by Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and author of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast

Early in April is a good time to harden off your cabbages, broccoli and other brassicas; transplant them by mid-month. They thrive with compost, a good organic mulch, and row cover against the frost.  April is also the month to start your direct sown succession plantings of beets, lettuce and carrots every 2 weeks. These small succession plantings let you have a steady supply of vegetables fresh for the table all season.

Hill your early potatoes when plants are eight inches high, and again two weeks later. Watch out for potato beetles – handpick. Don’t forget to buy more seed potatoes for June planting, while you can. Store them in a cool dark place until you are ready to plant them. This late planting often yields less than your traditional St Patrick’s Day planting, but they store exceptionally well for having your own homegrown potatoes to eat until next spring.

When the weather is warm enough (soil temp is over 65°) then sow corn and transplant a few early tomatoes such as Glacier or Stupice under row cover. There is still time to start more tomatoes from seed. I like to start a main crop of sauce tomatoes like Roma or Amish paste in April to transplant to the garden when the soil is warm and all danger of frost has passed. Later in April when the lilac is in full bloom, direct sow your first beans. You can also start watermelons, cucumber, and cantaloupe in soil blocks or paper pots to get a jump on the warm weather crops.

We are still eating sweet potatoes from last summer’s crop. They are really an amazing crop that can be stored at room temperature for almost a year, so don’t forget to order some slips now so you will have them in time for planting when May rolls around. We start our slips in the greenhouse from the best of last year’s crop. We grow a dozen varieties, from All Purple to white-fleshed O’Henry, sweet dry white-fleshed red-skinned Japanese Red, and traditional orange-fleshed Beauregard or Bush Porto Rico. I love them all. If you haven’t grown sweet potatoes before, Southern Exposure’s Sweet Potato Growing guide will tell you how.

Harvest greens, enjoy abundant salad greens, savor asparagus, and prepare to weed.