Ira Wallace Southern Exposure Seed Exchange ,Author of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast and Grow Great Vegetables in Virginia
April is the time to start sowing in the open garden with early 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. Late April is time to finish hardening off and transplanting to the open garden any remaining spring cabbages, broccoli and other brassicas. They will thrive with ample compost, a good organic mulch, and row cover against cabbage worms and any late spring frosts.
Time to get rid of any remaining over-wintered mustards, kale, or collards before Harlequin bugs take over and spread. Hill your potatoes at eight inches leaving only the top leaves uncovered, and again when plants are 15 inches high about two weeks later. Watch out for potato beetles – handpick regularly for best control. Don’t forget to buy more seed potatoes for June planting, while you can. Store them in a cool place until you are ready to green chit(pre-sprout) your potatoes before planting.
When the lilacs are in full bloom, sow your first green beans. Check to see when soil temp is over 65° then sow corn. Plant 3 or 4 varieties of corn with different days to maturity once a month until 90 days before you average first fall frost for fresh picked sweet corn all summer. Transplant a few early tomatoes such as Glacier or Stupice keep them under row cover until warm temperatures settle in May. You can sow watermelons, cucumber, and cantaloupe in soil blocks or paper pots to transplant in early May to get a jump on the warm weather crops or wait to direct sow late on April.
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 later in May or early in June. We start our own in the greenhouse from the best of last year’s crop. We are growing a dozen varieties, from All Purple (skin and flesh) to white-fleshed Japanese Red and traditional orange skinned, orange-fleshed Beauregard or Carolina Ruby. I love them all. If you haven’t grown sweet potatoes before, Southern Exposure’s Sweet Potato Growing guide will tell you how.
Harvest braising greens, enjoy perfect salads, savor fresh asparagus, and prepare to weed!