Plan your Spring garden now by Andrew Trott

The garden has provided nice healthy vegetables over the winter months, and we are still picking Savoy cabbages, swedes, carrots and silver beet. But now it is time to think of growing summer crops. The early spuds that were planted in the second week of September are up and growing strongly. Keep the rows mounded up so that the new potatoes are not exposed to direct sunlight, otherwise the potatoes will go green and they will be bitter to eat. If there is not enough soil to mound them up high enough, use bags of mulch. The new rows of carrots, spring onions and radishes have pushed up through the ground and I guess that the next job will be to thin the carrots out to about 2cms apart.

Now that the danger of frosts has passed we can start planting out vegetables for use over the summer months. Sow seeds of beetroot, carrots, radishes, corn, spring onions, dwarf green beans and/or butter beans directly into the soil. Plant new lettuces every few weeks to replenish those taken from the garden. It is probably too late to sow seeds of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, capsicums, cucumbers and courgettes, so it may be best to buy healthy plants from the garden centre.

When planting tomatoes, put the support stakes into the ground first, as putting the stakes in after the seedlings are planted could damage the root structure. Plant the tomatoes right up to their first set of leaves. This gives the plants a chance to develop a larger root structure, enabling them to take up more nutrients from the soil, and gives them a better grip in the soil.

The first row of peas has started climbing up the trellis and they will be great to have with the new potatoes at Xmas. A second row of pea seeds has just been planted. I do not grow cabbages or cauliflowers over summer, for a couple of reasons. One is that our vegetables are not sprayed with chemicals, and as a result the white butterflies and their offspring would eat more than we do, leaving holes in the outer leaves like they have been peppered with a shotgun. The second reason is that we enjoy eating salads over summer, rather than cooked vegetables.

When sowing or planting sweetcorn, grow it in blocks of at least 3 rows, rather than just in a single row. This is because sweetcorn is wind-pollinated and the pollen falls onto the tassels below. If the sweetcorn is not in blocks then the pollen has less chance of falling onto the tassels and poor pollination could ultimately result in many gaps in the cobs.

Give the rhubarb a good feed of sheep pellets and blood & bone and then put some mulch around the roots to help retain moisture over the summer months. As we have a worm farm, I can give my rhubarb generous drinks of worm tea over summer, keeping it nicely hydrated. The garlic is growing strongly and these bulbs will also benefit from another good feed, much the same as the rhubarb.

After petal fall, spray apple trees with an organic spray, something like “Success Ultra”, to help to control codling moth. It is best to spray at dusk, after the bees have stopped foraging on the flowers and have headed home for a nap.

Happy gardening.