April: A Bad Patch
One particular bad patch in GIYer Michael Kelly’s
garden means that, every so often, one of his
crops has an ‘off year’
The luck of the crop rotation draw and bad design in my veg patch means that particular veg families tend to have what might be described as ‘off years’ depending on the area they are destined to spend their growing season in. There’s a particular part of my veg patch that is hampered by being simultaneously the closest to the garden perimeter and the lowest point in the garden. Thanks to the shading from the aggressive hawthorn hedge nearby, it gets less light than the other parts of the patch. And since it is comparatively low-lying, lazy frosts also converge there, slumping in from all parts of the garden. They could happily hide out there from the sun’s rays until lunchtime, and I’ve seen occasions when they’ve got to stay there for days on end.
If all that weren’t bad enough, the beds there also suffer from the attentions of the always-encroaching ditch, with errant briars going out in search of nutrient rich soil. The grass that surrounds the vegetable garden also tries to make its way into the veg patch through the picket fence. In high season, it’s a constant battle to keep the beds near the fence clear. None of this, as you can imagine, is particularly helpful to the vegetables growing there and I always feel bad for whatever family is due a visit there. This year it’s the turn of allium family to do a stint and so I am already mentally bracing myself for a poor crop of garlic, onions and leeks.
I could, of course, try moving the entire vegetable patch about 10m further away from the garden perimeter and closer to the house. However this would take up a further 10m of lawn and I think I have already pushed that particular boat as far as is acceptable to the rest of the family. So I have learned over the years to bear this rotating problem with stoicism – and I like to think the veg families do too. So, yes, once in every five years, they have an ‘off’ year. But sure doesn’t that make the other four years all the sweeter?
Check List for April
If poor weather in March has hampered your outdoor work, then April is the month to catch up. The key words for April are weeds and slugs. You need to stay on top of them both. Check your early spuds regularly and ‘earth up’ as required. Water your tunnel and/or greenhouse – things can get pretty warm on a sunny April day and seedlings will dry out quickly.
Indoors: lettuce, tomato, pepper, chilli-pepper, cucumber, celery, celeriac, basil, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, courgette, marrow, globe artichoke, beans, sweetcorn and pumpkin.#
Outdoors: broad bean, onion sets, pea, beetroot, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, parsnip, spring onion, leek, carrot, radish, broccoli, turnip. Plant out cabbage plants when they are 15–20cm tall into well prepared soil that has been manured.
Stored fruit and vegetables are likely to be a distant memory at this stage and new crops are only starting to trickle in, which makes April a tricky proposition. The middle of this month might see the first asparagus and the first early-spring cabbage. The other two star performers this month are purple sprouting broccoli and rhubarb.
Tip of the month – choosing onion sets
Onion sets are small, immature onions, planted in spring or late summer. The sets increase in size and each forms one full-sized bulb when ready to harvest. It’s much easier to grow onions from sets than it is from seed but they have the downside of being more expensive than seed. A poor onion set equals a poor onion. With that in mind, we should only sow the best quality onion sets, otherwise we will get a poor harvest. Sow hard, plump ones – never very small or soft ones. Some, but not all, garden centres offer sets for sale in open trays so you can literally pick out the best ones. Sets can be planted in the soil this month, weather permitting.
GIY is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to create a healthier, more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We inspire and support people to grow food more successfully by bringing them together to share advice, tips and ideas. There are approximately 50,000 people involved in the GIY movement in Ireland, which is proudly supported by Woodies DIY. For more information check out www.giyireland.com.