What Can I Plant in April?

Is there anything more lovely than the weather in April? It’s such a welcome change from the chilly brutality of the long winter that precedes it. Here in Norfolk, VA we’ve been enjoying absolutely great weather lately. Highs in the 60s and 70s… even some 80s lately. Lows at night hover well above freezing. My plants have been loving the sunny skies, moderate rainfall, and pleasant temperatures lately. Kids have been riding their bikes down the sidewalk, and joggers are out in full force. In nearby Washington DC, I hear they’ve even had enourmous turnouts for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. People just couldn’t wait to bask in the sun after a particularly long and arduous winter that included record-breaking snowfall amounts.

These are the joys of April- they are many. This tends to be my favorite month to spend time out in the garden. Now that we’re pretty much safe from the threat of a spring snow shower, it’s time to start planting in earnest. Here are some vegetables that tend to do particularly well when planted in April:

    1. Broccoli- Okay, so George W. Bush doesn’t like it, but in my house broccoli is an absolute dinner plate staple. If your kids are finicky and don’t like it, try disguising it in dishes such as pot pies, macaroni and cheese, or chicken and rice casseroles. Or, try blanching it instead of boiling it. This gives it a less soggy, more pleasant texture.

Broccoli is a very hardy plant, and does well in a variety of different soils. If you’re planting broccoli in a region where you’re still in danger of receiving a hard frost at night, start your seeds indoors and keep them at temps between 75 and 80 degrees F. If you’re in a temperate climate, like me, you can directly sow your seeds outdoors. Broccoli seeds do best with high temps below 85 degrees, and low temps above about 50 degrees. Once your broccoli seedlings are about 1 inch in height, trim your seedlings to one plant every 2-3 inches.

    2. Cauliflower- If it’s time to plant broccoli, then it makes sense that it would be time to plant cauliflower and other members of the Brassica family as well! Cauliflower that is planted in April will be ready for harvest in August or September. It is important to plant broccoli and cauliflower firmly, and water it regularly. Otherwise premature veggies called “button heads” will develop, and these are inedible.

    3. Leeks- Leeks take a pretty long time to grow, but in my opinion are definitely worth it. April is a good time to plant your leek seeds. Later in August, you will also need transplant your leeks. To begin this month, sow your leek seeds about 1 inch apart, and cover each one with 1/2 inch of soil. After about 6 weeks, you’ll start to see some little green shoots. When you see these, thin your plants down to one plant every 4 inches.

By mid summer, your leeks shoots will be about the width of a pencil, and about 7-8 inches high. Now it’s time to transplant your leeks. Transplant your leeks into holes about 6 inches deep, and 8-9 inches apart. This will allow you to grow thick, strong, hearty leeks. Before planting each one, trim the root so that it is about 1 inch, fill the hole with water, place the leek in, then tamp the soil down around it.

    4. Lima Beans- Here’s the thing about lima beans: they are originally from Central America, so they do require a pretty warm climate to grow. If you live in Florida or another Southern state, definitely go for some lima beans. Your soil should be no colder than about 65 degrees. I haven’t always planted lima beans in the past. But this year we’ve had such a warm spring (it was 84 degrees yesterday) that I am going to give it a shot.

Different varieties of lima beans have different growing times. Depending on which variety you get, your lima beans ill be ready to harvest within about 60-100 days. When planting your lima beans, plant one seed every 3-4 inches, and leave 2 feet of space between your rows. Make sure to cover your seeds with a full inch of soil, and tamp the soil down very well. The seeds are particularly tasty to birds and squirrels, so this will help to keep them from getting plucked out of your garden.

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