April In The Vegie Patch

agastache and dill

Winter draws ever closer, and tough choices need to be made. Do you have enough room for all your winter crops or does something have to give. Is it time for summer crops to go? And time is of the essence people, the nights are cooling and mornings are dewy. Those cool nights set the scene and everything slows down.

(Man doesn’t that sound good – everything slows down…)

So, rouse yourself dear gardeners and whip out crops that are hanging on for dear life (hurrah compost!). Pull tomatoes out whole and hang them upside down to finish ripening. Plant new seedlings amongst older plants that still have more to give. Zucchini, cucumber and squash can be reorganised a little to fit things better. However you do it – get planting the new – now! today! or you’ll run out of grow time.

Patient harvesting

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.

The only harvest you need your skates on for is kumara. If nights are cooling off at your place, get it up now.

Fabulous brassica

Broccoli - romanesco

Brassica are an amazing health food when fresh picked from your garden – its worth the effort to grow a few of your own. 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 and broccoli gives and gives, cabbage and cauli not so much.

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
January planted cabbage, nearly ready!

Boost broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages along

  • weekly liquid feeding
  • cabbage white control – either flick off the eggs beneath the leaves and squash the caterpillars or spray with Kiwicare caterpillar killer, it’s not for much longer – hurrah!, they’ll be disappearing soon.
  • a deep water once a week (if there’s no rain).
  • mulching up around the stalks as they grow. They’ll peg new roots down in this mulch giving them extra resilience.
  • 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.

baby leaves
In the next two 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, spinach, coriander, beetroot, radish and rocket.
  • 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 is a big help at planting and flowering.
  • Direct sow greencrops in any gaps – phacelia, oats, lupin, broadbeans, wheat, mustard. 
  • Tray sow globe artichokes and onions.
  • Thin root crops for good sized crops (note to self 🙂 )
  • Save seed

Be chill about the pests

a healthy colony of aphids

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. Add a new practice each year to strengthen your garden and soon enough you’ll have less to deal with.

  • Keep squashing shield bugs when you see them.
  • Aphids and whitefly can be sprayed with Neem.
  • Passionvine hoppers are in a league of their own and untouchable as adults. Look ahead to next year and plant catch crops and Neem them when they are young, vulnerable “fluffy bums”.

Recycle corn and sunflower stalks

What do you do with all your corn and sunflower stalks? 20 years ago I used to chop them 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 my loppers and either go into a pile around the edge of the garden or I toss them under 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.


  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