April is a great time to sow your second lot of seeds if you are doing successional sowing. This method can be used for lots of food crops. It’s also a great time to start the rest of your main food crops!
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What You’ll Need:
- Plant labels – I use lollipop craft sticks from Poundland, but you can also cut up empty clean milk bottles into strips and use that
- A marker pen to write on the labels
- Peat free compost
- Plant pots
- A protective cover – greenhouse, polytunnel, plastic bags over pots, or folding plastic food trays (eat the pastry first!). You could also use a stackable clear plastic box
- A drip tray if indoors – plate, bowl, drip tray, plastic fruit punnet (without holes), plastic bags also work
Choose Your Location:
A south facing room or window will be the hottest place in the house and get most direct sunlight, but any space will do. I have a mini plastic greenhouse in the garden which is north facing, but the greenhouse gets most of the sunlight each day. I also fully utilise every windowsill available!
For direct sowing, you can try lots of different things. You can grow food in hanging baskets, borders, raised beds, pots, or old tyres. I have a mini greenhouse (from Wilkos) and lots of plastic boxes!
Seeds to Sow in April:
This month, seeds you can sow indoors/under cover include:
- Pea – early onward, twinkle, sugar snap, asparagus
- Courgette – all varieties
- Sweetcorn – earliking F1, incredible F1
- Pumpkin – all varieties
- French bean – all varieties
- Runner bean – all varieties
- Sweet bell pepper if you haven’t done any yet
- Squash – patty pan, spaghetti
Flowers: sunflowers can be started indoors in April in trays, pots or modules.
Herbs: chives, basil, thyme, sage, and lemon grass can all be started under cover.
Seeds to sow outdoors:
Everything from March can also be sown in April
- Broad bean – aquadulce Claudia
- Spinach – trombone F1
- Corn salad (lambs lettuce)
- Parsnip – student
- Leek – giant winter
- Pea – twinkle
You can also direct sow:
- Red veined sorrel
- Onion seed – magnate F1, red Brunswick, and Bedfordshire champion
- Turnip – snowball
- Spring onion – white Lisbon
Herbs that can be direct sown outdoors include:
Carrots will benefit from loose soil, so mix in some sand. They also require deep soil to grow their roots (the part we eat) so make sure they have enough room to grow in all directions. Carrots and parsnip should not be started in pots and then planted out as this damages the root, which causes them to fork and twist. Direct sowing avoids this! You can however start them in toilet roll tubes, and then plant the whole tube. The cardboard will rot away and the roots won’t be disturbed.
Red veined sorrel is related to dock, so it will put out a large tap root. This plant is grown for the leaves so it can be grown in pots. Growing in pots also ensures that the plants and leaves stay small, which gives a better flavour.
- Hollyhock – sow them this year to flower next year
- Sweet pea
- Nasturtium (edible)
- Corn flower (edible)
- Calendula (edible)
Do not plant sweet peas with or near edible peas.
If you sowed seeds outside in March (and if you have room!) you can sow more of the same seed in April. This means you will get a longer cropping period. Good seeds for successional sowing are:
- Salad crops (spring onion, sorrel, rocket, mizuna, spinach, lettuce, corn salad)
Planting Out in April:
If you have overwintered sweet peas, these can be planted out from mid-April.
Food crops that can be planted out include:
- Cauliflower, sprouts, kale, and calabrese – make sure you net/protect these crops as the pigeons will eat the young leaves
- Broad beans & peas
- Any edible flowers (nasturtium, calendula)
- Herbs including rosemary, chives, and borage.
How to Do It:
Put some peat free compost in the trays and place seeds on top of the compost. Gently press the seed in, cover them over, and water. Remember to label the trays! Use the size of the modules to decide how many seeds go in each – if the module is only 3cm wide, only put one or two seeds in.
Courgette and pumpkin have large seeds so you may only get a few per packet. Two courgette plants will be enough for a household of four people! They are prolific fruiters. In a 9cm pot, you can start two or three seeds.
Sweetcorn is best started in module trays. Pop one seed per module. Sweetcorn seedlings look like grass so don’t pull them out when they start growing!
For flowers, you can just scatter seed where you want them to grow outdoors, and then cover the over lightly or trample the ground (walk on it) to press the seeds in. Nasturtium take over but make a fab ground cover plant. The flowers and leaves are edible. Do not plant sweet peas near edible peas – this is simply so you don’t mistakenly eat a sweet pea pod.
Direct sowing seed outdoors can be done into raised beds, pots, hanging baskets, old tyres, the ground, or even old terracotta chimney pots. I have different techniques for direct sowing – some crops are done in rows, some in grids, and some are just one seed here and there to mix things up a bit. I find grid sowing uses up space more efficiently and I can also intercrop more things ie, carrots and parsnip, sorrel and spinach etc.
Harvesting Food in April:
Last years crops will be ready to harvest – so if you start growing in 2021, in April 2022 you can expect:
- Lettuce – winter density
- Spring onion – winter hardy white Lisbon. Cut them when they are the thickness of a finger.
Seeds started outdoors in March may also be ready, this includes:
- Salad leaves (eg sorrel, spinach, corn salad). To harvest leaves, simple pick or cut off the leaves you want to use. Pick them small (5-6cm). Make sure to rinse them under running water before you eat them – slugs and caterpillars are good at hiding.
Seeds Sown in March:
The peas that I sowed indoors in March are growing well. I will leave them until mid-April before planting them out.
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