Mid April 2015

Mid April 2015

New growth! weeds included, more on sowing dates,  spring harvests and using fleece, and beware frosts imminent

The season is well underway and already some summery jobs such as watering are becoming necessary. Also its time to sow summer-fruiting cucurbits such as courgette, squash and melon, if you haven’t already. I am sowing my winter squash on April 20th, and some early sweetcorn too. But undercover only – there are frosts (!) forecast during the coming week, at least in rural areas.
Another key job is hoeing new, tiny weed seedlings. Be proactive, go out looking for signs of new weeds and find a moment in dry weather to run a hoe lightly through the surface of beds and paths wherever you see unwanted green leaves appearing. Compost is mostly easy to run a hoe through, or to disturb with a rake which also serves to dislodge and dry weed seedlings.
Perennial weeds need their new shoots removing regularly with a trowel. I am already doing this for bindweed in the polytunnel.


Onions and leeks

There is still time to plant onion sets and modules of sown onions. Leeks are less urgent, I sow mine now for planting in May and June. I find that Autumn Mammoth varieties such as Hannibal grow well here and stand through most winters, giving long-stemmed leeks of good weight. In colder regions, harvests between January and April are more assured with varieties such as Bandit, Husky and Musselburgh. All of them can either be sown in drills outside, or in trays undercover with 3 to 4 seeds per module.
My Bleu de Solaise leeks are cropping nicely now but are on the short side, and already a few are starting to make seedbeds inside their stems, so they shall all need eating by the end of April. 

Early or later sowing

The rising energy in spring creates a desire to be out sowing and generally getting on with the garden. Just be wary of sowing some vegetables too early, for example runner and French beans and cucumbers for growing outside. They need warmth (over 20C most of the time), both to germinate and to keep growing healthily, otherwise they ‘catch a cold’ and become weak. Sow them in May.
A golden rule is that spring sowings catch up. So if your allotment neighbour is telling you that they have sown everything, don’t worry, your later sowings of warmth-loving plants may do better in the end.

Earlier veg sowings

On the other hand, cold-tolerant vegetables such as beetroot, lettuce, spinach, spring onion, shallot, cabbage, broad bean, parsnip and carrot can all be growing strongly by now from earlier sowings. The photos show my dig/no dig experiment where most of the vegetables were sown mid-February in the greenhouse, planted in March without hardening off and covered with fleece since then. Carrot and parsnip were sown mid March. My plan is to harvest everything except the parsnips in spring and early summer, then make second plantings, see how this unfolds in the experiment page.


Most harvests at the moment are from overwintered plants, such as spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, spring cabbage, leeks, spring onions, parsley as well as perennial plants such as kale, sorrel, wild rocket, chives and the first spears of asparagus. It will be a while before spring sown vegetables are ready, although spinach, lettuce leaves and radish are almost ready here.

Warmth loving vegetables

Its time to be sowing basil, and potting on peppers, aubergines and chillies if they are outgrowing their starting-off pots or cells. Tomatoes will definitely need potting on at some point because they grow fast from now on and planting time is approaching, for undercover tomatoes. I put mine out in early May as soon as winter salads have finished, and after spreading compost. At the moment, my greenhouse and tunnel are full of highly productive salad plants, with outdoor lettuce starting to grow strongly, after watering.


I recommend laying fleece over new plantings to keep animals, insects and wind off tender seedlings. Then, vegetables which tolerate some cold can have fleece covers removed after two to four weeks, depending on conditions and how they are growing.

One thought on “Mid April 2015

  1. Charles

    Can I say what a transformation a wheelbarrow of 6 month old, filtered compost on a 2 square metre lettuce bed has made to our leaf plantings this spring??

    I planted out 6 plants of 3 strains from Seeds of Italy and all are wonderfully healthy and growing at speeds I’ve never seen early lettuce grow at before.

    I’ve covered them at night with old plastic ice cream pots or the lids of propagators (to protect against cold and possibly slugs (although no damage has yet been seen this spring from that bunch of munchers) and just watered during the drought on leaf days (i.e. every 7 – 9 days).

    I’ve also seen the best ever radish germination in early April after putting down 2cm of similar compost on a bed for sowing parsnips and beetroot (the radish is a guide row). 5 days after sowing a whole row was through and they are the most wonderfully healthy radish I’ve ever sown (in comparison I tried an experiment sowing some in between the over-wintered garlic rows and those are far less healthy).

    I”ve created some similar beds for Kale and Chard in a piece of dead space in the fruit cage and will also grow some spring onions in empty spaces.

    This compost lark on top of no-dig beds really does work for early spring crops…..

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