The National Allotment Society - National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd

April on the plot

The weather in April can suddenly turn from being warm and spring-like back to cold and wintery. Light falls of snow are not uncommon in some parts of the country. It always pays to look a few days ahead when planning any seed sowing and transplanting. If it is cold you can sow the seed of the hardier veggies holding back the tender types until it warms up. The same rule applies with transplants, French and broad beans are hardier than the runners. They can go out if they have been hardened off properly to acclimatise them to living outside of the greenhouse or frame. The potato haulms can survive a light frost but will need earthing over if a hard frost is forecast.

Carrots and parsnips appreciate the warmth of the sun on their backs. It is not too late to sow parsnip seed if you have not had the chance to do the job or have experienced patchy germination. Try chitting the seed in a plastic tub. Space out the seeds on a few sheets of damp kitchen paper until they produced a root. At this stage they can be transplanted into the open ground. Take out a shallow drill, water along it with liquid sea weed before placing the seeds in groups of three at 22/30cms spacings along the drill. Carefully rake back the soil over the seeds and lightly press it down with the back of the rake. You should see a dark line on the surface of the soil along the length of the drill. In about ten days or so the leaves will appear, through the soil, wait another week and you can thin the seedlings down to one. Water the seedlings after thinning out to settle the soil around the roots of the plants. One tip always use new, fresh parsnip seeds, once the packet has been opened the seed can suddenly lose its viability within a couple of months.

Keep harvesting overwintered crops to keep them in production. But as becomes warmer and the days lengthen they will inevitably run to seed. Be ready to dig them out and prepare the soil for the next crop by adding compost or topdressing with a general fertiliser. Next month sees the ‘Hungry Gap’ when supplies from the allotment begin to slow down and thin out. Try sowing a couple of quick growing salad crops or buying in transplants to help out. Try lifting any leeks, brassicas, parsnips etc. and temporarily replanting in the soil or buckets somewhere cool and shady to squeeze the last out of them. Don’t forget to keep them watered.

April is the ideal month to turn the hoe up to super drive getting out of the shed at every opportunity. Try leave enough time to hoe the entire plot at the end of every visit even if the soil is bare. You will disturb weedlings, soil pests and also create a ‘dust mulch’ that will help to keep plant roots cool and conserve valuable soil moisture at the same time.