Prepare for spring 

Keith Mundy, The Spires Nursery 

Prepare for SpringWell here we are with winter nearly over and spring just around the corner and with it the start of the gardening year. New growth appears on deciduous plants, perennials wake after hibernation and bulbs pop up everywhere as new life begins. The next couple of months involves 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 that need finalising before too much new growth appears.

Pruning of deciduous fruit trees and roses should be close to being completed. Winter spraying must have been completed and if not just check that the buds are showing a slight colour and have not burst. If they have burst then you have missed the boat and any spraying with a winter spray coud burn the blossom leading to no or very little fruit set. New growth on roses and fruit trees are 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.

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 (500gms per square meter) all over applied. Some well rotted cow or poultry manure can be added and forked in. If all this preparation sounds too much it should be remembered that a fast growing vegetable is a delicious vegetable. Plants that grow slowly are usually bitter and poor performers with small fruit or reduced crops.

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 thing 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.

For more permantent kitchen crops like herbs it is 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.

This month will see the last chance to plant bare root fruit trees and roses and as I have said many times it absolutely important you pay particular attention to the condition of the plants you are about to purchase.

Poorly stored plants in retail situations can allow the root systems to dry out and if this has happened the chance of the plant failing to re shoot is very high. Money ill spent. Look for plants that show no signs of the bark shrivelling or the roots very dry. If there is any indication of this, leave the plants alone. No matter what the discounted price might be they will be a failure.

Ensure when planting these new plants, to prepare the soil well and water in. Anyway, now you have all the information you had better get out and get on with it. Till next time, happy planting.

The Spires Nursery, Tilba Tilba