April: Monthly review

The potager the last day of April, 2021. Finally, lots of GREEN!

Where did April vanish in a flash? What a month of contrasts and confusion. Sunny summer-like days came on the heels of blustery, snow-covered winter blasts, and then vice versa! The daffodils put on quite a show, and began tapering off just as the tulips burst into full color. The main tulips struggled with heavy snow, whipping winds, and even hail pellets, so some didn’t last as long as usual, but they were still worth every penny. The gooseberries, black currants and strawberries bloomed profusely, but we’ll have to wait and see if the blooms were harmed by freezing temps despite being covered.

April is always a busy month of seeding, both indoors and out. Indoors the seeding began with variety #119 (Cosmos Sunny Orange) and ended with #161 Squash Sweet Reba, so that’s 42 varieties sown and happily growing in the basement. Most of the earlier sowings have now been moved to the greenhouse, and those that were in the greenhouse moved to the hardening off benches outdoors, or planted into the ground. Of course, there was a bit of scurry and panic, as twice the temperature fell into the 20’s C, and things had to be covered, shoved back into the greenhouse, and even some brought back into the basement or stuffed into the Lady Cottage overnight! I grumble about the trouble storing all the various frost covers 360 days a year, but for those 5 nights or so when they are needed, I have to admit they are worth the trouble.

The second round of plants hardening off…with additional flats of plants placed in empty beds until these can go in the ground!

Outdoors, things progressed, albeit a bit more slowly than in some years. The month began with variety # 9 Kohlrabi Winner going into the potager, along with twenty-two other crops ending with #31 Cabbage Quik Start. Some crops were direct seeded (peas, lettuce, kohlrabi, carrots, beets) but most were transplants that began life in the basement (fava beans, sweet peas, baby napa cabbage, calendula, dwarf snapdragrons, cabbage, broccoli, celery, cauliflowers, and Italian Red scallions.) Normally, the first crop of beans, Royal Burgundy would have been planted toward the end of the month, but the forecast made me hesitate. There’s not a lot to be gained planting beans in poor weather.

The favas look a bit flattened after the snow, but they’ve now perked up and some of them are even blooming! Photo of that soon….

A lot of time was spent potting up plants for our little garden club’s plant sale coming in May. So far, there are over 350 pots ready and waiting in the potager, plus I spent a lovely afternoon helping a fellow club member dig and pot 50 of hers. In addition, a replacement raised bed was built, delivered, and installed at my mother’s garden, all of my gardens were weeded, the deadheading was kept up, and 150 narcissus were picked to be used for centerpieces for the “Most improved students” award banquet in our little town. The garlic and roses all got a feeding and a mulch of composted cow manure, and the Lavender Slope got it’s first weeding of the year.

Spinach is still going strong…and a volunteer purple mustard or two.

The harvest increased this month, with lots more herbs (cilantro, chives, parsley, garlic chives, oregano, lovage, cutting celery, sage, mints, savory and thymes from the potager, as well as bay, lemon verbena and basil in pots) all available now. We’re still feasting on crops sown last autumn and wintered over: carrots, leeks, kale, spinach, and now some volunteer purple mustard that is large enough to use, and greens foraged from the borders. The big celebration for the first handful of asparagus was held on April 29th, lightly steamed and added to shrimp and pasta.

The total harvest for April, 2021 was 11.25 lbs. up from 6.5 last year.

May’s calendar is fuller than April’s, so I expect it to pass even more quickly, but I’m trying to absorb every sunny moment and make the most of each and every day. I hope your month was filled with blessings…and lots of flowers!

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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22 Responses to April: Monthly review

  1. I empathise with that constant April watching-of-the-weather-forecasts and trying to decide whether to put plants out or not 🙂 We had everything from hail and snow to almost August levels of heat here this April. Happy gardening x

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    • carolee says:

      Your April sounds like ours, and now May is unusually cold. Frost again this morning, so I’m still waiting and watering…can’t wait to get all these plants out of the basement!

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  2. swesely says:

    Our April was similar in MN. I finally planted out some annual flowers yesterday, plus pea seed. Radishes survived out April challenges, and are growing well. Other early saladings are more hesitant, and I may have to re-sow. May forecasts look a little better, although we need rain. You can’t tell that by the lawn, which already needs its 2nd mowing.

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    • carolee says:

      We get a little rain, and then two or three days of really windy, drying weather so the moisture just disappears! I don’t remember it being so windy as it has been the last year or two, and this year seems the worst. Still waiting on planting annuals as there is frost in our forecast ten days out…

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  3. margieclyde says:

    Your garden is looking beautiful! Such an enjoyable time of year-love when everything get growing!

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  4. J.Q. Rose says:

    What a wonderful report on your progress on the gardens. And what a jump in your April output of goodies compared to last year. I’ll just nod my head and shrug my shoulders. It was 2020, the usual comment these days. Glad that year is over and looking forward to a fantastic 2021 garden experience. All the best!

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    • carolee says:

      Thank you for taking time to comment. We’re all hoping 2021 will be better in all ways…and it wouldn’t take much for that to be a reality, would it?

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  5. Sounds like things are really hopping in your garden, Carolee! I was slow to start, planting my first seeds of the year outdoors on April 4. I have chard seedlings, broccoli seedlings, a healthy crop of French breakfast radishes started, the snow peas are coming up and a bunch of lettuce seedlings. I also couldn’t resist buying a tomato start and planting it. Then we had frost warnings for last night, so I put a large plastic bowl over the little guy overnight. I love that you keep track of your harvest. For me, I am limited to chives and arugula so far. I could take some rhubarb, but I haven’t yet. Maybe I make a rhubarb crisp this weekend…

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    • carolee says:

      My rhubarb has been in the ground for four years now, and it just isn’t happy. I’ve fed it, raised it up a bit, given it pep talks, and the stalks just stay slightly larger than a pencil!!! I think this year if I can find another plant, I’ll try a different spot in the potager and see if it makes a difference. Rhubarb crisp sounds luscious. Haven’t had it in years.

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      • Good luck! My rhubarb did amazingly well, planetd in 2018 – Canada Red is the variety I chose. I give it a bag of composted manure every spring as a top dressing, and I took the advice to not take any the first year. I use it as a watering gauge too. If it is standing tall, it has plenty of water, but if it looks droopy, it is probably time to water the garden. I am waiting for my mint to kick in so I can make persian chicken with rhubarb and mint – sounds weird, I know, but I love it. The mint is cooked, so it does not taste minty. The dish is on the sour side, but one can add sugar if it is too tart.

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      • carolee says:

        Mine is Canada Red as well. Your dish sounds interesting…

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      • The Koresh e Rivas is sour, but I really like it. One can add some sugar if it is too sour, but I usually don’t. A friend from Iran told me that persian food tends to be sour in the north and sweet in the south. He was from the south. I made his favorite, fesenjan,
        which is chicken with walnuts and pomogranate molasses – a little sweet for my taste, but I will try again some time with much much less molasses – I used the middle amount I found after reviewing several recipes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel tired just reading that post! You work so hard! I am hoping the last frost has happened here but we had 2 short but intense hail storms a couple of days ago to remind me that winter hasn’t truly gone yet. I love reading your posts and seeing the pictures of your plot – they inspire me and encourage me to do more.

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    • carolee says:

      We have frost in our forecast ten days out, so I’m trying to be patient. Yesterday I tore out a patch of apple mint that was lurking under and spreading out from under the hardening off benches in front of the greenhouse. Apparently it sneaked out of a pot and got established before I noticed it last year. Then I procrastinated…and it spread even more of course, so it became a big job. But, lots of apple mint/cinnamon tea in my future!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. On the other side of the Atlantic, it’s a similar dynamic with the weather, like you I’m holding off planting French beans, it’s still rather chilly. It’s an exciting time of year though, your harvests sound wonderful. I’m really enjoying my fresh herbs too now, I’ve got all the same ones as you except for Lemon Verbena, an omission I should correct! You grow yours outdoors in pots?

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    • carolee says:

      Yes, it’s years old. It lives in the basement in front of the patio doors all winter, moves to the patio on nice days above freezing. When the weather is stable, it usually goes to the potager for ease of watering, although dragging those big pots (the bay, an olive, a big rosemary, and a lemon tree) back and forth twice a year is beginning to be more of a chore than it once was…..

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lauren says:

    Oh I love these monthly wrap up posts- and how they contrast to my own small efforts! My 8 pots of basil from seed are seeming significantly less of an accomplishment now- lol!

    It always fascinates me as to the different timing of planting in different zones. Here in zone 8b if I don’t have the tomatoes in by April 15th I start to panic- they really should go in at the very end of March to stand a chance against our heat! But I couldn’t resist putting in a sungold cherry tomato yesterday (May 6th is unheard of here for that) but I couldn’t find the variety anywhere earlier in the year so I’m giving it a shot.

    Also- just love the purple mustard in the lettuce!

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    • carolee says:

      Thanks for reading. Eight pots of basil is not insignificant. Are they all the same variety, or different? My sweet basil seed was very old, so it’s been slow and spotty but I finally have four pots inching along. I’ve switched from Sungold to Sun Sugar the past three years, and it’s my favorite now for a small “eat off the vine” tomato. I understand about timing, having gardened in Texas, the northern edge of Illinois, southern Indiana (my favorite area) and now here in north central Indiana. We learn to adapt our gardening habits to fit the new reality. Happy growing.

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