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Gardening diary: Early spring

What to do in your garden in early spring.

While the soil temperature should be rising in early spring, cold snaps and wet weather are typical of this month. Sow pea seeds in well-drained soils in double rows. Each row needs a supporting frame (eg. chicken wire or trellis) for the plants to grow up. Protect seedlings from birds using nets or clear covers and water sparingly – the seedlings will rot and die with too much water.

Leeks raised indoors can be planted out at the end of the month. Providing the soil is not waterlogged, a thin layer of rotted manure can be spread around the seedlings.

Summer cabbages raised indoors can also be planted out if frosts have ended. Leave at least 30cm space between each seedling when planting out as they throw out large leaves.

Spring cauliflowers (check the seed packet as there are three distinct growing seasons for cauliflowers) can be raised indoors in pots for planting out in November. Throw a handful of wood ash for each square metre of soil where your seedlings will finally be planted as they prefer slightly alkaline conditions.

Onion seedlings can also be transplanted into soil that has been finely tilled and composted. Regularly weed, being mindful of the shallow onion roots. Onions like regular watering.

Potatoes germinated indoors or the new seed potatoes, such as Jersey Benne, can be popped into your vege patch providing frosts are long gone. Keep piling soil on the growing plants (earthing up) so only 20cm of the tops poke above the soil.

Planning your vegetable plot is an important factor in the health and yield of plants.

Never plant the same crops in the same place each year. Rotate crops to balance nutrient uptake and prevent plant-specific diseases. It’s a good idea to keep a ‘what I’ve planted, where’ diary.

Hold off on a nitrogen-rich fertiliser, such as manure, unless soils have warmed and drained to restrict algal growth.

Birds will appear with an appetite for pea and lettuce seedlings in particular so protect plants with netting, cloches or bird scarers (old CDs or strips of tinfoil hung on strings).

Wash empty plant pots and seed trays with a dilute bleach solution in preparation for a busy spring planting period.

Sprinkle a handful of wood ash around each broad bean plant and continue to tie up against stakes – September winds can wreak havoc on these tender stemmed plants.

Weed and weed some more. Weeds steal the food and water at the expense of your crop.

Cut bottoms out of two-litre plastic drink bottles and remove screw cap. Place over seedlings (eg. peas and lettuce) to provide excellent protection against frosts and birds.

Keep empty glass jars and lids for preserving autumn  vegetables and fruit.

Save eggshells in a bucket and dry them out in the bottom of the oven next time you bake. Crush then sprinkle shells around plants to provide a slow-release source of calcium.

First published: Sep 2011



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