Autumnal weather makes soil easier to work and more hospitable for new sowings of brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) peas, broad beans, mizuna, carrots and more. Its nice to be able to turn the soil once again, to dig it through, rake it, add compost and carry out new sowing and plantings. These simple acts throw us back to the optimism of spring as new plantings now point our gardens forwards to seasons on the cooler side of the gardening year. There’s plenty to harvest too and a change of tempo in the kitchen beckons with slower food that features warmth, sustenance and endurance. Still plenty of preserving and storing to be done as bumper crops like apples, peaches, pears, pumpkins, tomatoes and potatoes shed their loads. For many, autumn is about a balanced exchange – harvest into one hand and seed sown from the other.

This month POD Gardens visits the beehives on Auckland's Town Hall balcony and we chat with Councillor Cathy Casey to get the bee balcony backstory.

It's pumpkin harvesting time, POD TV shows you how to tell when your pumpkin is ready, and guides you through the steps.



April
SOW & PLANT

Cooler, wetter weather favours plantings of brassicas – broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower - and the threat of cabbage white butterflies attacking young seedlings dwindles as their breeding season ends. If you plant seedlings now they should be ready for harvest in late winter. You can also sow seeds and these should guarantee a harvest in spring. Broad beans, celery, mizuna, snow peas and sugar snap peas, spinach and turnips are all keen on cooler growing conditions and they can all be sown and planted now. Warmer gardens in frost-free areas can probably squeeze in a last crop of late potatoes – Rua is a reliable variety. This will not only provide a handy late winter/early spring harvest but its also great for conditioning any heavy or compacted soil. As they grow, potatoes spread their roots wide, breaking up soil and making it more workable.

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April
HARVEST

Delicious quinces are ripening now and their fragrant flavour beckons towards the odd apple pie, some quince jelly or paste. Tangy tamarillos should start to colour up and turn into a sharply sweet treat for crumbles, school lunch boxes and - if you are lucky enough to have heaps - tamarillo chutney. In warmer areas you may still be enjoying a last flush of strawberries. Autumn harvest is often characterized by volume as fruit trees and bushes become laden with heavy crops. Apple and blackberry are conveniently ripening side by side and curiosities such as Chilean guava and Cape gooseberry add diversity to the potential harvest. Jerusalem artichokes can be lifted, the last zucchinis and cucumbers can be enjoyed fresh and pumpkins and squashes should be ready for storage - with ripened skin hard enough to withstand the pressure of a thumbnail.

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April
SEASONAL TASKS

If you are in a part of the country where winter can be cold and harsh then think about filling a bunch of containers with potting mix so you can still enjoy a reasonable harvest through the darker days. Carrots, mizuna, spinach, dwarf peas, corn salad and winter lettuces will all do well sown in pots and planters. Put them in as sunny and sheltered a spot as possible. If you planted brassicas – broccoli, Brussles sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale – celery or beetroot a month or so back then now is a good time to spread some extra well-rotted manure, compost or a light dusting of blood and bone meal around these hungry plants to give them a boost. N.B Just as your food plants and flowers are tending to set seed around now so are weeds. Remove flowers and seed heads on all weeds as soon as you see them and dispose of in your household rubbish.

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SEAWEED


Honey Andersen's TIP
FOR April

Recycled cloches

"Prolong the season for capsicums and chillies in cooler areas. Gather enough plastic bottles so you can make a barrier around the base of the plant you want to protect. Fill the bottles with water and position them. The water absorbs heat from the sun during the day and this protects the encircled plant from cooler night-time temperatures. "

 



April FEATURED TASKS

Lift and separate rhubarb and artichoke plants

Over time, rhubarb and globe artichoke plants develop broad bases that can become crowded with lots fresh stems around the outside of an unproductive centre. If your plants look like this then now is a good time to lift and divide them and create more vigorous, productive plants. Using a fork, loosen the plant from the soil by moving around it and digging deeply around the outside of the clump. Push your fork right down and lean on it so that the plant starts to move in the soil. When you’ve been round once you should be able to get your fork right underneath and lever the whole plant right out (large items can benefit from two people levering together). Take a look at the clump and then, using a spade, cut fresh clumps away from the old centre – making sure each pieces has a few good roots. These can then be re-planted or used as a swap with a fellow gardener for something you haven’t got.

 


 

 

Prepare for strawberries, garlic and shallots

Time to separate strawberry runners from parent plants and to re-plant on rich, well-drained, mounded soil so they can establish themselves through the winter for an early spring crop. Now is also a good time to set up a new strawberry bed by digging heaps of well-rotted manure or compost into your soil and adding drainage material such as scoria or gravel. Bulk up the soil with whatever rich, nutrient dense material you have to hand and raise into mounded rows. Plant runners along the top. You can also prepare a large container, half barrel or strawberry pot in the same way.

Using the same method for strawberries, prepare a bed for garlic and shallots that are normally planted in June/July. It is important to ensure that your garlic and shallots have very good drainage as well as rich nutrition. Getting a bed ready now will give the soil time to become fully enriched by the nutrients in any compost or manure you have added. Garlic grows best in beds but, like strawberries, it will grow in pots if the compost is rich enough.

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