kohl Rabi  
  • Leeks  
  • Spinach  
  • Beet spinach  
  • Rocket  
  • Lettuce  
  • Radish
Beetroot seedlings
Beetroot seedlings

Cover carrots with fleece and ensure the edges are buried to stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by them. The eggs hatch in larvae that burrow, making black looking tunnels into the carrot root, killing the plant or at least ruining the crop.

Plant Outdoors:

  • Globe and Jerusalem Artichokes  
  • Onion & Shallot Sets  
  • Asparagus
  • Potatoes

March is the traditional potato planting time. If you have a comfrey bed and it has sprung back, lay the first cut in the trench under the potatoes. It 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 get a great crop. 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):

A good tip is to stick some silver cooking foil onto cardboard and place on the inside of your windowsill to reflect light back onto the seedlings. This will help prevent them being drawn and leggy.

  • Aubergine  
  • Celery  
  • Outdoor Cucumbers  
  • Tomatoes (if you have not already done so) 

Sow Outdoors Under Cloche: 

  • French beans  
  • Lettuce  
  • Sweetcorn 

You can use an Alternative Method for Sweetcorn that works like pre-chitting  it. 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 7.5cm (3″) pot of general-purpose compost in the greenhouse. When the shoots appear around  2.5cm (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 the use of cloches, especially as you move northwards or if you started off your seeds in modules in a cool greenhouse or cold frame and then planted them out later.

Fruit:

Strawberry plant in april
Young new growth on strawberry plant in april

Strawberries can be planted out now. It is 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 get more strawberry plants is to peg 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.

Gardener’s Pests:

I have mentioned the carrot root fly, but the gardener’s worst enemy is awakening this month. The evil slugs and snails are coming out to eat entire rows of succulent young seedlings overnight so take action now.