April In The Vegie Patch

January sown climbing beans keep flowering if ripe beans are picked daily ediblebackyard NZ

Keep January-planted bean, zucchini, tomato and cucumber crops jogging along with a daily harvest. Don’t let energy get wasted on the big old bean at the bottom! Though growth is slowing right down and quality of fruits perhaps as well, its worth it to squeeze more crops out of them. At least until the next lot are providing something for tea. Its as easy as keeping up with the daily harvest. The more you pick, the more flowers come along. Trimming off old leaves also does wonders. Get new crops going at their feet.

Leave corn roots in the ground to stabilise soil ediblebackyard NZ
Leave corn roots in the ground to stabilise soil. Sow or plant around them.

Out with the old and in with the new – now! Today! Or you’ll run out of grow time. Whip out any crops that are past their best and recycle them into compost or mulch, unless they are covered in a dreaded disease in which case maybe tuck them beneath natives or ornamental perennials to rot down. Don’t worry too much about disease – I compost most things, trusting in soil life to sort it. Use the space for new sowings or plantings.

  • Pull tomatoes out whole and hang them upside down to finish ripening.
  • Chop corn and sunflowers off at the roots. Leaving the root, strengthens soil.
  • If zucchini and cucumbers are still providing, reorganise the vines onto the paths or out of the way so you can use the space. Snapping off old ratty, mildewy leaves further increases your room.
  • Crunch up bean vines and use them to mulch the following crop.

Maximise leafy greens this April

Salad harvest at Edible backyard NZ. Remove the outer leaves to keep new growth coming on
Salads planted at the base of broccoli. Harvest 1 or 2 of the older leaves from each plant to keep fresh, new growth coming on.

Get the most out of your leafy greens (salads, silverbeet, kale, chard) by harvesting the older, outside leaves first. If you haven’t been harvesting this way and have lots of old, ratty, gooey foliage, do a clean up and pick it all off then lay it down as mulch. From now on, keep up by removing the outside leaves regularly to keep fresh growth coming on.
–> Leave a core of 5 or 6 leaves.
–> Take 1 or 2 leaves from a few plants, rather than a lot of leaves from one.
–> Boost growth with a weekly liquid feed.

Quick turn around greens

New kale leaves resprouting from the stump. Ediblebackyard NZ
Kale leaves sprouting from an old kale stump

Refresh tired old kale, silverbeet or chard plants and regrow a fresh lot of leaves by chopping off the top and leaving a 20cm ish stump.
Donate a bit of soil food like compost or rotten manure at the base, pour on liquid feed + mulch with the tops.
Pretty soon you’ll have a delightful harvest of little leaves.

Patient harvesting – pumpkin, yams + potatoes

butternut harvest

Be sure of ripe perfection before harvesting. Pumpkin and squash are ripe when the stalk is dry, and not before!
Main crop potatoes store best if you harvest once the tops have died down.
Yams are fatter and sweeter after the first frost.

Kumara + Shellout Bean harvest is nigh

A wheelbarrow full on the delicious New Zealand sweet potato, known as Kumara

I usually harvest kumara about 130 days after planting tipu. This timing suits my place because nights and soils start to cool mid April + we’ll be getting more rain this month. Cold, wet soil is kumara’s least favourite, so harvest them before everything cools down – that way you catch them in their prime. Somewhere between 120 – 150 growing days is ideal. The longer its warm at your place, the longer you can leave them.

As shellout beans dry, get them in undercover. Pop them out of their pods as soon as poss. Any beans that are spongy are no good for storing.

Keep Watering!

oscillating sprinkler

Its easy to forget to water when weather starts to cool. Theres no faster way to put your soil fertility to sleep than to let it all dry out. Stay on the job my friends. Check soil, before watering and water only when needed. Heres all my winning ways.

Fabulous brassica

Broccoli - romanesco

Brassica are an amazing health food when fresh picked from your garden. Market gardeners spray the heck out of them – up to 14 pesticide/ herbicides sprays during their life. Makes me so sad. You and I are lucky – we can grow our own.

If you don’t have much room, get your winter brassica fix with quick turn around Asian greens like bok choy, gai lan or chinese cabbage. You can sow or plant these every month around the edges, under fruit trees, in banana boxes even. Kale is a no brainer, collards – a loose leaf cabbage is yum, do try, and broccoli gives and gives.

Each month from January through May, I plant a mixture of brassica for a super-handy staggered harvest. Here’s my daily winter harvest plan.

april cabbage
April will see these January-planted cabbage ready!

Boost broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages along

  • Weekly liquid feeding
  • Cabbage white control. If your brassica aren’t tucked up under insect mesh then be sure to flick off the eggs beneath the leaves and squash the caterpillars. It’s not for much longer, they’ll be disappearing soon.
  • A deep water once a week (if there’s no rain).
  • Keep topping up the mulch.
  • A side dressing of rotten manure or compost when the plants are at 30cm. A gob beneath the mulch, beside each plant will do it.
April in the berryhouse - salads brassicas leeks and leafy greens planted amongst zinnias and marigolds

In the next few weeks

  • Plant out lots of salad greens and loads of leafy greens – parsley, kale, silverbeet, perpetual beet or rainbow chard to ensure plenty of fresh greens through the winter… best food!
  • Plant another mixed lot of brassicas for late winter eating.
  • Plant celery into a lovely pile of muck. Avoid leaf spot and rust by growing in the greenhouse or under cover.
  • Plant garlic
  • Plant companion flowers like calendula, stock, larkspur, cornflower, primula, poppy to keep your spirits up and your beneficial insects fed.
  • Direct sow peas, snowpeas, sweetpeas, broadbeans, corn salad, miners lettuce, mesclun mix, rocket, spinach, coriander, beetroot, radish and onion.
  • Avoid chocolate spot and rust in broadbeans by sowing in spring if like me, you live in a high rainfall zone. A generous side dressing of wood ash helps prevent both of these – do this at planting and again at flowering.
  • Direct sow greencrops in any gaps – phacelia, oats, lupin, broadbeans, wheat, mustard. 
  • Tray sow another lot of brassica.
  • Tray sow globe artichokes and onions.
  • Thin root crops for good sized crops
  • Save seed

Get your creative eye on the job when finding room for new crops.
Use the space beneath fruit trees, create space in flower or herb gardens by trimming back finished plants, use the space under older crops that will soon be coming out, your neighbours neglected garden and if all else fails – boxes and buckets!

Be chill about the pests

paper wasp eating a cabbage white caterpillar
Paper wasp eating a cabbage white butterfly caterpillar

Theres plenty of pests in a warm autumn. Don’t panic about them ok! They’ll be done when the cold hits and toddle off to hibernate or die. Then sure as eggs will come again next year and the one following and the one after that.

Add a new practice each year to strengthen your garden and soon enough you’ll have less to deal with – not none, but a lot less. There is a specialised crew of predators for all these pests. Get them on the job by being spray free and planting heaps of beneficial insect kai.

  • Keep squashing shield bugs, cabbage white caterpillars and aphids on your daily walk about.
  • Whitefly can be hosed off. Pluck off heavily infected leaves, fold them up and squash them.
  • Passionvine hoppers are tricky as adults. If you have an overwhelming population, add Neem to your biological spray and use every 4 days or so.

Recycle corn and sunflower stalks

20 years ago, I used to chop corn stalks and bash them up and add them to compost. So much energy!

A pile of corn stalks breaking down
A pile of cornstalks in the herbal border

Now a days I’m brainier and get nature to do the hard work. My big chunky bits get roughly chopped with loppers and get piled up around the edge of the garden. This time next year they’ll be delicious compost. If I dont have time to chop them up I simply pile them beneath the avocados – subtropicals love a mixed deep mulch.

If you’re a neat and tidy type just poke them under something droopy, out of sight. If like me you garden on the wild-side, you’ll have no shortage of spots.

Whatever you do, use them. Don’t toss them out! Every bit of decaying organic matter adds to the overall fertility and strength of your garden. Its pretty bonkers to throw away fertility and then buy a bag of it in.


  1. Thanks for the timely reminder… all pumpkin, marrows, cucumber and toms harvested and beds mulched and/or ready to be planted out.

    2 coffees coming your way 🙂

  2. Kathryn Dewe says

    Hi Kath
    Your citrus tree post mentioned sprinkling seeds of plantain and others to grow a diy mulch.
    Is this available as a premix or a diy? And from where?

    • Hey Kathryn – its just my own seed collecting happening here. Little patches of grass killed off by laying carpet or tarps down. Once the grass has died away, dried seedheads tossed about and eventually it all comes together. hope this helps Kath

  3. Melanie Walker says

    Im trying tobuy you a couple of coffees but the link seems to be linked to itself so it keeps going back to the click here page. Will keep trying.

    Also, do you have tips for starting an asparagus bed?

    Brassicas are pumping and I have a great mix of veg coming on. Thanks for such fabulous advice.

    Cheers, Melanie

    • Wops sorry bout that… thanks for the thought though 🙂 Depends what type of soil you’ve got as to how you start your asparagus bed Melanie – do tell.

      • Melanie Walker says

        Ahh yes of course…started out as pakahi 25 years ago but has had very regular applications of seagrass, compost and poo ever since. I stopped digging 18 months ago when I started getting your newsletter. So I guess its just a mixture now. Kind of dark brown and a nice texture and smells good.

        • Sweet – so the first thing is drainage – must be free draining. However you do that, make that your first mission. Then make a mega pile of compost as in what you’ve been doing – any sea waste is the cats pjs for asparagus, herbs, manure …… Pile it all up as high as you can go. EM would be cool if thats your way and cover it with sacks or hay and leave it over winter to rot down so that come spring you can plant out crowns. Keep your asparagus bed narrow ok you dont ever want to stand on it and be sure of good sun from early spring on and air flow throughout the growing season to prevent rust. ie not in a semi shaded corner or low spot. Fun!

          • Melanie Walker says

            Thankyou so much for your generousity Kath. In the nick.of time too as I.had chosen enrirely the wrong spot. If ever you feel like some r &r in Golden Bay id love to shout you a few nights in one of our airbnb cabins. Yay asparagus here we come!

          • What a treat that would be – I love Golden Bay, and its been a while! Thats really kind and I’ll keep you in mind for sure 🙂 Hope your asparagus grows well, K

  4. Hi Kath,

    You mention planting “catch crops” next year for passion vine hoppers – what would be catch crops?

    Many thanks

  5. Hi Kath, thanks for your awesome monthly advice. Love your mahi. I’ve never really grown alliums that much apart from spring onions and always seem to miss the recommended times for sowing/transplanting onions and leeks. Would direct sowing onions now mean onions to harvest in spring? Would other alliums also do okay if direct sown now? cheers

    • Hiya Matt, Autumn onions are usually ready early summer. Spring sown onions usually ready autumn. They’re so versatile having quite a big window for sowing direct or tray. Thing is to find the best for your place. I like to use the winter garden cos there is more room but the disadvantage is not always a nice dry harvesting window as summer can take a while to get going here. Garlic, red onions and brown onions can all be sown now. Hope this helps.

  6. O phew awesome to hear we still have lots of time to plant out brassicas. I got a bit stressed when I saw your March 20 post where you said “you’ve got to get planting this weekend” https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/my-top-3-winter-greens-how-to-grow-them/ because due to reasons, my winter seedlings are still too wee to plant out just yet (only 2 true leaves and 2 baby ones), so I had been tossing up between leaving them a bit longer and biffing them in the garden to see what happens 🙂 Did you maybe mean that was the last weekend for sowing seeds? We’re a little bit further south than you and don’t have frosts here as we’re at the beach, but we do have serious winter gales!

    • Hiya Melissa, no stress! I was more eluding to successional planting s making sure you were all planting some crops in march for winter eating, but its not the only moment you’ve got for planting – you can plant brassicas all winter long ok. Keep them growing a bit more ok. Bigger is better then they’ll grow faster/ stronger in the ground and have more luck against slugs. Dont let them get too wet – barely moist is the thing you want ok. And perhaps a dilute liquid feed of worm wees or seaweed or comfrey. Keep them warm for speed – under cover of a porch or some such. happy gardening! Kath

  7. Alana Cornforth says

    Hi Kath

    I forgot to panic buy seed-raising mix… any tips for growing seeds without it? I don’t have much in the way of ready compost as we trench all our bokashi scraps instead of using a compost bin. Can I just use ordinary garden soil? I’ve found your winter planting plan post so useful and want to sow some broccoli seeds I have – I assume I can’t direct sow it?

    Thanks for all your help – I feel so lucky to be seeing the benefits of it in my garden especially during crazy times such as these.

    Take care

    • I hear ya Alana – the value of the garden has just gone through the roof! I am also without seed raising mix which I usually get in second hand from an organic micro green grower – yikes! Its kinda cool to have to make do though. Yes you can direct sow broccoli, but you will need to really be on the job with slugs and snails – if you do have them I recommend a tray sow to get seedlings going strong first.
      Seeds grow really well in anything thats free draining and warm (think how well they sprout in the driveway!) So hunt around for what you can find and mix it altogether, adding a bit of this and that until you have a fabric you like. You can reuse it as well.
      Basically you need about one part something peaty – scrape back leaf litter and get the goodness underneath, 2 parts really good soil/ worm castings – hunt about the garden or I found a nice pocket under my lemon! and 2 parts something inert and gritty like river sand (cant use beach sand though), well rotted sawdust works well or I re used the sand from my kumara growing box (lucky find!). I managed to scrape up a small leftover bit of seed raising mix I found in the greenhouse to add to the brew and further help with drainage – so wasteful of me not to save it in a bucket! Different times when I felt my seed raising mix was a sure thing.
      Hope this helps.
      Be well you guys x

  8. Hi Kath, I’m desperate for your pruning book – will you start selling it again in level 3? Also I love your YouTube videos, hope there will be some more on pruning and espalier 😍

  9. Celia Hume says

    Hi Kath, is it possible to finish shellout beans to dry inside? Mine are taking forever to dry outside (beans are formed in the pods and starting to harden but pods are still green). We’re starting to get lots of rain though (and want to use the space for something else!)..
    Thanks, always appreciate your wisdom!

    • Oh yes its tricky this balance of replanting and removing. Ideally beans fully mature on the vine, there really is no replacement for this sadly. At the very least wait until the bean seed is hard (a bite test tells you this), at this point even if the outside isn’t properly dry, you can cut the plant at the roots and hang it upside down undercover to finish off. Mean time sow the next lot of crops in trays and keep pricking them into the next size container (do this for bought seedlings as well) until the bed is ready. This way when you plant them out they have a good head start.

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