What to do in your garden in April
- Try direct sowing some new salad leaves, carrots, peas, beetroot, spinach and chard.
- Sow some quick growing half-hardy annuals, like pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn, basil and French beans.
- Plant Maincrop potatoes.
- Plant tomatoes and cucumbers (under cover).
- Keep on top of thinning seedlings.
- Rotavate the vegetable garden. Get ready for a mass sowing of hardy annual veg, such as spinach, carrots, beetroot, lettuce and radish. On heavy soil, integrate plenty of grit and organic matter. On freely drained soil, only muck and/or compost need to go in.
- Plant out onions, shallots and garlic.
- Pot on tomatoes. It’s tempting to move tomatoes from a module or seed tray straight into their final, large planting pot, but this slows growth. Tomatoes like to feel contained and cosy; their roots can’t cope with a large volume of compost and tend to rot. Pot them only one size up and add a cane at their side to support them as they grow.
- Plant asparagus crowns.
- If you want to get going with some salad, sow now undercover or in gutters in your greenhouse or conservatory. Eg corn salad, rainbow chard, mizuna, rocket, winter purslane, mustard and plenty of lettuces.
- Direct sow chervil, chives and coriander or sow dill, fennel and French sorrel under cover.
- To avoid risk of infection, stone fruits such as plum, cherry, peach, nectarine and apricot should only be pruned during the growing season. Prune late April, when the plants are in leaf and after flowering. Immediately seal all cuts greater than 1cm (½in) with wound seal.
- Repot your citrus in fresh citrus-specific compost. If you can’t find this, ericaceous is the next best thing.
- Top dress blueberries grown in pots with ericaceous compost. It’s important to have two different varieties of blueberries to get good production – they will fruit without, but you’ll get a paltry quantity.
- All soft fruits, eg strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, and gooseberries, will benefit from a mulch. Garden compost, leaf mould, organic manure, straw, hay and spent mushroom compost can all be used.
- Brassicas: red & green cabbages, kale, forced sea kale, cauliflower and Cima di Rapa, purple and white sprouting broccoli, spring cabbages
- Roots: Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, first radishes
- Salad crops: salad leaves, over-wintered lettuce, pea tips
- Leafy greens: chard, perpetual spinach and true spinach
- If necessary, ventilate glasshouses on warm days.
- If you have any spare space in a greenhouse around potential tomato beds, direct sow a pack of zinnias. They’ll give you vases of flowers to pick right the way through the summer.
- Snails and slugs love the warmer and wet weather, and before you know it you'll be overrun. Use Nemaslug (biological slug control) on your slugs and this should really help.
- Hedgehogs, frogs, toads and thrushes prey on these pests, so make sure you encourage these creatures in the garden. If you lay a flat stone on the ground, you will soon be able to see whether the thrushes have been using it as a place to smash snail shells. Put out additional food (eg tinned dog food) for hedgehogs.
- We've spotted the first lily beetle already in the garden at Perch Hill, so get your squishing fingers out. Or use Py Spray.
- Don't forget to leave water dishes and bird baths for the bees and the birds. They all need lots of water.
- Sow a wild flower meadow to encourage pollinators.
Salad and herbs
Here's what you could be picking and eating this time next year or, if you’re an old hand, already are:
In the greenhouse
If you have a greenhouse, sow large seeded, large-leaved vegetables, eg cucumbers and courgettes. You'll then have an early July harvest.