April is the time that spring visibly arrives. Everything starts to bloom again and plants recover from the winter. The wonderful spring scent is in the air and birds are chirping.
Today I have a ton of tips to share along with the monthly progress in our vegetable, flower and herb garden. Don’t be surprised if this post gets loooong (with loads of photos as always :)). I don’t know about you, but I can get a bit stressed in spring with the garden. Now is the time to cultivate seeds, take care of seedlings and transfer plants outside (the ones that are frost resistant at least). In order to enjoy vegetables in the summer, now is the time to sow! To not be overwhelmed with all the work, I try to focus on a few plants that a). I prefer home-grown and b). do well in our climate zone here. When deciding what plants to grow, it is vital to know what climate zone you live in and what plants thrive in that environment. It is also important to know, when you can expect the last frost and plan to transfer your seedlings outside accordingly. There is no greater disappointment than to take care of those little seedlings and then transfer them outside only to watch them wither. Obviously I cannot cover all the different zones, so I am just going to give examples for our zone here.
But before we jump in April’s Growing and Sowing List, let’s take a look at the progress in our garden and what has changed since March.
My hydrangea bush has finally started to bud again! I was a little nervous if this one would make it through the winter. In late fall last year, we had an incredibly destructive storm that broke off almost all of the branches of the hydrangea bush. There was nothing left to do but to cut the branches back until there was hardly anything left of the plant. I was afraid I had cut away too much of the plant and it wouldn’t be able to recover anymore. Lesson learned: Plants are oftentimes more resistant than we think. Don’t give up on them too soon!
While my parsley stayed green throughout the entire winter, it halted its growth. Even as March approached it just stagnated. I started getting a bit worried, but then April arrived and it started getting taller and bushier. While parsley can survive negative degrees well, it doesn’t do much during the cold winter months. Don’t be surprised if some plants take a bit longer to start growing again than others, its nature’s way of doing things.
Meanwhile my sage has exploded into a big, beautiful and strong plant. It was looking pathetic during winter, mostly because we kept plucking it and it was so bare that there were almost no leaves left on the plant. Note to self: Always leave a few leaves on your herbs. They need those leaves for photosynthesis. Plucking a plant bare will weaken it and make it more susceptible to diseases.
A few weeks ago I bought some lettuce seedlings. Now is a great time to plant lettuce. It’s not so hot yet that the small plants could wither during a hot summers day. And until the sun has reached its full strength, the plants will already be strong and more resistant to heat. Next to the lettuce I sowed some radish seeds. Lettuce and radishes are great neighbours because they don’t inhibit each other’s growth. Because radishes belong to brassicas family, you do not want to sow them next to other members of that family such as cabbage, broccoli, turnips,..
Speaking of advantageous neighbours, strawberries and onions are a great combo. The smell of the onions keeps pests away from the strawberry plants. Strawberries, however, do not like the company of brassicas plants.
I think my strawberries are loving their neighbours plus the vast amount of sunshine they are getting on the south side of our garden. They are already producing fruit. Once your strawberries are in that stage, you can lay straw around the plants to prevent the fruit from growing mold when lying in the wet soil.
The cabbage seedlings are also growing well. Not much to my surprise, since cabbage is one of the easiest things you can grow. It doesn’t need a lot of maintenance and grows rather quickly. It’s a great plant for a gardener who is just starting out. Keep in mind to space them apart as directed on the package to ensure healthy growth.
Not as impressive in size but definitely worth a mention, are the carrots that I sowed a few weeks ago. They took rather long to sprout, about 1 and 1/2 weeks. As soon as they are a bit bigger, I have to pluck each one out carefully and replant them spaced further apart. This is also the method you use for radishes.
I always chuckle a little bit when I find a tutorial on how to grow mint that goes into painstaking detail. I often wonder why people feel the need to write these posts or film those videos. Let me be honest. Growing mint is one of the simplest things you can do. It grows like a weed and has a tendency to take over your whole garden if you do not contain it. Mint grows incredibly fast and its roots spread underground with new plants popping out everywhere. And since it grows like a weed, there is not much you can do wrong. Just buy a small plant at your local nursery or gardening center and plant into a pot or herb bed. Water it regularly (mint prefers a moist soil) and watch it grow. When winter comes your mint will wither and disappear but comes spring it will pop up again!
When I showed the tulips last month they were still small and barely popping out of the ground. Now a month later I already have two tulips that are blooming! Once they will all be in bloom it will make a lovely center piece for the flower bed.
Speaking of flowers, I have a new addition in my lavender collection: French lavender! While my other two lavender plants are English lavender and thus great for using in the kitchen, French lavender has a higher amount of camphor, and while still edible, isn’t as sweet as English lavender. I find both varieties to be incredibly beautiful and I think every garden should have a lavender plant. They are incredibly low maintenance and thrive well in poor and dry soil.
Now let’s take a look at what vegetables and plants you can grow in April. We live in a mild climate zone in Switzerland, so this list is for our climate zone here. (Our winters are mild, seldom any frost and negative temperatures, while the summers can be quite hot with temperatures up to 30C or 86F. We get a lot of rain.)
April Growing and Sowing List
- turnip cabbage
- bok choy
- chili (seeds, indoors)
- bell peppers (seeds, indoors)
- basil (seeds, indoors)