Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Friday, April 7, 2017

What to Plant in the April Edible Garden

Good morning gardeners!

April heralds a bright beginning to the gardening season in Portland. In the past two months I have already taught nine gardening workshops around the Portland area and met over 100 enthusiastic gardening students. If you have joined me in a gardening workshop, thank you!

In my garden I am continuing to enjoy the long-blooming winter daphne and hellebores. Spring bulbs, hyacinth, daffodil, tulip, and grape hyacinth have sprung up all around the garden. Lungwort and brunnera sport bright tiny blue and purple flowers. Fiddleheads are unfurling on evergreen ferns. Clematis, lily, peony, and bee balm have all bravely poked up from the warming soil. And this week my bleeding heart set it's first gorgeous bright pink flowers.

It is still a little too early to assess but I think I have lost lemon verbena and 3 varieties of sage. This was some winter with multiple snow and ice storms December through March. Gratefully that is all behind us now. On March 21st we happily celebrated the first day of spring.

Our average last frost date in Portland was April 15th for as long as I could remember. The last 2 years I have found online sources citing March 15th as our new average last frost date, which made sense considering how early and warm our springs have become. So I have been teaching March 15th in my classes and writing. This year has been cool and wet with most early plants a month or so behind-cherry trees, daffodils, etc. When I did an online search today I found a confusing array of average last frost dates for Portland anywhere from March 11-April 26. I'm going with this source which cites March 11-March 31 has the average last frost period.

So regardless of the accurate average last frost date, spring fever is upon us and perhaps you have planted some crops already and perhaps you are itching to get started. In April we are still planting cool season crops. In spite of a few warm sunny days in the 70s, it is still too cold to plant your warm season summer crops!! Please no tomatoes or basil yet.

In my garden I have already planted from starts-snow peas, sugar snap peas, kale, lettuce, chives, thyme, parsley, cilantro, and marjoram. I've planted from seed mache and chervil. Later this month when the soil warms up and dries out a bit I will plant seeds for carrots, radish, beets, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, celeriac, and scallions.

Here's what to plant now:

Asian greens
Beets-great time to plant seeds in April
Brussels sprouts (plant in spring for a fall harvest)
Carrots-great time to plant seeds in April
Mustard Greens
Parsnips (plant now for a fall harvest)
Peas-don't like heat so get them in by the end of April
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache
Swiss Chard

Continue planting artichokes, rhubarb, potatoes, leeks, onions, shallots, garlic in April.

Runner beans are the only type of bean that can be planted early. Plant some seeds now in April, like scarlet or sunset runner. They make beautiful ornamental plants grown up a trellis as a vine hummingbirds will love. Harvest the pods while very young and small for fresh green beans. Or wait until pods are large and dry out for shelling/dry beans.

Herbs-plant cool season annual herbs like cilantro and chervil. Plant all perennial herbs now. Plant hardier annual herbs like dill and german chamomile. Wait on tender warm-season annual herbs like basil and shiso until May.

Fruit-keep planting strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and fruit trees through April.

WAIT until mid to late May when night temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees to plant warm season crops like: beans, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, winter squash, and zucchini. Seriously, just wait until later in May. Planting now risks stunting or outright killing these plants.

In April annual bedding plants become available at nurseries. Don't forget to interplant your veggie garden with annual flowers and herbs as companion plants for beneficial bugs. Some of my favorites: alyssum, calendula, cosmos, marigolds, nasturtium, and zinnia.

Mid-April is a great time to plant sunflower seeds directly into the garden. April is time to plant lily, gladiola, and liatris bulbs. Wait until May to plant dahlia tubers.

Remember to apply Sluggo organic slug bait all around your edible and ornamental garden. Reapply at 2 week intervals to keep slugs under control.

Thank you for reading my blog and I am happy to receive your gardening questions here in a comment. Please contact me at if you are interested in scheduling an email edible gardening consultation. Happy gardening and happy April!

Warmly, Jolie

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