Kitchen Garden Tasks for Early Spring

Weeding and cleaning up

Clear off the crops which are coming to an end, put the remains on the compost heap if free from pests and diseases, and burn the rest.

Clean up all the soft fruit that needs this attention. By the end of the winter, there is likely to be a thin cover of weeds, and also rubbish blown on to the soil by the winter gales, such as sticks and twigs, unrotted leathery leaves and so on.

Weed all sites for which the general cultivation and preparation was done earlier, and also weed established asparagus beds and globe artichokes.

By weeding now, when the weeds are still small, you will prevent perennial weeds from getting a stranglehold, especially in the centre of fruit bushes from which it is virtually impossible to remove them, once established. There are several methods of weeding: forking or hoeing, hand-weeding, or using chemical weedkillers.

If you decide to use chemicals, paraquat is a useful time-saver for annual and small weeds; it has its effect through the green parts of plants and is inactivated when it reaches the soil. There is a new translocated weedkiller available containing the chemical glyphosphate. This is sprayed on to leaves and stems, through which it is absorbed, although the effect will not be as good as application later in the spring. It is also inactivated in the soil.

If you cultivate the weeds out, you will also be aerating the soil surface and so, although it may take a little longer, you will have in fact done two jobs.

Where soft fruit is being grown in beds, you can keep the edges of the beds free of weeds for a year, by watering the soil in a strip approximately 15cm (6in) wide all round the bed with simazine mixed with water. The soil must be clear of weeds to start with, and preferably level, crumbly-textured and moist; then the solution (suspension) can form a cover over and in the upper layers of the soil, through which weeds cannot penetrate. As they germinate so they will be killed. However, perennial weeds, which are tougher, are likely to be able to grow through, though not as strongly as usual.

Pruning

If the gooseberries have been damaged by birds, such as bullfinches picking out the buds during the winter, cut the bare shoots back hard to leave stubs a few centimetres (an inch or two) long. The bushes will respond by producing new shoots from the centre, though you will not of course have any crop in the summer.

Top the raspberry canes as soon as possible, if this was not done in late winter, tie them in if loosened during winter, and also re-tie any of the other cane fruits that need it.

Spraying

Currants and gooseberries may need treatment against aphids, especially greenfly, and possibly some early hatches of capsid as well, towards the end of early spring. Bio-resmethrin, pirimiphos-methyl or malathion can be used; choose a calm day and make sure the solution is exactly the right strength. Young growth can be badly burnt by a strong solution, or by spraying when windy.

Manuring, mulching and feeding

Spread a layer of rotted organic matter over established asparagus beds if this was not done in autumn. Feed all the fruit with a general compound fertilizer if this was not done in late winter, or late summer last year.

Some gardeners who have to deal with soil which dries quickly find that mulching the surface with straw, where they are growing bush and cane fruits, helps to keep it damp in all but the hottest, droughtiest conditions. The fresh covering that was put on last autumn will mostly have rotted by now, and a new supply of straw should be laid over the ground after any weeds have been removed.

If you do this, put on first the mulch of manure or compost referred to in Mid-Spring and Late Spring, and then cover with straw.

Protection

Look over the protective netting against birds on the brassica (cabbage) family and make sure it is bird-proof. Pigeons in particular seem to be voracious at this time of the year. Also have a look at that over the gooseberries, and put netting on over the currants, as birds sometimes have a go at the newly developing buds now. This will save you time later, too.

Ventilating

Cloched strawberries should be expanding their leaves well by now; on sunny days open the cloches a little otherwise the temperature inside shoots up surprisingly high, too high for the strawberry, which is fundamentally a temperate-climate plant. It is not too late to put cloches on now; if done at the beginning of spring the berries should still be ripe before the unprotected ones.

Begin to open the ventilators in the greenhouse more during the day as the sun becomes warmer and more frequent in appearance. Be very careful to close down every night still, all but a crack.

When planting rhubarb, make sure that buds are just above the soil surface, and that the roots are spread out to their entire length, in a sufficiently deep hole. Doubled-up, cramped roots will result in a poor plant. Finish the planting by mulching, or put the mulch on later, in late spring.

26. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Kitchen Garden Tasks for Early Spring

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