Early Spring Gardening Tips for Fruit and Vegetable Growing
The fruit garden
In most years, this is the last opportunity for planting fruit trees and bushes. Also finish pruning established and autumn-planted plants as soon as possible, and always before bud-burst stage.
Feed established trees and bushes growing in cultivated soil. All soft fruits, except strawberries, benefit from a dressing of farmyard manure. Do not feed trees growing in grass until late spring, and feed then only if the fruit set is good. Newly planted trees and shrubs should not need any feeding in their first season after planting if the ground has been properly prepared.
With apple trees at bud-burst stage, control apple scab by spraying with benomyl or carbendazim. Control newly hatched pests — apple blossom weevil, capsid bug, greenfly and winter moth caterpillar — by spraying with HCH. But use only anti-scab spray if the trees have been winter-washed with tar-oil.
With pears at green cluster and white bud stage, control pear scab by spraying with benomyl, carbendazim or mancozeb.
Control cherry tree pests by spraying with dimethoate or heptenophos at bud-burst stage.
Feed apple, pear, plum and cherry trees in open ground with sulphate of ammonia, or nitro-chalk if the soil is acid. Do the same for bush and cane fruits. Black currants benefit from an additional dressing of sulphate of potash every year.
The vegetable garden
Early spring is a good time to start growing vegetables. If you haven’t got space for a wide variety of crops, grow salads and some of the less common vegetables.
In relatively mild areas, select a sheltered, moisture-retentive site to sow salad onions, lettuce (such as ‘All The Year Round’ or Webb’s Wonderful’) and radishes.
Plant asparagus plants, unless the ground is saturated. If you receive asparagus plants by mail-order and planting is impossible, make a shallow trench and bury the roots under 10-15cm (4-6in) of soil, marking them with pegs.
Jerusalem artichokes can be planted towards the end of early spring or at the beginning of mid spring. They are perennial, invasive and need plenty of space. Kohl rabi can be sown now, as well as summer spinach to give early pickings from late spring.
Of the more common vegetables, onion sets can be planted now or at the beginning of mid spring. Also complete the planting of shallots as soon as possible; and there is still time to sow early round-seeded peas.
To grow an early crop of Brussels sprouts in fairly mild areas, purchase hardened-off plants from a nursery and plant them in fertile soil. In colder areas, only set out young plants of Brussels sprouts which have been over-wintered outdoors.
Sow parsnip seeds at the start of early spring in mild areas, or at the end of early spring in colder districts. Sow seeds of leeks, late summer cabbages and maincrop Brussels sprouts in a nursery bed for planting out later.
In milder areas, plant early potatoes from the middle of early spring onwards, provided the soil is not saturated.
Also in milder areas, sow short-rooted carrots if cloches and a fertile, sheltered site are available.