Vegetables in April

Carrots. Once they’ve germinated, you’re on a roll. Best results are when the soil is warm and continually moist, the seed is fresh, and you don’t sow too deep.

Taking time to prepare a good seedbed is worth it. Carrots take a tantalisingly long time to germinate and it gets difficult when weed seedlings smother the carrots, or you have to lift weeds out and disrupt the soil. If the soil has been dug or rotavated, try and firm the soil surface so it doesn’t subside after sowing.

Hoe out a shallow drill, and water only the sowing line with a watering can, which also helps to firm the soil at the base of the drill line. It is then worth taking the time to sow accurately: I sprinkle seed onto a plate, and then place each seed individually at a 1 cm spacing, and cover with ¼“ fine soil. This saves fiddly time later thinning the crop to an inch apart, as well as the risk of root fly smelling your thinnings.

Unless it rains, water the drill every day, just enough to wet the seed, but not the soil around. This gives me 95% germination every time.  Keep an eye out for germinating weeds and lift them out gently.

The richer the soil, the faster and bigger your carrots grow. Our soil is manured every year, and as soon as the plants are big enough, more manure goes either side of them, which helps earth them up to stop the root tops going green as they push themselves up our of our clay soil.

In dry weeks it is best to water the crop, to keep them growing steadily and make it less likely that the roots split when we get 2” rain in Glastonbury week.

And the dreaded root fly, how do we stop that? Pick or thin the roots while it is raining or at twilight, when the fly is not on the wing. The same goes for weeding, and avoid inadvertently treading on the leaves. The fly also lives on parsley, parsnip, celeriac and celery, so best to try and lift these crops when it’s raining too!

Professional growers cover the crop with veggie mesh.  Some people like to put 24” high plastic sides around their crop to keep the fly out, but they often get though a minute gap. And how do you make soup like gold? Put 22 carrots in it.


What to sow this month

April is a good time to sow all the English favourites outdoors, and you can sow the heat loving imports indoors in late April and transplant outside in May.

Outdoors: Maincrop peas, leek, beetroot, calabrese/sprouting, onion sets, maincrop potatoes, lettuce, carrots & parsnips.

Indoors: early: celeriac, mid month: courgettes, basil, sweetcorn, French and runner beans, late April: cucumber.