If you haven’t been spurred on already to get outside and prepare for the years gardening then getting on in April is a must. The soil is warming up and spring should be on us, it certainly seems that way here in Cornwall right now. 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. Here’s a few notes, tips and suggestions for the month ahead.
In years gone by, before the age of imports, the ‘Hungry Gap’ between the last of the winter crops and the start of the early crops was still upon us. In our garden today there are still a few things available, sprouting broccoli and chard for example and yes even a few salads, planted late last year.
If you were lucky enough to have an abundance of onions and had carefully stored them either on a dry bench or strung up the Victorian way, 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 though in my case an over zealous cat regularly enjoys pouncing at the fluttering white fleece!
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
There’s quite a list to sow and plant outside, especially if March has not been suitable.
Remember the weeds are springing into action. Regular hoeing will stop the weed seedlings in their tracks. Don’t forget, a sharp hoe is the best friend a gardener can have. It’s also worth remembering, particularly with the drought warnings already being bounded about, that a disturbed soil surface stops the water being sucked to the surface by capillary action and evaporating in dry winds.
- Broad Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
- Kohl Rabi
Sowing under heat (Greenhouse or windowsill)
- Outdoor or Indoor Cucumbers
- Tomatoes (if you’ve not already done so)
Easter is the traditional potato planting time and there are a number of plants well suited to early planting outside including Globe and Jerusalem Artichokes, Onion & Shallot Sets and Asparagus.
If you have beds laid with the plant en-richer comfrey you can make a tea from the leaves. Your potatoes will hopefully reward you with a bumper crop for your efforts. If you have ever had small crops of potatoes it is most likely due to a lack of foo, potatoes are certainly a hungry crop!
Sow Outdoors Under Cloche
Other seeds can be sown now outside but with a little added pampering from a cloche or other covering. French/Runner Beans and Sweetcorn, what I call the bulky seeds, will be happy enough with just such protection. You may also try the a nice selection of early lettuces with this method
An old master of Victorian Gardening once showed me the method of pollinating peaches and nectarines. He tickled the flowers with a rabbits tail attached to a stick, but if you can’t find such a tail a small paint brush will suffice 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.
This time of the year the gardener’s worst enemy is awakening! Slugs and snails are coming out to eat entire rows of your succulent young seedlings whilst you sleep so take action now. be vigilant for the slimy ones even when they are at their smallest. If you are a bit squeamish when it comes to disposing of them I find if you carry a small bucket of water along on your rounds it’s easy to pop them in the water as you find them and there’s little chance of them escaping along the way.