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.
Once the impetus of spring sees us all planting and sowing in earnest its worth remembering how good it is to be able to enjoy a continued harvest for as long as possible. This means not planting an entire crop at once as this can result in a glut of produce and then just as quickly a finished crop. First plan your beds and containers (it helps to do this on a piece of paper). Decide what crops will go where and how much space you'll give them. Then sow or plant a row or a half row every few weeks until you have filled the allocated spaces over a period of time. This will produce a staggered harvest. From now on if you sow or plant fast growers such as salad greens - rocket, lamb's lettuce and endive -as well as the likes of mizuna, beetroot, beans, coriander, carrots, chervil, parsley and peas - in this way you should be enjoying these delicious easy vegetables and herbs right through to autumn and winter.
To attract birds into your garden so that they’ll feast on pests put out the odd apple, handful of grains or oats to encourage rather than fully feed them. Their appetites are what you want so they’ll go hunt for slugs and snails.
Bird baths are also a great for bird attraction, keep them filled with fresh water in dry spells. Thrushes in particular love to bash snails on hard surfaces so place a few flat rocks around and they will reward you with smashed and empty snail shells.
Growing sunflowers and allowing plants like parsley and Florence fennel to set seed after flowering provides a welcome boost for birds later on.
Companions It’s a good idea to get seeds of companion flowers like marigolds and calendula underway in beds or seed trays. These will help to draw pollinating bees and beneficial predators like hoverflies into your vegetable garden – improving harvests and managing pests.
Protect young seedlings from wind and dehydration – as well as slugs and snails – with plastic juice bottle cloches. A covering of shade cloth on wire hoops helps seedlings of peas, carrots, beetroot and other direct sown vegetables with shallow roots to stay hydrated on hot sunny days (the harshest effects of the sun are kept out and any rain or hand watering is let in)– simply remove covering once plants have produced three or more sets of leaves.
Stake plants such as runner beans and tomatoes when you plant or sow them. This reduces chance of damaging roots by staking later as they start to grow. Tie in loose stems to prevent wind damage.
Plant blocks of flowering mustard 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.
Wash aphids off plants witha spray of water from the hose.
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.
It's a good time to make some liquid comfrey as fresh foliage starts to appear on plants that have been dormant in winter. This will nourish your tomatoes as fruit starts to form.
Bottle up worm juice and liquid seaweed ready for feeding hungry plants.
Water beds during dry spells - seedlings are very sensitive to drying out. Use a sprinkler attachment on your hose or a rose at the end of your watering can to prevent seedlings from being washed away.
Place a half barrel or drum beneath your tap and keep it full of water - all you then have to do is dunk a watering can in it for a quick fill without having to wait for the hose.
Its time to load up compost bins with garden and kitchen waste so you have some much needed compost and mulch for reinvigorating tired beds in late summer and autumn.
Feed soil in beds with a scattering of blood and bone meal in between rows of plants. Rake into the top layer of soil.
Mulch soil between plants to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Spread a layer of mulch on 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. Keep the hen coup clean and egg boxes cosy so they lay where you want them to. When you clean out the coup add the fresh chicken poo and straw to your compost heap.
As trees and shrubs start to flower there should be plenty of nectar around so remove sugar feeders accordingly. If you haven’t treated hives for varroa mite then now is the time to put strips between your brood frames. Remember not to repeat the same treatment twice – this can build resistance in mite populations. Inspect hives for swarm cells every 7 to 10 days. Hive populations should be on the increase as weather warms. If you put varroa strips in early enough then by the end of the month you might have taken them out and have your first honey ‘supers’ on.