April Gardening Jobs – Preparing your kitchen garden for summer
The days of not having much to do in the garden are behind us now and for the next few months the time spent working in our gardens will continue to increase. As the season progresses, you will notice everything growing faster. Unfortunately this does also include weeds. If you’re fortunate enough to have the resources to set up a true no-dig bed then you will probably be feeling pretty smug right now with so few weeds.
April and May I find particularly busy times in the garden, as there is so much to do all at once. In many ways, it’s kind of fortunate that there isn’t a huge amount to harvest at this time of year, so you can focus your energy on the final preparations for the growing season. Because there is so much to do at this time of year, I thought I’d tell you the jobs I have planned for this month. Hopefully this may remind you to do something you’ve forgotten. If you’re new to gardening it may prompt you to do some things earlier to prevent a last minute panic in May.
April is such an exciting time for sowing seeds. So much so that I actually divided my April sowings into two separate blog posts. You can find what I sowed in the first half of April here and what I am sowing in the second half of April here. Of course almost everything in the first post can be sowed in the second half of the month too!
Next month is the time to plant your warmth loving plants in your greenhouse. So now is the time to prepare your greenhouse if you haven’t already. This month we will be clearing out anything that has been stored in them, pulling up any weeds (lots of stinging nettle in ours!) and cleaning the glass. We will also be constructing a bed in our second greenhouse because I much prefer to grow in beds rather than pots in the greenhouse to reduce the need to water and feed so often. If you already have beds in your greenhouse, then just make sure they are weed free and mulched with compost before planting out.
Weeding and cutting in borders
As your plants start springing to life, unfortunately weeds do too. It is easier to keep on top of weeds when they are small, so keep that hoe handy. Always hoe a bed before planting in it. If you miss weeds when they are tiny, whatever you do just make sure you get rid of them before they set seed. Preventing weeds setting seed on the surface of the soil will help reduce weeds in the summer months when the beds are planted up. Just make sure not to dig because this can bring weed seeds from further down up to the surface.
Another thing to keep on top of is mowing any grass borders to ensure the grass doesn’t set seed. This is something that is very easy to forget when you are focused on the weeds in your growing space. In my opinion, grass might just be the worst weed there is. On a side note, we will also be re-cutting our borders while we still can – this will also help maximise planting space.
If you’re a bit behind like we are, then now is the time to mulch your beds before you plant into them. Make sure what you’re using is well rotted because there isn’t much time for it to continue to break down on the soil surface. Also mulch around any fruit bushes if you haven’t already. Mulching is great because it feeds the soil and also helps retain moisture which is definitely needed with the lack of rain we’ve been experiencing.
I find April is a great time to set up plant support if you do not have permanent structures. Our time in the garden will only get busier from here on in, so if you find yourself with the time, now is a great time to set up support for climbing plants such as beans. You will thank me later when you are frantically trying to plant all your warmth loving plants out next month and you don’t have to worry about putting up your supports first. Sorting out plant support now will prevent any delay in planting out, which can weaken plants if they outgrow their pots as they struggle for nutrients.
Potting on – tomatoes and chillies
April is a time when your peppers, chillis and earlier sown tomatoes may be starting to get a bit big. Make sure you give them a large enough upgrade that will hopefully see them through until their final planting position. Hold off planting any of these out yet until after your last frost date. In the UK, we are experiencing an exceptionally cold spring this year so stay on the side of caution.
Hardening off greenhouse tomatoes
Depending on the weather I am hoping to be able to move my tomato seedlings to my greenhouses. This will be sometime around the end of this month or the beginning of next. I will try to do it when we have a few warmer nights forecast so I don’t shock the plants too much. I will also cover the plants in fleece for any late frosts just to be extra safe because it is just not worth the risk losing them at this stage.
Late March and April is a time to plant out most of your early spring sown seedlings. Many of my seedlings have stayed in their seed tray longer than anticipated thanks to such a cold start to spring. April is a good time to plant out many of your frost tolerant plants including cabbages, calabrese, cauliflowers, turnips, kohl rabi, fennel, lettuce, spinach, peas, onions and many herbs. Fleece will also help protect them from the cold and pests. Now is also a great time to pot up your dahlias if you have somewhere to keep them frost free such as a greenhouse or polytunnel.
There is so much to be doing in the garden at this time of year. By keeping on top of these jobs now it should help reduce the amount to do in the height of the growing season. This way you can focus more of your energy on caring for your plants and (quite literally) harvesting the fruits of your labour.