April in My Food Garden
This blog post is oh so late! The month of April seems to be fairly flying by. Spring being one of the busiest seasons for us gardeners, time goes by so very quickly. However, if you are worried that you are too late to sow or grow, worry not, it is all just beginning. Even if you have not sown one seed yet, you are just fine, we have loads of time to grow anything and everything yet.
Here’s what is going on in my garden…
The beginning of April started off nice and dry so I was able to get in the garden to finish off all the spring prep. The beds have been weeded, amended with manure, and a bit of Gaia Green 4-4-4. Ideally, that should have been applied in fall, but time ran out.
With all this rain, more weeds are emerging near daily in the pathways so I go through them once a week with my handy Winged Weeder, the best hoe ever. I have been on top of the weeding pretty well this year, so am really hoping that I have caught most all of them for cleaner pathways this summer. Hubby will go along and torch all the tougher weeds. For some reason, we have grass growing in the potager. Makes no sense to me, I have not sown any grass seed and my goal is always to get rid of as much of the lawn as I can. Chip away at it little by little each year.
It seems like it has been colder than usual this spring so things are just starting to wake up and happen in the garden. The rhubarb is just popping through the ground, the cherries are just coming into bloom, the plum trees just finished. They were glorious while they were out though!
My tulips are just beginning to bloom, slowly opening up when we have a day of sunshine. What an odd year… but then again, aren’t they all? Each year is so different but always filled with hope and promise for a great gardening year ahead.
The garlic is looking amazing, as always. Thank goodness garlic is so easy to grow and pretty much takes care of itself… as long as the bed is kept free of weeds. It does not do well if it competes for nutrients with the weeds.
The bed was amended with chicken manure and fish compost last year so should not require much more of anything, but I am thinking of doing a bit of a trial. Will foliar feed 1/3 of the bed with liquid seaweed, 1/3 with Acti-Sol hen pellets (basically condensed chicken manure with added minerals), leaving 1/3 as is. See what grows best. I love to do trials! That is how one learns even more.
I threw some peas into the garden early last month and they are coming up nicely, both the sugar snap and the shelling types. I then tossed in another row of each the other day so as to extend the pea harvest well into summer.
If you have not yet sown any peas, soak them in warm water overnight and toss them into a wee trench or poke them into the soil about an inch or so apart. Soaking cuts down on your germination time by at least a week. Alternately, soak half the seeds and sow those at one end of the bed and the dry peas at the other end, instant succession sowing.
Despite all the pics everywhere on social media, peas and sweet peas do not need to be started indoors, they love the cool soil and this kind of weather. Toss them in and they will grow. I am big on direct sowing.
This month, I will be direct sowing these seeds…
Carrots - I generally sow several patches of carrots this month, all colours and types, and then follow up with a couple more smaller patches when I harvest my cool season crops in May or June. I grow lots of Atomic Red, Chantenay, Danvers, and a purple of some sort, but will add other varieties as the season goes along.
Beets - Another crop that I grow several batches of throughout the year, starting this month and a few more rows here and there in May and June. We love the long cylindrical beets for canning, but also grow the beautiful golden beets and striped Chioggas for salads and dinners. So good!
Cauliflower - I picked up some seeds for a lovely purple cauliflower, called Purple of Sicily. It is super cool looking and they say it is easier to grow than the white cauliflower is. Good thing that as I usually have very little luck with cauliflower growing : (
Parsnips - Sow these now and make sure to water them if the rains stop. Both parsnips and carrots take a super long time (up to 3 weeks!) to germinate and need to be kept moist until you see the wee tops popping through the ground.
Radishes - love my radishes! The long French breakfast ones are so wonderful, but we grow them all ; ) They are cool season crops and will bolt when the heat comes in May-ish. Succession sow a few rows every few weeks if you really love them, like I do.
Greens and lettuces - This is the only chance I get to grow leafy stuff, so I do sow seeds and plant transplants. My south facing garden is much too hot in summer so I only get home grown in spring and fall.
You can also sow the following from seeds now, if you have not yet done so… cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, peas, scallions, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. I will for sure be tossing in some of these seeds this weekend, as well.
The rest of my cool weather stuff will be grown from transplants this year.
Kale - We do not go through a whole lot of kale at our house so I just plant one six-pack of the tall, crinkly Dinosaur type and one of the frilly ones, like Curly Dwarf Blue or White Russian. That will more than do us for all the kale eating that we do.
Leeks and onions - Seedlings are my favourite way to go with both leeks and onions. We eat tons of onions, and use them for canning, too. One 4’ x 12’ bed is dedicated just for onions.
Cabbage - We all love coleslaw, hubby loves sauerkraut, I love kimchi, so lots of cabbage going in again this year. Red, green, and savoy!
Broccoli and Sprouting Broccoli - Love to grow and eat both!
Cauliflower. Going to get the starters for regular white cauliflower and with any luck, both the starters and the seeds will be amazing this year. Gardening is full of promise, every year is a fresh new start, full of possibilities.
Artichokes - It looks like the snowy winter did in my artichokes. I may have one that survives, time will tell, but that means I need to plant a few more. I like to have 3 or 4 at the end of one of my beds. Some for eating and some for the bees.
Brussels Sprouts - Plant these guys this month and eat them at thanksgiving… yep, that is a long time from now.
Potatoes - 0kay, so not really from starters, but from seed potatoes. These guys can go into the ground anywhere between mid April and mid June, so lots of time to deal with them if the ground is too wet this month.
Don't forget to add all kinds of annual flowers to your garden for attracting pollinators and beneficial insects for better, bug-free veggies this year.
I plant a lot of companion flowers to entice a wide variety of good insects into my food garden, which in turn keeps my gardens virtually pest free…. and colourful, too.
The top 5 annuals that you should add to your beds are…
Marigolds! If you plant nothing else, add lots of marigolds to the garden. Repels a wide variety of garden pests.
Calendula - Sometimes called a Pot Marigold. The next more important addition to any vegetable plot, it attracts so many beneficials.
Sweet Alyssum - Not only smells great and is super pretty as it spreads around the garden, but also attracts a wide variety of both pollinators and other good bugs that eat bad bugs.
Nasturtiums - Pest repelling when used in the brassica bed and can also be used as a lure to draw the aphids away from your veggies.
Zinnias - My all time favourite flower. Super easy to grow, colourful, drought tolerant, and attracts bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, all sorts of beneficial insects to keep your garden pest free.
There are all sorts of annual flowers that you can add, all are wonderful additions to your veggie garden. If you like it, plant it, it is sure to attract some good bug, or bird, that will eat or repel the bad bugs.
Plant lots of sunflowers, both the tall ones and the multi-branched ones. Snapdragons, tagetes, dahlias, salvia, cosmos, asters, and geraniums are all flowers that I regularly add to my beds.
I will write a more in-depth post just about pollinator plants and companion planting, as my most favourite, number one tip for anyone growing an organic vegetable garden is to plant flowers, lots of them.
I will be sowing my zinnias this weekend, always around the middle of April, weather permitting. Just scratch the soil up a bit, toss in the seeds, scratch the soil again to make sure that the seeds are buried, water, and that is it. Water every couple of days if we are not getting rain (not a problem thus far this spring ; )
Calendula, cosmos, and sweet alyssum are also super easy to grow from direct sowing. When it comes to flowers, I love to both direct sow and use starter plants. Gives me more variety and more colour, more bang for my buck.