C’mon, spring into it!

Keith Mundy

Spring has arrived and with it the start of the gardening year. New growth appears on deciduous plants, perennials wake after their enforced winter hibernation and bulbs pop up everywhere.

This month commences with many tasks in the garden including the preparation and planting of the spring vegetable garden, planting of flowering annuals and the completion of late winter and early spring chores before too much new growth on plants appears.

Pruning of deciduous fruit trees and roses should be well completed. Winter spraying must have been completed. Please remember that if your fruit trees have broken bud and are flowering, it is too late to use the stronger winter sprays as you risk blossom burn, which in turn leads to poor or no fruit development.

New growth on roses and fruit trees is a delicious target for aphids so keep an eye out for them. Spray with an organic insecticide or a synthetic pyrethroid like Confidor and this will halt their progress. These will not affect the blossom if you have some late blossom still on the plant.

The vegetable garden should be getting the finishing touches prior to planting. Initially the garden should be dug over to spade depth and a spreading of lime (500g per square metre) all over applied. After a week add some well-rotted cow or poultry manure and fork it well into the soil. You can then get on with planting as the soils are now warm enough for new seedlings.

There are some plants that might need some protection from that sneaky late frost. Tomatoes, beans, capsicum, eggplant and zucchini are a few that have very little tolerance to colder temperatures, so a planting of these closer to the beginning of November is more advisable.

My old Dad used to say that you should dig the garden over on that special day in November. Once you have listened to “the Cup” go out and plant your tomatoes. A good bit of advice.

When growing vegetables it is important to practice crop rotation. By this I mean don’t plant the vegetable in the same position as you had it last season. This applies particularly to tomatoes and potatoes as these two groups of plants are in the same family and any pest or disease lying dormant in the soil could cause problems with the new crop this season.

One major factor is to only grow as many vegetables as your family requires. It’s best to avoid growing crops where the bulk of the harvest comes all at once unless you can put the extras in the freezer for the out-of-season periods.

Another trick is to go for quick turnover vegetables that can be picked and replaced regularly like lettuce, Asian greens, beans and spring onions.

Plant taller vegetables like corn and tomatoes on the side of the garden that is less likely to shade the rest of the garden.

It’s important to remember that there are three main categories of herbs. There are moisture lovers like mints and coriander, the dry garden herbs like parsley, sage, rosemary and the thymes, and the higher nutrient leafy forms like the perpetual lettuce, spinach and more of the leafy herbs.

Finally, remember the key ingredients for good vegetables are full sun, good drainage and good nutrients.