Spring is a very active season and with so many things to do around the garden it’s good to have a plan. Here in Seasonal Tasks we’ve gathered together a range of things to do and prepare to give you an overview. The aim is to make it easier for you to prioritize the tasks that are relevant to your garden and to point you towards techniques that can help to make growing fresh fruit vegetables and herbs less intense and more productive.
If you are hoping for productive crops and a bumper harvest then now is a good time to prepare some rich planting pits. These deep underground stores of rich nutrients can lie in wait for the roots of pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes as they start to grow. Ready sustenance for plants when they need it most during the height of summer, planting pits not only hold nutrients but they also absorb moisture thanks to a concentration of organic material. This is an extra boost to plants bearing the strain of mass foliage and lots of fruits. The perfect solution to a new garden or raised bed with soil that is being worked into productivity.
For more information on rich planting pits.
Bolting happens when a plant receives a signal that it is time to flower and set seed. Plants begin to produce smaller leaves as one or more central shoots start to elongate and form flower heads. In most cases this renders the plant less edible due to a bittering of flavor and in the case of roots they become fibrous and tough. Most often bolting is caused by a change in temperature or daylight hours – such as we are experiencing now – and the only thing to do is to harvest as soon as you see the first signs. There are a few exceptions such as spinach that still tastes fine to me when it bolts and, later in the season, basil which often flowers just as plants are looking at their best (some folk even reckon its flavor is best at this stage). To avoid bolting, sow and plant bolt-likely veggies and herbs like lettuces, coriander, silverbeet, kale, carrots and beetroot once spring temperatures have stabilized.
Protect young seedlings from wind and dehydration – as well as slugs and snails – with plastic juice bottle cloches.
Remove cloches on larger seedlings when foliage starts to touch the inside of the cloche. Make sure you mulch around them to keep moisture levels constant.
Protect berry fruits – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries with mesh. Prepare frames for netting to keep birds off.
Build a sturdy frame for your climbing beans. (bamboo canes, reinforcing mesh, tea tree branches)
Wear a head torch after dark and patrol your garden with a pair of tweezers – an easy way to pick slugs off your plants and seedlings. Do this at least once a week to keep numbers down. If you are unlikely to persevere with this then try slug pubs and barrier methods.
Wash aphids off plants with a spray of water from the hose. If they persist then mix up some garlic spray and douse them.
Remove the small, yellow, oval shaped eggs of cabbage white butterflies from the underside of leaves on brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprout.). Pick off any, already hatched, green caterpillars as well.
Plant blocks of flowering mustard and cleome to draw shield bugs away from your food plants. These can then be easily rounded up and dispatched. Best to do so in the morning before the sun heats up and they become more active.
Fill plastic juice bottles with liquid feeds – seaweed, comfrey, worm juice for easy addition to watering cans.
Feed plants in beds and containers fortnightly with liquid seaweed, worm juice, compost tea and liquid comfrey. Mostly use on foliage plants like spinach and salads, as well as plants that are starting to show young fruit – tomatoes, zucchini (use liquid comfrey which is high in potassium for good fruit)
Feed citrus trees – use sheep pellets, blood and bone meal, chook manure and spread around within drip line. Most granular feeds are said to damage micro-organisms in the soil that are key for general soil health and for producing the nutrients the plants need.
Maintain constant moisture around your seedlings and developing plants with mulch and regular watering when weather is dry. Strawberries and salads will be all the sweeter for it.
Feed soil in beds with a scattering of blood and bone meal or sheep pellets in between rows of plants. Rake into the top layer of soil.
Mulch any bare soil alongside rows or in between plants to about a finger’s depth. Use rotted manure, pea straw, straw, shredded newspaper lawn trimmings compost etc. This will feed the microbiology of the soil (worms, bugs, centipedes and smaller organisms) and help hold in moisture during the hotter parts of the day.
Chickens should start to lay more as the days become longer so keep them well fed. Make sure the hen coup is regularly cleaned and egg boxes are cosy so they lay where you want them to. When you do clean out the coup add the fresh chicken poo and straw to your compost heap. Make sure your hens have somewhere to shelter in the shade during hot sunny days and keep their water supply refreshed. Hens often go broody around now and will sit on eggs almost all the time, refusing even to leave them for a drink or something to eat. If you have a rooster but don’t want new chicks then interrupt these broody birds by lifting them off their nests every time you come across them.
nspect hives for swarm cells every 7 to 10 days. As trees and shrubs start to flower there should be plenty of nectar around and hive populations should be exploding as queens start to lay in earnest. This can be a temperamental time for us beekeepers as queens ‘come and go’ and a pumping hive one minute becomes a quiet shadow od its former self as swarms leave and seek out new territory. Open up the entrance to your hive if bees are starting crowd around on the outside of the box during the day. Ensure there is a shallow water supply somewhere near to your hives.