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Happy Easter GIYers, For growers, April is the most wonderful time of the year. All of nature is in major growth mode – the most detested weed and the most beloved seedlings are growing almost in front of our eyes. Leaves are emerging on trees and flowers appearing in the garden practically overnight.  There is a lot to do in April. From sowing loads of seeds to keeping on top of weeds, hardening off seedlings. Here is this months growing calendar to inspire you to get growing.
Preparation   April is the banker month – if poor weather in March has hampered your outdoor work, then April is the month to catch up. Fork over and rake the soil in preparation for the crops.
To Do List   Two words; weeds and slugs. You need to stay on top of them both. ‘Earth-up’ your spuds – this means drawing up soil around the stems which creates additional depth of soil and therefore encourages the plants to produce more potatoes. A ridging hoe is the ideal tool for earthing up. Water your tunnel/greenhouse – things can get pretty warm on a nice sunny April day and seedlings will dry out quickly. As the weather improves, ventilate the polytunnel during the day. Cabbage root fly attack brassicas by laying eggs at the base of plants. Cut discs of soft material, like carpet underlay and lay flat around the base of the plant. Depending on the weather, cabbage butterflies will also soon be laying eggs. Check the undersides of leaves and scrape off eggs before they hatch. You will need to keep this vigilance up in the coming months – collect the caterpillars and feed to the hens.
Sowing Seeds & Planting Out   Sow indoors: oriental greens, lettuce, annual spinach, summer cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, beetroot, celery, courgette, kale, perpetual spinach, swede and chard. Sow direct in the soil outdoors: peas, onion sets, shallots and main crop potatoes.​ Hardening off – seeds raised indoors/under cover, need to be acclimatised outdoors before planting out. Bring them outside during daylight hours for at least a week. Plant out cabbage plants when they are 15/20 cm tall into well prepared soil that has been manured. Water the plants well the day before and lift each plant with as big a root ball as possible. Firm the plants in well and water. Tomato plants might be ready for planting out in to the greenhouse/polytunnel ground this month but hold off if the weather is very cold. If space is at a premium, use plant pots to grow herbs and strawberries.
Harvesting What’s In Season?   Stored fruit and vegetables are likely to be a distant memory at this stage and new crops are only starting to trickle in which makes April a tricky proposition. The middle of this month might see the first asparagus and the first early spring cabbage. The other two star performers this month are sprouting broccoli and rhubarb. You could also be harvesting leeks, spring cauliflowers, kale, spinach and chard, lettuce, carrots (in polytunnel), radish, spring onions and wild garlic. Pick bundles of tender young nettles – divert some to the kitchen for a delicious nettle soup or blood-purifying tea and use the rest for an organic fertilizer. Nettles are extremely high in nitrogen so if you soak a large bucketful in water for a week, you produce a brilliant nitrogen-rich fertilizer which will be hugely beneficial for any plants which need leafy growth, for example lettuces, cabbage, kale etc. Put a kilo of nettles in a hessian bag and soak in 20 litres of water and leave it to stew for a month or so. It gets pretty stink so put a lid on top. Mix one part nettle liquid with ten parts water when applying to plants.
Weekly Challenge 
Join Your Local Library   Last week we launched our #GrowItForward campaign and what a mind-blowing response we have received. Online registrations were full in just 4 days – we expected it to take a month!  In partnership with Healthy Ireland and Libraries Ireland through the Government of Ireland’s Keep Well initiative our Grow It Forward campaign aims to support half a million people across Ireland to enjoy the wide range of benefits that come from growing food at home. You can learn more about the campaign here. If you’re not a member of your local library, now is a great time to join! To celebrate our partnership with Libraries Ireland for the campaign, you are now able to borrow GIY’s books Grow Cook Eat (for adults) and the Know-it-Allmanac (for kids… and adults) as e-books as well as hard copy. Libraries also have a great collection of other books on food growing, gardening and cooking to get even more out of your Grow it Forward experience.