Gardeners already have their hands full in April. Because in this month, seeds are diligently sown and planted, laying the foundation for a successful season in the kitchen garden. Here is what needs to be done.
Sowing parsley root
Parsley root is less well known than the garden parsley. The white roots are often confused with parsnips, but they are smaller. They add a mild parsley flavor to soups and vegetable dishes. Sow the root parsley in mid to late April, when the soil has dried well, in a sunny bed with humus rich soil. If the young plantlets are too dense, you should separate them to a distance of 5 to 8 centimeters (2 to 3 in). During the main growth period of the roots, that is, from the beginning to mid-June, you need to water generously.
Fertilize fruit trees
Fruit trees and berry bushes are grateful for a dose of nutrients in the spring. Therefore, spread about three liters of compost per square meter on each tree disk no later than early April. Compost is ideal as a fertilizer for fruit trees because it provides a lot of potassium and calcium, nutrients that are particularly needed for fruit formation. Blueberries are an exception: As bog plants, they do not tolerate compost.
Plant currants deep enough so that the root ball is covered with 5 centimeters (2 in) of soil. This will stimulate the formation of new shoots from the root zone. If you want to grow several currants on the trellis, plant the bushes so high that the root ball is flush with the surface of the soil, because only a few new branches should be formed. When planting, leave only the three strongest shoots and fix them to the tension wires in a fan shape.
Preplant cucumbers and melons in time
Cucumbers and melons are sensitive to any disturbance in the root zone. For precultivation, do not use the usual pricking of seedlings. Plant two to three seeds per pot, about two centimeters (0.8 in) deep. After germination, you should keep only the strongest specimens. Seeds of newer snack or mini cucumbers are relatively expensive and one seed bag usually contains only five seeds. Therefore, grow the required seedlings individually in small pots or potted plates. As a general rule, wait until the seedlings have rooted the pot well before planting them out.
You can grow radishes from spring to fall, but the right choice of variety determines success. Starting in April, spring and summer radishes such as the red, white and pink varieties of the popular ‘Easter Greeting’ variety can be sown.
Bush beans and runner beans are sensitive to cold, so precultivation in pots is recommended, especially in harsh locations. Plant the young plants from the beginning of May under fleece together with the pot ball in the vegetable bed, preferably in mixed cultivation with sweet corn. The advantages of early cultivation: you can harvest earlier and the young plants are safe from bean flies and snails.
Soak onions overnight in water at room temperature before planting. This helps them form roots sooner and gain a foothold in the bed more quickly. Onions are usually staked in rows. The distance between the rows should be 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 in). Once all the bulbs are planted, the rows are heaped a little with soil using the back of the rake and then pressed down firmly.
In mild regions you can plant potatoes from the beginning of April. In regions with late frost, you should wait until mid-April to be on the safe side. However, a light night frost will not cause too much damage to the young plants, as the tubers will sprout again afterwards. Place the seed potatoes in a maximum depth of 10 centimeters (4 in) and maintain a planting distance of about 30 centimeters ( 12 in) in the row and 40 centimeters (16 in) between the planting rows. Carefully cover pre-sprouted potatoes with soil to prevent the soft sprouts from breaking off.
Lettuce plants have a relatively short growing season. If you have now transplanted the first home-grown seedlings into the bed, you should sow the next lettuce seeds right away, this way you can harvest fresh lettuce throughout the entire garden season.
Prune back the peach tree
To keep the peach tree fruitful and producing lots of peaches year after year, consistent annual pruning is extremely important. Therefore, immediately after harvest or in the spring just before flowering, remove at least three-quarters of the shoots that bore fruit the previous year. The rest should be cut back to three buds so that they can form new fruit shoots for the next year. Make sure that the crown is thinned out as evenly as possible by pruning.
Chickpeas in the vegetable patch
Legumes like chickpeas, like all legumes, have their special value in the garden. Since they form a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing nodule bacteria, they do not require additional fertilization and also increase soil fertility. Subsequent crops such as nutrient-hungry cabbages are also well provided for as a result. The seeds are sown as soon as the danger of night frost has passed. Beforehand, the soil is thoroughly loosened with a rake or cultivator and the seeds are placed in rows at intervals of 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 in) in seed furrows 2 to 3 centimeters (1 in) deep (row spacing 20 centimeters (8 in)). Harvesting then takes place eight to twelve weeks after sowing.
Woodruff also grows in the garden
When collected in deciduous forests, woodruff can be easily recognized by its angular stem and leaf whorls, even by laypersons. For May punch or tea, pick the herb just before the white flowers open. The aroma unfolds when the bunches have wilted somewhat. In small doses, the ingredients have a calming effect; in larger quantities, together with alcohol, they cause headaches. In the garden, woodruff thrives under ornamental or berry bushes. The easy to care for little plants quickly cover the ground and keep goutweed, couch grass and creeping buttercup in check through root exudation.
Jerusalem artichoke: don’t forget the bed edging
If you want to grow sunchoke or Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) in your garden, you should think about the border right from the start. This is because the perennial, frost-hardy sunflower species can also invade neighboring beds with its underground runners. As a root barrier, it’s best to dig 30-centimeter-wide (12 in) strips of solid pond liner vertically along the edges of the bed.
Prick out tomatoes
If you have sown your tomatoes in seed trays, you will need to prick out the young tomatoes as soon as they unfold their first real leaves. Carefully lift the roots out of the soil with a special pricking stick or the handle end of a tablespoon and place them individually in small pots of vegetable soil.
Set up vegetable nets
Use close-meshed nets to effectively protect your vegetable crops from the larvae of vegetable flies (cabbage flies, carrot flies, onion flies). Cover the plants with the nets immediately after sowing or planting to prevent the flies from laying eggs. It makes sense to use long brackets made of spring steel or made of branches from hazel nut or similar as net supports so that the nets do not rest directly on the plants. You should seal the edge areas with soil or boards.
Planting time for quinces
The wood of young quince trees is more sensitive to frost than that of apples or pears. Therefore, quinces are best planted in the spring. Since the strikingly large white-pink flowers do not open until late April, they are usually spared the spring frosts.
Encourage beneficial insects
Wild bees, green lacewings, ladybugs and ichneumon wasps are among the most useful helpers in the orchard. They find shelter in bundled hollow elder branches, sturdy reed stems or special insect nesting boxes. The lacewing larvae feed exclusively on aphids until they pupate. Each larva destroys several hundred aphids during this period.
Cut back raspberries and blackberries
For summer raspberries, you should now cut back all branches to 1.60 to 1.80 meters (5 to 6 ft). For blackberries, remove all cut branches from last year at ground level just before new shoots appear. After pruning, it is best to mulch the raspberry and blackberry beds with bark compost. Do not apply the mulch until the spring sun has dried the upper soil layers.
The first rhubarb harvest
The first tender stalks of rhubarb, ready for harvesting from the end of April, have the best flavor. However, resist overharvesting so as not to weaken the rhubarb unnecessarily. You can harvest younger plants every two to three weeks, and vigorous specimens at shorter intervals. As a rule of thumb, at least two-thirds of the stems and leaves must remain standing. So turn out a maximum of three to five of the strongest stems with a jerk, if possible directly at the base. Flowers should always be removed immediately, as they cost the plants unnecessary strength.
Cabbage plants sown in the greenhouse or cold frame are usually strong enough at the beginning of April to be moved outdoors. Plant the young plants with sufficient spacing: depending on size and cultivation period, the plants need a planting distance of 40 centimeters (16 in) (for example, broccoli) to 60 centimeters (24 in) (for example, late white cabbage varieties) both in the row and to the neighboring rows. Set the young plants quite deep so that they are sufficiently stable, and it is best to sprinkle a little algal lime into the planting hole to prevent cabbage hernia. Change the bed annually.
Earlier strawberry harvest with fleece
By covering with one or two layers of garden fleece, you can bring forward the harvest of your strawberries by about a week. If you additionally spread perforated film over it, you can even pick berries a few weeks earlier. Covering is done as soon as the spring sun warms the soil. If April brings more summer temperatures, there is a risk of heat accumulation. Fleece and foil should then be removed at least over the midday period: Above 28 °C / 82 °F there is a risk of growth disturbances. As soon as the plants begin to bloom, remove the fleece and film in any case, so that pollination by bees and bumblebees is ensured.
The strawberry blossom weevil / elephant weevil is on the way
With the first warm days in April, the dark strawberry blossom weevil, only four millimeters in size, leaves its winter lair in the ground litter. The beetles gnaw the flower stalk below the bud and lay their eggs in the bud, which later dries up. One female can lay over 100 eggs and damage a corresponding number of flowers. Use appropriate ways now to control the beetles.
Tie down the new shoots of fruit trees
Towards the end of the month, new shoots are already clearly visible on most fruit trees. Steeply ascending new shoots that are useful for crown development should now be weighted down with weights or brought into a somewhat flatter position with wire. The greater their angle to the vertical axis, the weaker they grow and the earlier they bear flowers and fruit.