Kitchen Garden Tasks in Mid Spring

Weeding and cleaning up

By this time you will have got rid of the over-wintering weeds from established crops and will have cleared sites which are to be sown or planted. Unfortunately, new weed seeds will be germinating all the time, so that you need to go round with the hoe every week, and hoe them off while still in the seedling stage. If time is very short, you can let them grow to form a leafy cover, and then spray with the contact weedkiller, paraquat. Provided you restrict the solution to the leaves of the weeds, no harm will be done to any adjacent crops, as the chemical only has effect on the green parts of plants and not on the roots.

Many of the winter crops will be coming to an end and can be dug up and put on the compost heap if not diseased or pest ridden. You can start a new heap (or heaps) at this time of the year, as there will be plenty of fresh vegetative material from all parts of the garden, not just the kitchen garden. The old heap finished in autumn last year can be used for mulching, as it should by now be crumbly and dark brown.

Mulching

Strawberries, bush fruit and cane fruit can all be mulched with rotten garden compost, manure, spent hops or any similar materials, when the soil is moist and clear of weeds. Vines can also be mulched, but thinly; in fact, if they are fairly vigorous already, there is no need to do this. A moderately thick mulch will be 5cm (2in) deep; a thin one only 1.2cm (1/2in). For a heavy dressing, use 7.5cm (3in), but remember that many factors determine the amount of mulch applied and you can vary these quantities as you become more experienced in handling crops and soil.

Feeding

Little feeding is required this early in the growing season, but you can put a dressing of agricultural salt on to the asparagus some time in mid-spring; 60g per sq m (2oz per sq yd) is the rate. Wild asparagus grows near the sea, so it does no harm to supply the cultivated crop with a little of the common sea mineral, sodium chloride.

Established alpine strawberries can be given a general compound fertilizer, slightly high in potassium. You will find, later in the season, that this will have done much good and increased the crop enormously. Cucumbers and melons in pots, which are waiting for planting out, may need a little help in the form of liquid feeding, again using a mixture which has more potash than nitrogen or phosphorus.

Protection

Frost is an enemy to be watched for, especially on potatoes, the young leaves and stems of which are very vulnerable. Cover them on those evenings when a night frost is forecast and during the day when snow is a possibility. Some strawberries in sheltered, really warm gardens may be coming into flower at the end of mid-spring, so protect these on cold nights, otherwise you will see the fatal black centre to the flowers which means they have been killed.

All crops, especially brassicas, will need protection from birds; over-wintered crops, and newly sown ones, are vulnerable; pea, lettuce and spinach will need netting – of a close mesh, to keep out the smaller birds – or some other form of deterrent.

Training and tying-in

One of the commonest methods of training outdoor vines is by the double Guyot system. Each established vine will have one side-shoot or bearer rod trained horizontally on each side of the main stem, and from this will be produced five or six side-shoots. These should be trained straight up and tied to the supporting wires as they reach them. The central shoot which was cut back in the early winter to leave three dormant leaf buds will produce new shoots from these three buds, one to each, and the three new shoots should also be trained vertically up the centre and tied in as they grow. Newly planted vines, put in last winter or this spring, will not have any bearer rods, only the three central shoots, which should be treated as on the established plants.

Ventilation

The outdoor temperature will, one hopes, be starting to rise appreciably, on sunny days especially, so during the day ventilate the greenhouse for longer periods, and at night begin to leave one or more ventilators open 5cm (2in).

Remember to open those facing away from the prevailing wind, otherwise your plants will be enduring cold draughty gusts instead of warm fresh air gently supplied in moderation. Keep the cloched strawberries well aired.

Choosing a site for fruit or vegetable growing

You will get the best fruit and vegetables and heaviest crops from bushes, canes and plants if you can grow them in a sunny place, sheltered from wind, and in soil which is slightly acid (alter to slightly alkaline for a few crops), drains well and the topsoil is at least 30cm (12in) deep. Coastal and hilltop sites should be planted with the hardier varieties, and so should northern regions and gardens in frost pockets. By choosing the site now, there is time to clear and cultivate the ground thoroughly before starting with the first crops in mid- to late summer.

Cutting asparagus

You can begin to harvest asparagus at the end of mid-spring, cutting only a few spears from each plant. Cut about 10cm (4in) deep below the soil surface; there are special asparagus knives with serrated and curved blades available for this. Scrape the soil away carefully before cutting.

Treating Pests and Diseases

See Treating Pests and Diseases in Mid Spring in the Kitchen Garden

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Kitchen Garden Tasks in Mid Spring

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