What to sow & do in an April kitchen garden

April kitchen garden tomato seedlings

Are you growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs this year? I’ve put together some April kitchen garden and allotment tips to get you started, including which seeds to sow now and what to plant out.

It’s mainly aimed at new gardeners in the UK, but includes a few timely reminders for the more experienced growers among us as well.

Here are some ideas for all the things you can do in your kitchen garden or on your allotment over the coming days.

My April kitchen garden diary

April’s a month of green shoots and busy windowsills in the world of grow-your-own.

As there are plenty of garden jobs to to, I try to get a little done here and there and don’t aim to get everything done all at once. Most plants will catch up if you sow them a week or two later than you planned to anyway.

I mostly focus on easy plants to grow, such as bushy tomatoes, lettuce and other salad leaves, spring onions and dwarf beans. They’re mostly foolproof.

There’s still quite a risk of frost in April so I don’t rush to start off or plant out the most tender plants. These include tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins and most beans.

What to sow in April

There are so many seeds that you can start off this month, giving you plenty of options. Don’t feel that you have to try growing all of them though, it’s okay to keep it simple!

Some of my favourite places to get seeds and small plants include:

Check individual seed packets carefully before sowing, since ideal sowing dates can vary widely between specific varieties. What follows next is a general guide.

Runner bean seeds April what to sow now UK

Seeds to sow outdoors in April

  • Beetroot
  • Broad beans
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (summer & autumn types)
  • Calabrese / broccoli (under cover)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (summer & autumn types)
  • Chard (outdoors or under cover, depending on variety)
  • Endive (under cover)
  • Florence fennel (vegetable, modules under cover)
  • French bean (direct under cloche or under cover in modules)
  • Kale
  • Kohl rabi
  • Leaf beet (perpetual spinach)
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Peas and mangetout
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Runner bean (direct under cloche or under cover in modules)
  • Salsify
  • Scorzonera
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions and silverskin / pickling onions
  • Swedes
  • Turnips

If the soil is still cold or the weather is frosty at night, remember to sow hardier seeds under cloches and start less hardy seeds off indoors.

Be aware that some plants such as cauliflower can take up to a year to grow, so only put these in your garden plan if you’re happy to give up that space for a long time.

Carrots are generally easy to grow, but need well prepared soil. They can also be attacked by carrot root fly, so either grow carrot fly resistant varieties (such as Flyaway or Resistafly) or grow them under a fine mesh.

April kitchen garden UK allotment sow tomato seeds and marigolds

Sow indoors in April (warm windowsill or propagator)

  • Aubergine
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter squash & pumpkins

Seeds from the cucurbit family (cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins etc) are best sown towards the end of April, to time best with their growth patterns and planting out. They tend to be fast-growing and boisterous plants.

If you want to grow butternut squash these need a long sunny growing season, which you might not get if we have another rainy summer. If in doubt, pick a faster growing pumpkin. Also remember they take up a lot of room and need plenty of nutrients to grow well.

Some varieties of tomato are only suitable for growing in greenhouses, others grow best outdoors. Tomato blight disease is a major problem in some parts of the UK, but there are quite a few blight-resistant varieties available now, especially Mountain Magic F1 which I’ve found to be flavoursome and reliable.

It’s too late to start off most chillies now, so if you want a crop this year it’s generally better to buy a seedling if you can get hold of one, or maybe swap one with a friend or neighbour.

Sow indoors in April (room temperature)

  • Celeriac
  • Edible and companion flowers
  • Okra
  • Soft herbs
  • Sweetcorn (in modules)

If you’re thinking about growing sweetcorn, be aware that it needs quite a lot of room. It’s a hungry crop that needs a lot of nutrients, and generally you need to have several plants (ideally planted in a block, not a row) to allow for successful pollination.

Seed potatoes April kitchen garden UK allotment grow your own

Garden jobs to do in April

As well as sowing seeds, there are some garden jobs to do in April that can make your kitchen garden or allotment much more productive. There’s plenty you can do now to get your mid-Spring kitchen garden producing lots of tasty crops.

1. Plant sets & tubers

This includes ‘early’ type (usually ‘chitted’ to grow shoots) and maincrop potatoes, and onion and shallot ‘sets’ (small bulbs).

2. Get planting

  • Asparagus crowns
  • Globe artichokes (suckers or plants)
  • Strawberry runners (small plants grown from offshoots of older plants)

Asparagus crowns take about three years to give you a crop, so don’t plant them if you need to get quick food or if you’re likely to move house in the next few years. They also need diligent care such as ground preparation and careful, regular weeding.

3. Harden off & plant out some seedlings

April is usually too early to plant out heat-loving plants such as courgettes, French beans and peppers, but you can make a start with these more cold-tolerant seedlings:

  • Broad beans
  • Cabbage
  • Japanese bunching onions
  • Kohl rabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Peas

To harden off seedlings grown indoors, leave them outside during the day then bring indoors at night every day for at least a week. In colder weather it’s often better to do this more slowly over two weeks instead of one.

Check the weather forecast before hardening off your seedlings outside, and don’t put them out if strong winds or hailstorms are likely.

If the weather’s unusually cold for the time of year, try planting your hardened off seedlings under a cloche or just delay the process for a few days until conditions improve. They’ll soon catch up so you don’t need to rush.

4. Care for fruit trees & bushes

  • Hand pollinate flowers and blossom with a small paintbrush, if necessary.
  • Look out for pests like sawfly caterpillars and moths.
  • Mulch around roots with compost, and top dress container-grown plants with mulch and fertiliser.
  • Protect delicate blossom from hard frosts with fleece.
  • Prune and tie in fan or wall-trained fruit trees such as apricot, cherry, fig and peach.
April kitchen garden allotment UK weeding by hand in early season

5. Other garden jobs to do in April

There are several quick jobs that you might also need to do this month, depending on what you’re growing.

  • Dig up and compost finished Brussels sprouts from last year.
  • Gently water anything newly-planted if it hasn’t rained recently.
  • Pot on indoor tomato seedlings etc into larger pots as they grow.
  • Prepare compost-filled beds for beans, squash and pumpkins.
  • Protect crops from aphids, caterpillars, cabbage root fly, carrot root fly, red spider mite, snails etc.
  • Pull earth up around growing potato stems.
  • Put in support for climbing plants now, before they start their upward growth.
  • Remove weeds by hand.
  • Thin out seedlings in seedbeds if they are overcrowded.

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What are you planning to do in the garden or on your allotment this month?

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