April Garden Guide
What to Plant in April?
Hard neck garlic (the ones that have a flower stalk) can be planted this month, and also into May. Soft neck garlic is usually planted in May – June. Its best to break up the heads into individual cloves the night before or morning of planting, as the cloves loose vitality once they’re all separated. Plant with the flat bit down and the pointy bit up, so that the pointy bit is just below soil surface.
You can still plant brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower. Best to go with seedlings at this stage rather than seed. See if you can find some of the groovy broccoli varieties such as romanesco (lime green fractal looking) or purple sprouting (lots and lots of lovely purple side shoots for many months).
Broad beans and peas can go in as seed, don’t waste money on seedlings of these big seeded types. Another winter favourite is English spinach, direct seeded to avoid bolting. These three all like a bit of lime raked into the bed a week or two before planting.
Good old spring onions can always be planted, and now is a good time for non-keeping salad onions such as red or white varieties. Winter lettuce, Asian greens, and silver beet planted now will keep you in fresh greens in winter and early spring.
- As you clear summer crops such as zucchini, tomato and sweet corn, rake up any mulch that was on those beds and compost it. This will diminish the habitat for slugs and snails that would otherwise overwinter in the mulch.
Pests and Disease
- Its good practice not to compost your spent tomato vines. They may carry nasty viruses, and no matter how good and hot your composting is, the viruses wont be killed. So this is one of the few times we put garden waste in the bin.
- Young brassicas are still vulnerable to late populations of the cabbage white butterfly. Look for holes in the leaves, turn them over and squish any little (or big) green grubs. Or spray with Dipel which will kill the grubs when they ingest it, and wont harm beneficial insects.
Harvest and Preserve
- If you haven’t already done so, pick your pumpkins this month before the frosts come. Always leave a bit of stalk attached, and the pumpkin will extract the last bit of goodness from the stalk as it dries off. Try to resist carrying big pumpkins around by the stalk, as it might break off and leave a vulnerable spot where disease can get in. And the pumpkin might fall on a vulnerable big toe! After harvest, let the pumpkins sit somewhere sunny and out of the weather for a few days to help the skin cure. Then store in a cool, dry, dark spot.
- Roast tomato sauce anyone? If you have plenty of tomatoes, slice some into pieces and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Scatter some garlic cloves (the little ones that you decided not to plant are ideal – no need to peel them) and salt. Roast in a cool to moderate oven for an hour or so, until the tomatoes are collapsed and soft. I usually do a batch when I have the oven on for some other purpose. When cooked, put them through a food mill, and then freeze, or bottle and process in a hot water bath for pantry storage.
Permaculture Principle #4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
- Have a think about what you grow and what you eat. Are there things that you like the idea of growing, but always end up letting get old and soft in the fridge? I did that with parsnips one year. And in winter we don’t seem to eat much lettuce, so if we have lots of lettuce in the cooler months, it tends to go to all go to seed in early spring. By watching what you throw out to the chooks or compost, you can, over time, adjust your planting to match your eating habits.
- Are your plants looking green, lush and fantastic but seem to be vulnerable to lots of insect or fungal attack? Maybe you’re overdoing the feeding, especially with high nitrogen inputs like blood and bone or chook poo. If plants are fed too much liquid fertiliser or bulk nutrients in the soil they can become lush and soft, and attract more pests and diseases than if they are working a bit harder. Just like people really. So observe closely, and aim for a balanced diet for your soil and plants.
(Image credit: Produce to the People Tasmania.)