It's countdown time to growing season

Joseph Bulmer

Traditionally gardening starts in mid-February as the light increases and seeds start to grow indoors. With that in mind here is a weekly account of what vegetables and flowers you might plant (and when) over the fast approaching growing season and what tasks you could complete for a successful outdoor space.

Things to do in Week One

In the Garden

If anyone is good at fence reparation then I expect that’s all you’ve been doing this past week, either for you or with a neighbour. The powerful storms we’ve had leaving a trail of devastation across our gardens. All this is part of gardening and we have to react to the weather whatever it, sometimes literally, throws at us even if that happens to be an oversized trampoline.

I went out mid-Storm Eunice to try and secure a high fence but was blown sideways into the bamboo before retreating back into the kitchen and the bemused dogs. I left the fence to rock back and forth until finally watching it skid over next door's lawn.

Despite all this I've still been able to prune back woody shrubs like buddleiah and fuschia to around 12”/30cm from the base. They flower on this year’s, new wood so doing this will give you more flowers as a result. The bees will thank you too.

In a brief window between hurricanes I managed to add a mulch of shredded conifer to the flower beds where I’ve got Sweet William nigracans already head and shoulders above the soil. This will keep the competing weeds at bay and add nutrients to the soil. Adding mulch stops carbon escaping into the atmosphere so its a neat trick if you have time.

I've been planting lily bulbs too as they were outstanding last year, if a little bit blousy and reminiscent of those frilly shirts worn by snooker players in the 80’s. Buying in the various summer bulbs now is low effort for high reward later in the year and garden centres are full of them.

When calm returns I’ll be out on the patio planting sweet peas in small pots to secretly bring indoors before they can go outside when they are old enough and its a least a few degrees warmer.

On the Plot

Vegetables also benefit from a weed free environment so I've covered some of the allotment beds with an assortment of mulches, basically anything I can get my hands on. I've used home made compost, manure, wood chippings and even dead moss. I've scraped off the drive.

It's mostly about clearing the decks now and making sure the beds are ready for sowing into over the coming weeks. I've still got gargantuan parsnips and beetroot waiting to be picked as they will be taking up much needed space soon. If I can’t eat them or give them away Ill have to compost them. I know this sounds crazy, but it will teach me not to grow so many this year and plant something different everyone will eat instead.

The first sowing of Spring Onion (Lisbon) has now reached 6”/15cm, so time to pot them on before planting outside. Timings are crucial at this time of year so that you can have crops growing for as much of the season as possible. Spring onions are ideal, not just because they are getting more expensive but they’re able to grow all year round and can be used in a variety of recipes from salad to Thai curry. I'm determined to see if I can keep them simmering in half a raised bed until next year by sowing them every three weeks.

In the spirit of preparation you could mark out rows for potatoes with canes. I usually have three rows, one for main crop (Usually Kestrel) Second early and salad variety which every year without fail is Pink Fir Apple.