April is a big sowing month, the sun rising ever higher with life and energy on the soil increasing and making it easier for strong germination.
April is traditionally fickle, with warm spells and then cold ones. So try and sow when the BBC forecast a few warm days so the seeds start their life before the next cold snap. While it is easier to sow in the warmth of May, you then have nothing to eat until July, when everything is ready at the same time. In other words it’s worth the extra effort now.
Work up a good soil tilth with a rake. You should soon have a good crumby seedbed—if not, your soil needs attention! Scattering compost on the surface in autumn lets it break down over the winter, and if you don’t dig your soil you then have a good tilth ready when you need it. Using well rotted compost is important as bits of straw and unrotted plant matter are slug food.
A major hindrance is the slug. There are lots hatching out now, and it’s best to deny them any food from the beginning. Most slugs live under the surface, invisibly gnawing at roots. By the time you see a weed, it and several failed weeds have fed your slimy friends, and so try and weed all the time, before the weeds are visible. It is quick to hoe or rake gently over the top surface regularly.
Sadly many people prefer deluging the ground with slug pellets. Remember it is not only slugs you are killing, and that prevention is always better than a cure. My carrot seedbed is being fed with water steeped with rotting garlic, hoping the smell will encourage slugs to go the other way.
As we enter the Spring Gap, birds get puckish and so even my chard has fleece over it. Fleece is good all round, it keeps a seedbed warm and moist, and birds and rabbits off. Mice and rats love our peas each spring so we mostly sow them in modules.
We have been finding our new left-hand hoe works really well, because weeds come up anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. Hoe! Hoe!
What to sow this month
Outdoors: all the English favourites, such as maincrop peas and potatoes, leek, beetroot, calabrese/sprouting, radish, onion sets, lettuce, carrots & parsnips.
Indoors: early in the month celeriac, mid month: courgettes, basil, sweetcorn and early May: cucumber, French and runner beans. Transplanting any of these outdoors before the weather is seriously warm is risky, so it may be better to sow later than this.