What To Sow In April As The Weather Warms & Days Get Longer? The Choice of Veg is Huge. Here’s My April Sowing List.
For many people, April is the start of the growing season. The days are getting longer, the last frost date is approaching for many and I get asked about what to sow in April. My answer is that the vast majority of veg can be sown in April but that you do need to think carefully about your location and last frost date. It’s no good growing outdoor cucumber and plant them out a few days before your expected last frost date. They will die.
So check the seed packets, but beware the info on them is based entirely on averages across the whole country and last frost dates can vary by as much as 6-7 weeks. The list below suits my garden. But I’m aware that people just a few roads away can have earlier or later last frost dates and you need to learn about them for your garden. If you are not sure, ask a neighbour and apply your best judgement to their advice.
I love aubergines for their beautifully coloured fruit and rapid growth. The plants are quite spiny but they yield well and in my part of the world, despite looking a little exotic, will give a good crop outside if the spot is sheltered.
The variety here is Bonica.
Basil needs moderate warmth to get good germination, so is probably best germinated indoors or in a propagator rather than in a cold greenhouse. Then I keep sowing seeds all through the summer for outdoor or indoor-grown crops that make wonderful pesto. I also use basil raw in salds.
It’s too late to sow broad beans where I am as they will succumb to bean aphid. But all other beans are worth considering. Try climbing French beans or bush French beans for example. An alternative is the Runner Bean. Seed catalogues are full of beans to grow but be warned, frost will kill all but the broad bean. So don’t be too hasty in sowing them.
There’s more on beans below.
The traditional parsnip shaped Cheltenham Beet is coming back into favour with chefs, though often with a fancy French name. They can be sown now as can the globe varieties in the traditional beetroot red colour or the coloured varieties that come in rainbow colours
See cabbage, caulis, kale etc
These wonderful colourful beans are often described as pretty. They are related to kidney beans and are a staple in Portuguese and Italian cooking. Google Feijao a Portuguesa to discover more about how beans, sausage, bacon, onion, paprika, peppers and tomatoes are blended with garlic for a delicious dish.
Now is the time of year to sow winter cabbage (I know winter feels a long way away! ). The seed catalogues are full of varieties so just choose which you prefer.
Hopefully, you will have sown some carrot in March, and now is the time to keep sowing successionally to ensure you get crops over a long season. If you haven’t sown yet, I suggest you start but don’t forget there are a few more months to go before you sow carrots to overwinter. Choose from ball type, stumpy rooted or tap[erng varieties. And don’t forget, not all carrots are orange.
When I was young all brassicas were started in an outdoor seedbed. Today, more and more are grown in modules for planting out when ready.
I love cauliflower but it’s possible to grow too many at once so stagger your sowing over the months .. every spring and autumn month seems to be a cauliflower sowing month these days.
Celeriac is related to celery, so love a bit of moisture. So only attempt growing it if you can provide these conditions. I don’t mean it needs very wet conditions, just moist.
Recent varieties are a bit less knobbly than the earlier ones and that means they are easier to prepare and eat. But with all that moisture you may have to compete with slugs. When sowing the seed it’s wise to put a few slug pubs where you intend to plant the celeriac. Clear the slugs before you plant the celeriac. Afterwards will be too late.
Commercially I would have already planted modules outside and would be irrigating them almost daily. But it’s not too late to sow seed. It’s minute, like dust so don’t sneeze whilst sowing it! And don’t forget celery will grow outside but also does very well in a tunnel if kept well watered. It loves the humidity.
This is another aniseed-flavoured species. It’s a biennial but we grow it as an annual because it flowers in the second year. Harvest time starts just nine weeks after sowing so it’s a quick cropper.
Radicchio, Witloof, Pain De Sucre, Variegata Di Castelfranco and sugar loaf. Chicory can be a bit confusing to the beginner as each is grown differently. It’s a bitter-tasting crop so not to everyone’s liking. But it’s worth growing a few to see if you like them.
Chilli growers will tell you it’s far too late to sow chillis in April and that they will not have time to produce enough heat. To an extent that’s true. But not everyone wants to have their head blasted off and if you cut back on the heat it’s surprising how tasty chillis are without heat.
I’m growing more and more Chinese cabbage as it’s so versatile a crop with along sowing season. Sometimes it’ll bolt but even the flowering heads are tasty so I don’t worry! I tend to sow some form of Chinese cabbage most months of the year. But April sowings are more certain to give a good crop.
Egg and chive sandwiches on a warm summer’s afternoon. I rest my case!
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
If you are into growing your own plant feed “teas” now is an ideal time to sow comfrey.
Perfect in salads and with Indian dishes. I sow coriander most months
Courgettes are just baby marrows really. Though you may see them advertised as zucchini and in various colours. A large seed that germinates quickly if given a bit of warmth. Given plenty of feed and water, it crops very well. Try sowing more in June for an autumn crop.
One of my favourite greenhouse crops that do well in tunnels, where it loves the humitiy. Some varieties do well outside in a sheltered spot.
When I had my market garden in Bedfordshire I’d grow 600 plants in a large tunnel each year. They cropped well, but the real experts were growers of Italian extraction who grew acres of them around Bedford. Those guys grew nothing else and obtained incredible yields.
More on What to Grow in April Below
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill is strongly flavoured and is used (sparingly) in soups, salads and rice dishes. It’s a statuesque, feathery leafed plant that belongs in the flower garden in my view. I think Dill is magnificent and contrasts well with Bronze fennel. It’s an umbellifer so the same family as carrots, fennel etc. and has incredibly beautiful flowering heads that form umbels.
Dwarf (French) Beans
There are two types of French beans, dwarf beans and climbing French beans. One is a climber and the other isn’t. Both can be sown in April and both are delicious. The climbing varieties mean less bending during harvest.
With the climbers, I find the easiest way to support them is with a pyramid of canes. Put four canes in the ground about 18-24 inches apart in a square formation and ensure the touch at the top. Tie them together to form the pyramid and sow 2 beans per station. Repeat 3-4 weeks later to maintain a succession of cropping. Any surplus can be frozen.
Fennel (Florence and Herb Fennel)
More aniseed-flavoured crops. The herb is used as a herb with fish or whatever you choose whilst the Florence fennel is a useful “bulb” type veg that can be braised or sliced thinly into salads. Florence fennel is another wonderful ferny leafed plant that looks great in flowers beds.
Grown for soup, roasting or to make lanterns at Halloween. The seed is like a courgette seed so is big and of course, it can grow huge fruit. It’s another crop that loves plenty of organic matter and water.
Start them in modules or direct sow in situ once the fear of frost passes. All plants of this family are frost susceptible.
They look wonderful in flower beds but are barely worth the fuss of eating in my opinion. But many chefs disagree and love them. they probably know better than me.
Kale is one of those crops that has a long season. So this will not be the only month you can sow them. And of course, there are all sorts of fancy types, from Red Kale and Petit Posy to Curly Kale and Cavolo Nero.
Kale are essentially all the same .. though many will look for subtle differences in colour and flavour!
Kohl Rabi (German Turnip)
Kohlrabi is a green or purple bulb-shaped crisp vegetable with a crunchy texture. It’s like several other veg we grow at this time of the year, it’s a biennial, but to be eaten at the end of year one.
Smaller Kohl Rabi tend to be sweeter and are wonderful when eaten raw. But of course Kohl Rabi can also be cooked. Roasted, steamed, sautéed, creamed, in stews and soups …. you decide how you like it best. But remember to remove the skin on older ones as they start to get woody.
The king of veg in my opinion. I’ve grown fields full of them and there are early ones and late ones. There are even early ones that I’ve grown under polytunnels and made a pretty penny from when they were “out of season”. The tunnel gown ones go a metre high in some cases and are no thinker than my thumb when harvested. But with all that leaf they produce a lot of weight per acre and chefs love the fresh green leaves as much as the stem.
But most of us will grow leeks as a winter crop and there’s still time to sow them this month. Commercially I used to drill a large bed of leeks and nurture them like they were my kids. Today I start them in a piece of guttering in a sheltered spot and then slide the compost and rooted plants into a shallow trench to grow on before lifting for transplanting into their final positions. It’s easier than it sounds
There’s so much to say about lettuce that I’ve written a whole post on them. Just follow the link for more on lettuce.
There are two sorts of parsley. Flat leafed and curly leafed. Chefs say the falt leaf has better flavour.
Parsley dislikes excessive heat so keep them well watered when sown and during hot spells.
It’s easy to grow but will bolt if its too hot or they get root disturbance,
When I was young parsnips were always roasted as part of a roast dinner. Today, chefs like to produce parsnip chips and parsnip crisps. Parsnips reputedly taste better after a frost or two. But they are best sown early as possible outside as they like a long growing season and don’t like being transplanted.
Like the closely related Chinese Cabbage Pak Choi like it cool and benefit from being well watered. If not watered sufficiently they will bolt. They also dislike being transplanted so are best sown in situ or in a module to prevent panting shock.
Whether as shoots, mangetout or peas sowing can commence much earlier but April is also perfect for cropping the same season. Shoots are ready in as little as 3-4 weeks and can be cropped many times. Many varir=ties are available and I suggest you check them carefully to see what suits you best.
The majority of peas are “pea green” in colour, except for Shiraz which is a wine red colour. The colour however leaches out if the pods are boiled.
Ohhh and there’s the variety called Purple Magnolia. I’ve never grown them but the name appeals to me.
Like the closely related chillis, many would argue it’s now too late to sow peppers. But in colder areas, where you want to grow them outdoors, it’s OK to sow in April, though yield will be depressed.
The fruit all start green, but some varieties change colour to red or yellow as they mature.
Peppers do really well under tunnels where they like the close humidity and warmth.
Peppers are self-fertile and don’t require pollinators. In fact, once planted, they require little except regular watering and plenty of feed. Tomato feed is ideal for them and I used to feed mine every day despite the “experts” saying to feed once a week. They may have been “experts” but I was making my living out of growing peppers!
Ideal for salads and in many Indian dishes, Saag Aloo being the most famous. Perpetual spinach is easy to grow and I start mine off in modules. But direct drilling/sowing is preferred by some people.
Grow phacelia as a green manure in any empty space you have. I have doubts about rotations in gardens (agriculture isn’t the same as gardening) but I do like empty spaces to be cropped. And what better than a green manure rather than leave ground empty.
I rarely sow a crop of radish .. but I eat a lot of radish! How?
The secret is to use them as row markers. Radish germinates and grows very quickly, so I add a few radish seeds to each row of carrot, beetroot or whatever I’m growing to mark the rows. They come up first and make it obvious where I have sown the crop! Radish crop in a matter of weeks art peak growing times.
A close cousin to the French beans mentioned earlier. Grown up rows of canes or wigwam there seems no end to the yield of beans provided they are well watered. Even poorly watered crops seem to do OK .. but watering makes them excel. They are frost susceptible so grow in modules if early sown or direct drill later in the month if your last frosts are past.
My preference is always for French beans. But many people prefer the traditional runner bean.
Brine is essential for growing samphire. Don’t try unless you can get buckets of seawater OR can use sea salt to make up your own brine.
I’ve seen some websites advising sowing in the autumn, but the seed sellers, of which there are few, suggest sowing from March to May. Sow the seed in a well-drained but moist substrate, (alluvial soil makes sense to me but you might experiment with other substrates), and keep the growing container sat in a shallow tray of brine.
I grow shallots from seed and sow in March and early April. But prefer the early part of the month to the later. Multi-seeded modules are my choice for sowing.
An unusual root crop, Scorzonera is actually a member of the lettuce family. Rarely seen in supermarkets as though easy to grow they are hard to harvest. The reason is that the roots grow, down and down and down. In fact, they reputedly grow as deep as a metre!
The other unusual thing about them is that the roots are black. The word scorzonera is from the Italian, scorza negra, or black peel.
Scorzonera is easy to grow. Why not try it.
Not unlike perpetual spinach!
I love spring onions in salads but also have a great recipe for jerk chicken that contains spring onions as an unlikely ingredient.
Squash are grown in a similar way to courgette, marrow and pumpkins. Butternut squash seems to be the most popular these days.
Sweetcorn need a warm soil to germinate in. Outdoors in most areas that will mean late April or even May. But some people start them in modules or pots. It works but always seems a bit of a faff to me.
Remember sweetcorn are wind pollinated so are best planted in blocks rather than long single rows.
Chard or Swiss chard is often confused with other crops, such as cardoons. The derivation of the word chard is apparently the same as the French cardoon. I tend to regard them as a spinach substitute that has beautiful colourful stalks. I grow them in the same way as spinach.
For me, the tomato is the king of garden fruit and veg. Nothing quite equals it! I’ve written a lot on toms elsewhere so will not about the point here. Toms respond to the level of care and attention given to them and will yield over 100tons per acre if well grown in perfect conditions.
Often regarded as a crop grown by poor people the turnip is much underrated and can taste great. Try Parmesan crusted roast turnips or Turnip tartiflette and you’ll understand why I say this!
Easy to grow provided you avoid flea beetles.
Here’s My Last What to Sow in April Listing
Take a recycled grape tray (much favoured by supermarkets), fill to within an inch of the top. moisten and sprinkle with watercress seed. Wait a few days and provided the weather is warm the seed will have germinated and will be doing really well.
Watercress doesn’t need deep water, just keep the trays sat in shallow water. The crop can be ready in weeks and will keep coming as fast as you can harvest it.
I’ll no doubt be adding more to my What to Sow in April list. So please revisit in a few days.