5 things to do in your vegetable garden in preparation for Spring
August 29, 2017
Spring commences next week and as usual I am very pleased to see the end of Winter. I look forward to the warmth of Spring and Summer and the abundant harvests of these seasons in the garden. The end of Winter always seems to drag out, outlasting it’s welcome and digging deep to give a last chilly blast before it exists. If Winter was a person it would be an annoying door-to-door sales person who refuses to get off your doorstep so you can shut the front door and get back to the dinner bubbling away on the stove.
Spring is the gate-way to the bumper crops of Summer, all the great plants that we love to grow such as tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, eggplant and capsicum. I am sure we love them that little bit more because they are extremely productive. The prolific harvests are immensely satisfying, taking gardeners full of momentum into Autumn.
The 5 things listed below are the things I do every Spring to ensure my own vegetable garden, and the gardens of my customers, are set up for bountiful harvests over the warm weather months.
I can not emphasis how much value this simple first step can have. It allows you to:
In the past I have thought I’d remember what I planted, when I planted it and how well it did. I NEVER do.
Time moves on and the seasons blend together with some plants growing over multiple seasons, some don’t work, some work well, some varieties I don’t recall.
There is never a clean slate for planting at the start of a season for a vegetable gardener (unless it is your very first growing season). I have created a Vegetable Garden Workbook to help work through the various components of starting a new vegetable garden and beginning to grow fresh food at home. It is a practical guide based on the steps I complete when I work with new customers as part of my vegetable garden installation service. It includes a planner to document your garden plan, progress and planting each season.
The plan below was created a few years ago to document our garden layout when I was in the process of adding in a new layer to the garden area. It helped me visualise and space the area.
Talk to your family about the things you would like to grow in the warm weather. Ask for their help and input. What vegetables would they like to grow? Can you allocate the care of some plants or garden tasks to the children? Do you need your husbands help to move a large container to another area of the garden? Do you need a new garden bed or a frame for the climbing plants? What ever you need help with, ensure it is in the family diary to complete in the coming weeks. Pinterest is a great place to look if you need some garden inspiration. I have saved thousands of images that have inspired me over the years. If you’d like to look at my boards you will find them here on Pinterest.
Many of the Spring plants, and all the Summer ones require a soil temperature of at least 18 degrees celcius, or more, for the seed to germinate. You can find out your soil temperature by simply inserting a thermometer into the soil to check it. You will probably be surprised at how warm it is already. Be warned though, temperature is not the only thing spring plants need to be in balance to grow well. The other way you can test the temperature is to put in some pumpkin seed. They will germinate when the soil is warm enough. I often use this a sign to get tomatoes started.
Winter plants tend to be heavy feeders and so prior to planting for spring the soil needs to be replenished. Prepare the soil by adding compost and worm castings (if you have a worm farm) prior to replanting new plants.
If you have not tested the pH of your soil recently I highly recommend doing so because it gives you are baseline for how well the plants will utilise the nutrients in the soil. Ideally the pH should be neutral (7). A simple pH test kit can be purchased at hardware stores and provides a large quantity of tests at low cost. If your soil is not testing at 7 or within .5 either side of 7 you should work to correct the balance, it will improve your plant health, growth and harvests.
Use your garden plan to document and keep track of the placement of heavy feeders. While you are waiting for Winter plants to continue growing and be ready for harvest, add light feeding plants into the surrounding gaps. Once the Winter plants are finished producing the recently added light feeders will also be ready for harvest. You will then be close to having a clean slate for Summer planting.
Don’t be anxious about getting Winter plants out of your garden if they are still growing. The broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are usually picked from my garden well into Spring every year. They have never been harvested in Winter – never. This means they stay in the garden, taking up space over Winter and most of Spring. Lettuce, herbs or spring flowers are good plants to add in the gaps.
Sow Spring seeds. Place seed trays in a warm location that gets direct sun. As mentioned previously, the soil temperature needs to be at least 18-20 degrees celcius for them to germinate. If you are planning on growing Capsicum and/or Chilli over the Summer season, do a test planting by adding just one or two seeds to a seed tray now to see how they progress. It may be warm enough now to get them started depending on where you live however, it is likely you will need to wait to sow more seed for these plants mid Spring when the conditions are more favourable for them to grow. My tips for successfully growing from seed can be found in this post. Once seeds have 3-4 leaves they can be moved to the garden.
These light feeders are often the first you will begin to crave as the weather warms. I love to begin adding raw salad ingredients to our family meals after the heavy winter dinners. If you plant them now they will be ready to harvest when you feel like eating them again.
If you have been growing vegetables for a few years it is now time to add something new to your garden. Try growing a new plant, or a new variety of a favourite plant each season. This allows you to check if you are growing the most suitable variety of plant, one your family enjoys, is productive and is easy to grow. Plant your favourites of seasons past + 1 new thing.
If it is your first season of beginning to grow your own fresh food at home this Spring my book Grow Just One Thing will help you get started. My objective is to have more Australian families growing fresh food at home and experiencing the benefits this brings.
Enjoy your Spring planning. Don’t forget to get a copy of the Seasonal Planting Guide for successful garden harvests.
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