What seeds can I sow in April?
April is probably my busiest sowing month in terms of getting seeds into the ground and also into seed trays and modules and so this month it’s almost a case of what can’t I sow rather than what can I sow.
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Let me start by reminding you once again that you will need to adjust your times according to where you live, so the further north you are and the further higher in altitude (higher above sea level) you may also need to adjust your sowing times.
A list of all the varieties that we grow and links to their seeds etc. can be found on the What We Grow resource page.
Out in the market garden, there are onion sets that I planted in the autumn and some shallots as well. I’ve already got three rows of carrots sown into the ground. It’s a really nice area that the chickens have been preparing for the last couple of years. Added to which I’ve put lots of used, composted, chicken bedding on top, but I haven’t sown into that bedding. Instead I’ve dug down with my fingers and made a drill and planted into that. This way the seeds are going down onto the soil and get covered back over.
I’m just starting to see some signs of tiny mini carrot seedlings appearing. I’ve also got some onion sets in. They were planted in the spring rather than the autumn, so they should mature a little bit after those ones. Through succession planting I’m trying to have a continuous supply of vegetables throughout the year. By not planting everything all at once, it can be harvested at different times.
A lot of root vegetables can go in now. I’ve started putting in alternate rows of spring onions, carrots, spring onions, beet leaves. I’ve also got some turnips and I’m going to carry on with beetroots, carrots, turnips, more spring onions. I will sow these again in succession, so some will go in this week. I’ll put some more in in about 10 days’ time and then another section 10 days later. So I’m working my way down the bed with lots of different vegetables. This is a mixed root veg and spring onion bed. I’ve put the onions in there in the hope that the smell of the onions will help disguise the carrots from the carrot root fly.
One of the things that I have noticed is my row of turnips have germinated, but one of the local neighbourhood cats, it could be Monty, has paid a visit to this bed, which is always a nuisance. People often ask me how to keep cats out of beds, the only way I know how to do it is to net the beds.
That’s exactly what I’ve done on another bed. I’ve put 3 piping hoops in the bed, put some old netting over it. The netting has got a lot of holes in it. It wouldn’t really be any good as brassica netting because the butterflies would just get in through the big holes. But for keeping the cats off the bed it’s absolutely fine. In this bed I’ve got parsnips. Parsnips are springing up all over my garden, so I know that now is a good time to be sowing them. I’ve sown them in rows about 8 inches apart right across this bed. The netting will stay on for about a month to 6 weeks, just enough time for fragile little roots to get into the ground and really establish themselves. And then I’ll take the netting off and I can use it on another bed.
One bed has last year’s celeriac and Hamburg Parsley in it, that’s a root parsley. We can eat the leaves and then eat the roots as well. I won’t be growing these in the same bed again this year, but you can sow these into modules or direct into the ground. We grew them in modules last year and when I put them into the ground I think I probably squashed the roots together a bit, because the roots are quite gnarly and clumped together.
I think this year I’m going to do direct sowing, of Hamburg parsley. I’ll create a narrow drill in a bed and sow a fine row of seeds and then I will probably thin them out to about 2-3 inches as a part. I don’t think they need a huge amount of space because I don’t want an enormous root. I’m quite happy just to have them as a top-up to the other root vegetables that we grow. Celeriac I will start off in modules, I’ll put in 1 seed per module and I’ll be starting the celeriac this week.
First and second early potatoes usually go in during March, but if you haven’t got them in yet, it doesn’t matter, they can go in now. So although I might have some of them early, some of them I leave to mature and have them a little later as well. They’ve gone in on the surface of the soil and then I’ve piled grass clippings on top of them. As the season goes on I’ll continue to put grass clippings on them. When it comes to harvesting them you just put your hand in through the grass clippings and you will find the potatoes there waiting for you. It’s a really simple and no dig method of growing potatoes. And maincrop potatoes can also go in.
There’s still plenty of time to sow brassicas things like purple sprouting broccoli, which you could be eating this time next year. And things like cabbages, kale, brussel sprouts, calabrese. There are plenty of brassicas that you can sow now for crops during the summer, autumn, winter, right through to next spring.
Many brassicas have a really long growing period, like purple sprouting broccoli. Because you actually want to eat the flower buds, but it’s almost a year from sowing to eating. I think they’re worth the wait and the space that they take up because they are harvested during the hungry gap.
The hungry gap is that period from March to June when the summer and autumn vegetables are over, but the next season hasn’t begun yet. And anything that will fill that gap, I think is a really valuable crop to grow.
As soon as it’s warm enough in your area, you can get broad beans direct sown into the ground. Direct sown just means straight into the ground rather than into compost in trays first. So, you can get them straight into the ground or you can start them off in modules, trays and little seed trays and pots.
I like a variety called Aquadulce Claudia. It is usually quite happy to go through the autumn and winter in the ground. I don’t do that because of the slug issue that we have here. Even with the help of the ducks eating slugs and snails, we still have quite an issue with them. I wait until this time of year to sow my broad beans.
You can also sow peas and mangetout outside now. Don’t forget to put up some sort of support network. Use either some netting or pea sticks for them to climb up. For dwarf varieties, pea sticks are fine. For tall varieties, you’re better off with netting. You can do that using string and canes, or you can buy a netting. I’ve grown some in the polytunnel to get a very early crop. And I’m also going to sow some outside this week, so they’ll come afterwards.
Now is a good time to start sowing your leafy greens, like salad leaves. I’ve got red Russian kale, spinach and cultivated rocket . It’s got a really nice smooth leaf but it packs a punch. You can sow all of these in seed trays to transplant outside or you can also sow them direct outside.
And don’t forget to sow your beetroot. You can grow that, eat the leaves and then as they mature, you can eat the root as well.
If you have an indoor growing space, you can start some French beans to grow under cover to maturity. The aim is to have a super-early crop from them. I’m going to wait before sowing beans for planting outside until either the end of April or early May. They grow fast and I don’t want to have very leggy beans sitting around. So I will wait until it’s almost at the point of our last frost date, and then sow them. Beans sown slightly later will be stronger, healthier plants for putting outside. This year will be sowing a lot of beans direct into the ground outside, after our last frost date.
For growing inside I have basil, I sowed these in early March because I knew they would be living in the polytunnel and I’ve been trying to bring them on early. I will do some more in the next week or two to start here and then go outside.
If you don’t have a polytunnel or if you don’t have a garden, you can still grow basil in pots on your windowsill and there’s just something really nice about being able to add fresh herbs to your cooking. So it’s worth it, even if you’re limited for space, to grow maybe some basil and coriander and some chives. They are all really easy to grow and they will live quite nicely on a windowsill in your kitchen and just be ready to use. You can keep sowing small pots of those throughout the year and it will give you a constant supply of fresh, tangy herbs to use in your cooking.
It does feel a little bit like it’s ‘ready steady sow’ and I just want to get everything in. But I also have to remember that if I sow everything today, I’ve also got to be able to plant it out without it getting rootbound in its little containers.
It’s much better pace yourself and do a little bit each week and they will still grow. So for now I’m going to carry on with my successional sowing of brassicas, peas, lettuces and herbs.
This article is based on a video published in 2020, watch the video What to Sow in April.