April is a busy time for most gardeners and allotmenteers! The sowing season is upon us and with Easter happening this month, there is also the tradition of planting out your chitted potatoes over the Easter Weekend!
Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!
The sowing season is upon us and if your ground is not ready and prepared for your new sowings and plants then it really is time to get a move on!
- Peas and Broad beans can be sown now. These will crop a little later than those that were sown in the Autumn or back in February. French beans (dwarf or climbing) can be started this month too but better off indoors as if sown outdoors you will have to watch out for those sneaky frosts!
- Root vegetables such as beetroot, parsnips, salsify, scorzonera, turnips and carrots can be sown this month. For successional crops of carrots and beetroot sow every three-four weeks.
- Salads leaves such as land cress, chard, spinach and lettuces can be sown now ready for those delicious summer salads
- Brassicas can be sown outdoors into a well-prepared seed bed or where they are to crop including early season calabrese, late cropping sprouts, kale, cauliflowers, and summer/winter cabbage. Sprouting broccoli should be started now too. It needs to be sown approximately a year before it is due to be harvested.
- Leeks should be sown by the end of this month and spring onions can be sown successionally every two to three weeks to give you a continuous supply.
- If you have always wanted to have an asparagus bed, then now is the time to start one. Remember not to harvest in the first couple of years and only take a few in the third, after that you will have asparagus to enjoy year after year!
- Spring-planting onions and shallots can be planted out now.
- Jerusalem artichokes can be planted out in April. They produce beautiful sunflower type flowers throughout the summer and earthy sweet tubers in the winter
- Second early and maincrop potatoes can be planted out now. Traditionally, they are planted out on the Easter Saturday (which has now passed) but if you are a little behind, not to worry, they will soon catch up if you are a few weeks late.
April firmly sits in the hungry gap but that doesn’t mean you can’t have offerings in the garden.
- If you already have an asparagus bed you can start harvesting from around St George’s day up until the Summer solstice.
- If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
- Any remaining winter savoy cabbages, cauliflowers and leeks should be harvested this month to make way for new crops and Sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage is in full swing during the month of April
- If you have planted hardy lettuces over the winter then you can harvest these for a delicious salad along with any new sowings or radishes, leef beet/chard, spinach and other salad leaves that may be ready now.
- Rhubarb should be cropping well throughout April.
Jobs on the plot
April is busy, busy, busy what with all the sowing and planting but be sure to remember the other jobs that might need doing:
- Hoe off any weeds that appear in your vegetable beds. The days are longer and the temperatures are warmer which means weeds will be growing quickly. Control weeds whilst they are still small and before they flower and set seed.
- Pests can often start to appear this month especially aphids. These pests should be controlled and removed in whatever way you see fit (chemical, biological or mechanical) before their numbers get too great.
- Support your legumes! Build bean and pea frames to support your pea and bean sowings that you will make this month. Bean frames can be bought from many retailers or you can make your own from hazel sticks or bamboo canes.
- Watch out for those frosts! Keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and if it looks like the temperature is going to plummet over night then bring tender plants in or protect them with fleece.
- In the fruit garden, feed blueberries with a liquid feed or mulch with ericaceous compost to help get them off to a great start. Grape vines and kiwi fruit should also be fed and mulched with general garden compost or well-rotted manure. Keep an eye out for any fruit tree pests and deal with them quickly remembering not spray chemical controls on trees in blossom.
- Train and tie in blackberries against a fence or using a wire support system. Mulch thickly around blackberries and raspberries.
- Clear out polytunnels and greenhouse to make sure there is room for new sow plants. Also make sure you are removing any dead or diseased foliage so that rots can’t spread.
- If you have planted first early potatoes in a polytunnel or grow bags then make sure to earth up the foliage as it grows..
- Thin out young seedlings to make sure that plants have room to grow and aren’t competing with one another for food and light.
- You still have time to trim and tidy up any perennial herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage.
- If you have tomatoes growing indoors or in a greenhouse, don’t let them get pot bound. Make sure you transplant the tomatoes into a bigger pot ready for planting out in May.
- If some of your seeds have been unsuccessful then take a trip to your local garden centre and buy some replacement plug plants.
Creamy Chicken with Asparagus and Tarragon (from BBC GoodFood)
- 500g baby new potato, halved
- 4 skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 350ml chicken stock
- small bunch tarragon
- 175g asparagus, trimmed
- 3 tbsp reduced-fat crème fraîche
Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling water for 8-10 mins until tender, then drain and keep warm in the pan. Season the chicken with ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Gently fry the chicken with the onion and garlic for 5 mins until both are lightly browned. Turn over the chicken once and stir the onion regularly.
Pour over the stock, add 2 sprigs of tarragon and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 mins, then turn the chicken, add the asparagus and cook for 3 mins more. Chop the remaining tarragon.
Stir the crème fraîche and tarragon into the pan with the chicken and heat through, stirring, for a few secs. Serve with the new potatoes
I hope you all have a good April and for those of you who will be celebrating the religious holidays, Happy Easter, Happy Passover or just Happy Holidays!