April is an incredibly busy month for gardeners, so it pays to prioritise tasks.
There's masses of sowing and planting to be done, and there's also a need to keep a wary eye out for pests and diseases and take prompt action if trouble looms!
You may be looking for more fruit and veg to grow this year, so here are my tips for what you can be getting on with at home or the allotment if you can get there!
If you want some more help on what to do in your garden this month, I'll be doing a live webinar on Tuesday the 7th of April! I'll be talking through my tips, and answering live Q and A's. Sign up here.
- Sow more peas and broad beans, as these really benefit from sowing in succession. Support early sown varieties with pea sticks if you can get them, or with netting if you can't.
- Make the first sowing of French beans towards the end of April. I recommend the variety 'Safari'.
- Sow runner beans in deep pots or 'Rootrainers'. Do this inside. Like French beans, they are very prone to frost damage. Grow a heavy yielding, stringless variety such as 'Butler' or 'Moonlight'.
- Sow vegetable varieties that have inherent pest and disease resistance. Check out beetroot Boltardy (it doesn't run to seed), carrot 'F1 Resistafly' (resists carrot fly), parsnip 'F1 Albion' (less rust and canker), cabbage Kilazol (has club root resistance), onion 'Santero F1' (resistant to downy mildew), and the blight resistant tomato 'F1 Crimson Crush'.
- Sow perpetual spinach, leeks, radish, turnips, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, Swiss chard and summer cauliflowers outside.
- Buy cell packs of young vegetable plants to plant out. Don't forget that many vegetables can grow in pots, or other containers, just as well as in the veg plot.
- Plant maincrop potatoes. Early varieties may already need earthing up to exclude the light from the tubers. If frost is forecast, cover the shoots with fleece to prevent damage.
- Plant outdoor grape vines in well-drained soils with full sun. A pH of around 6.5 -7 is preferred, so get a soil pH kit and check yours.
- There's still time to plant pot-grown fruit trees and bushes, but it's getting late so don't delay!
Need to ask a question? Download the Candide app, to ask the community (including Alan!) for their gardening and plant advice
In the greenhouse/polytunnel
- Remove the bubble polythene insulation from your greenhouse. Clean the glass and check that the ventilators work. Get ready to paint a coat of greenhouse shading to the outside of the glass to keep the temperature under control.
- Sweetcorn can be sown in cell trays inside, but delay planting out until early next month.
- Marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and squashes should be sown in individual pots towards the end of the month. These will need protection if sown outside. Peat pots are perfect for this as they rot down in the soil. Pumpkin and squash need a lot of time to develop, but marrows and pumpkins can be sown in succession.
- Plant basil in pots or in the borders between your tomatoes. It always does better inside or in the hottest and most sheltered spot outside.
- Feed citrus plants with high nitrogen liquid feed from now until autumn.
- Consider buying or making a cold frame to ease the strain on space in your greenhouse. It is ideal for hardening plants off before planting them outside.
In the fruit garden
- Protect flowers on peaches, nectarines and apricots from frost. Use a soft brush to hand pollinate blooms and increase the chances of a good crop.
- It is now safe to prune plum and cherry trees. They are vulnerable to the silver leaf disease if pruned in autumn or winter. In spring and summer, the wounds heal faster and so reduce the risk of infection.
- Give blackcurrants, blackberries and other hybrid berries a top dressing of sulphate of ammonia now.
Pest and disease watch and remedies
- Check blackcurrants for reversion virus. If affected, bushes will not crop. Infected plants produce redder flowers without hairs, leaves that have fewer points on the margins and no fruit on the branches. Dig out and burn infected plants and plant new ones. Hazelnuts can get big bud mites, so keep a wary eye on them also.
- Start spraying your vegetable plants regularly with Garlic Wonder. This will keep masses of pests away without tasting of garlic. You can make your own garlic spray, but Garlic Wonder is an easy option. It's especially useful for the cabbage family. If you prefer, SB Invigorator is good too and also gives good results without using chemicals.
- Try companion planting to keep pests at bay. I find that pot marigolds or single-flowered tagetes planted between tomatoes will keep whitefly away from my plants.