Mid Spring Gardening Tips: Fruit and Veggie Growing
The fruit garden
Apple, pear, plum and cherry trees generally flower in mid spring. Look out for pests on the flowers or young fruitlets, but do not spray with insecticides while the flowers are open, because you will kill pollinating insects. Wait until the petals fall.
The greatest hazard at this time of year is frost damage to the flowers. Protect wall-trained trees and soft fruit bushes against slight frost by covering with muslin or fine netting.
Frost damage may also be reduced slightly if the soil is kept bare, firm and damp, since this type of soil absorbs the sun’s heat better than dry soil and will release any absorbed heat at night. Water dry soil, especially for low-growing crops like strawberries.
With apples, if bad weather has delayed growth so that bud-burst takes place in mid spring, apply a spring spray as recommended for early spring. At pink bud stage, spray against apple scab with benomyl or carbendazim — especially if the weather is wet with alternating periods of rain and relatively high temperatures.
At early white bud stage, spray pear trees with benomyl, carbendazim or mancozeb against pear scab, and also spray with dimethoate or permethrin if greenfly or caterpillars are a problem.
On fan-trained cherries, plums, damsons, peaches and nectarines cut out shoots growing directly towards or away from the wall as new growth starts. Spray with dimethoate to control aphids.
Help the setting of peach and nectarine flowers by applying a fine spray of water. If red spider mites are seen on peaches or nectarines, spray with dimethoate once all the petals have fallen.
Make sure that pollinating insects can reach strawberry flowers on plants under cloches. Remove flowers from runners that are not well enough established to fruit this year, and from autumn-fruiting varieties. Watch for aphids and spray with pirimicarb if necessary.
Top-dress strawberries with sulphate of ammonia, or nitro-chalk on acid soil, if the plants are slow to start into growth, but keep the rate low or the foliage will be too heavy.
The vegetable garden
Plant onion sets and sow salad crops, parsley and other herbs when the soil is sufficiently dry to work to a fine tilth. In colder areas, plant early potatoes (this should have been done in early spring in milder areas).
Sow seeds of late summer cauliflowers, winter cabbages and broccoli in a nursery bed for planting out in late spring or early summer.
Sow seeds of wrinkle-seeded varieties of peas in their cropping positions — they should be ready for harvesting in 12 weeks.
Set out plants of late summer cabbages sown in early spring. Plant with a dibber and dust the planting holes with calomel as a precaution against club root disease.
Early in mid spring, remove the soil from globe artichokes earthed up last autumn, replacing it with a layer of manure or compost. If garden compost is used, first sprinkle a light dressing of sulphate of ammonia over the ground. Plant new globe artichokes in soil that has been manured recently.
Cut asparagus from beds that are at least two years old when the growths are 10-15cm (4-6in) above the soil. Using a sharp knife, cut about 5-7.5cm (2-3M) below ground and go over the bed two or three times each week.
After about the second week of mid spring, sow maincrop carrots on ground manured for a previous crop. Rake in a general fertilizer before sowing.
Towards the end of mid spring, sow globe-rooted beetroot in soil that has received a medium dressing of manure or compost, first soaking the seeds in tepid water overnight.
Protect emerging potato leaves from frost damage by earthing up with a draw hoe. When the ridges can be made no higher, have straw at hand to cover the shoots if frost threatens. Remove the straw cover the next morning when the frost has thawed.
In mild areas, sow seeds of French beans from the third week of mid spring onwards and cover them with cloches.