April garden planting is a tricky time of the year for those that do not have four-season gardening practices, so I’m posting a list of garden task for mid-April that will ensure healthy plants come May. This is a follow-up to last week’s post for the first two weeks in April.
What’s so tricky about an April garden in zones 6 and 7? Frost. Scroll down to the task list to see recommended frost protection strategies.
Caring for seedling ~
Any seedling should now be outdoors for at least the daylight hours when temperatures are above freezing. Wind is something to consider during April garden planting. Your delicate babies may get burnt by a brisk and steady breeze. When it comes time to water, the delicate plant leaves may burn if you water the entire plant when out in the sun. Instead, water at the base of the plant into the soil.
If you have plastic caterpillar tunnels, you’ll need to keep an eye on rising temps inside the tunnel when the days are bright and sunny. On a night with frost, cold sensitive plants will need an extra layer of agribon inside the tunnels. Also, the soil will dry out quickly this time of year inside the tunnels, so make sure you have an irrigation system that helps you keep your plants watered. It’s easy to forget this basic task.
Garden Tasks for Mid-April:
- The rain has kept me from cleaning up last year’s mess, so that is a priority for me. This is where bugs and disease reside. They lie in wait for the right conditions to decimate your best-looking plants.
- Brassicas, arugula, and radishes should be covered with agribon to protect them from the inevitable invasion of the flea beetle and cabbage moths during April garden planting.
- Repair and amend the soil in raised beds that were not tended to in the fall before planting. For us, this includes adding compost and organic fertilizer, mowing down winter rye and tilling it in as green manure, laying irrigation lines and landscape fabric prior to installing plants.
- Plant these things as a priority: peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce mix, spinach, arugula, cilantro, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards. Direct-seed these plants once the soil is workable in early spring.
- If you haven’t started tomatoes and peppers your best bet will be to purchase them from a local grower for your first succession in May and start some from seed for a second succession planted in June.
- Our frost date is Mother’s Day in Harper’s Ferry, WV. Look up your frost date so you can plan when to plant tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. You can also start the first succession of cucumbers now in seed pots. They start fast and you can plan succession for a new planting every two weeks. This will help you keep up with threats like bacterial wilt and cucumber beetles.
- Start nasturtium, calendula, and sunflowers seeds if you have room on a windowsill or basement grow area. You’ll be able to plant these in May after the threat of frost has passed.
- As an experiment, plant one or two tomatoes in the warmest, sunniest part of your garden and cover with agribon. If (when) the frost comes your plants will need another layer of protection and then a decent dose of fish emulsion fertilizer the next morning. If you do this, let me know how it goes. Good luck!
- Other plants to direct seed if you have time and room: beets, celery/celeriac, turnips, and carrots. After you see the cotyledons (first leaves) you can cover with a light layer of straw. However, please know that the straw may have seed and aggravate your weed issues. It is very important to make sure your carrots stay moist until they sprout. They take a long time (2 weeks) and can easily dry out during germination. While this is true of all direct seeding endeavors, carrots are particularly needy.
- Build new raised beds now. They will benefit from the rain and hot-cold cycles.
What are your thoughts on these tasks surrounding April garden planting? I’ll be back at the end of the month with an update on our market garden and a new task list to get you through the first week in May.