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Grow your own vegetables

What to plant in April

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With summer heat starting to fizzle across most of the country, Justin Russell says it's a great time to plant! 

At my place, there’s a distinct chill in the air. It can be tempting to think that cooling air temperatures translate to cooling soil temperatures. Eventually, by the middle of winter, this is true. But during autumn the soil remains deliciously warm and perfect for germinating seeds, and encouraging rapid root development in seedlings and plant divisions. So what are you waiting for. Get planting! 

In the far south and cold temperate highlands, there’s still time to get in fast growing vegies. Rocket lives up to its name, mizuna, mustard and radish are equally quick, and things like kale, bok choy, spinach and lettuce aren’t very far behind. Most of these seeds will germinate in a week and in some cases, the plants will be ready for harvest in a month – about as instant as a vegie garden can get. 

For slightly warmer temperate, Mediterranean and inland climates, plant slower growing brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, and use the warm soil to provide relatively quick germination of root vegies such as carrots and parsnips. Emphasis on relatively. Each of these seeds will still take a fortnight or more to sprout, so keep the seed bed evenly moist and use the opportunity to practice patience. 

Garlic can go in across temperate areas. So can legumes, especially snowpeas and broadbeans. Both like a slightly alkaline soil, and a sprinkle of potash will help with flowering and pod set. To prevent the broadies from toppling over in gusty winds, it helps to plant them in a block for mutual support. A simple supporting frame made from for corner stakes and a twine fence is even more useful. Some goo varieties to try include ‘Aquadulce’, ’Coles Dwarf’, ‘Crimson Flowered’, ‘Red Epicure’ and the ultra-rare but ultra-beautiful ‘Purple Flowered’. 

April is the best month of the year to plant tomatoes in the tropics and frost-free subtropics. The plants kick along during autumn, and fruit during winter, a clever ploy to avoid the summer scourges of fruit fly and fungal disease. Even so, it pays to avoid wetting tomato foliage to ensure the plants stay as healthy as possible. If a winter wet spell is forecast, spray with copper hydroxide to help prevent wilt and leaf spotting diseases. 

In the tropics the wet is waning and the dry season planting window is starting to open. Along with tomatoes, sow cucurbits such as cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin and watermelon, bush and climbing beans, capsicum and eggplant, basil, chilli, sweetcorn and other lovers of warm, dryish weather.