From practical tips to nutrition advice, this is more than just a gardening guide. Discover the best vegetables to harvest, plant and sow in your garden this April
+ Planting or sowing beetroot will give you double your money in terms of value. The root of this easy-to-grow vegetable is high in nutrition and extremely versatile as it can be eaten raw or cooked in a huge range of dishes. But the green tops are even better for you, high in nitrates, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins C, A and K. Beet greens are said to be ranked in the top 10 of the world’s healthiest foods, so don’t chuck them in the compost – add them to salads, soups and stir-fries.
+ Plant parsley seedlings into moisture-retentive soil that’s well drained and rich in organic matter. Plant in a pot if your soil isn’t suitable.
+ Seedlings of broad beans, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and cabbage can go into the garden now.
+ We’re big fans of growing peas in the garden because they’re easy and little ones love to eat them straight from the vine. These days there are so many pea varieties, from sugar snap and snow peas to climbers and asparagus peas. Plant in well-drained soil that has plenty of organic matter added beforehand, ideally not where you’ve just finished growing peas or beans. If you live in the Wairarapa, growing peas is banned at the moment to reduce the spread of pea weevil.
+Harvest kumara when the foliage turns yellow. Tubers should be left to dry for a week so they cure properly before storing.
+Pick rocket continuously, especially if weather stays hot. Harvest both leaves and flowers to avoid plants going to seed and encourage plants to keep producing new leaves. Young leaves are milder and tastier.
+ When leeks are about 2-3cm wide they’re ready for harvest. You can leave them in the ground but if flowers start to appear, dig your leeks up.
+ Vine-ripened tomatoes are the best but don’t leave them too long on the plant or they’ll turn soft and lose flavour quickly. Always keep your tomatoes in a cool, dry cupboard after picking, not the fridge, as the cold kills their taste. Green tomatoes can be left to ripen on the window sill.
+ If yams taste bitter after harvesting, leave them in the sun for a few days afterwards.
+ When apple trees start to drop their fruit that usually means they’re ready to harvest. If you’re not sure, take a bite; the flesh should be white or yellow, crisp and a little sweet.
+ Late-season grapes should be ripening this month. Keep bunches in the fridge and only wash just before eating or they will be prone
+ When space is tight, growing chives is a good alternative to onions. As well as providing great flavour for sauces and salads, they grow pretty pink flowers in spring. Sow in pots, window boxes or into the garden in a sunny position.
+ If you have bare areas in the garden during winter, sow a green manure crop like mustard or lupins. This should be cut down in spring while soft and leafy (not woody) so it can be easily dug into the ground, adding valuable organic matter as well as suppressing weeds.
+ Broad beans are an easy winter crop. For a spring harvest, sow seed now in punnets or into the garden as long as soil is fertile and friable. If you’re short on space choose dwarf varieties.
+ Now the weather is cooler (and the ground moister) salad greens will be easier to grow. If frosts are likely at your place, wait until spring, otherwise sow direct into the ground or containers and keep well watered. Protect from snails, too. There are plenty of salad seed mixes available now; try a mesclun kale blend or a mesclun Italian mix from Kings Seeds.
+ Cauliflower, silverbeet and spinach seed can be sown in trays for planting when seedlings are established and less vulnerable to pest attacks.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Images via: Getty.