10 Tasks To Set You Up For Your BEST Growing Season

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Watering seedlings

Get ready for a stonking growing season with this month’s top gardening jobs! We’ve got plenty to plant, supports to set up, and a battle cry in the war against weeds. Let’s get started!

1. Begin Watering

Early spring’s my favourite time of year. It’s warmer now and growth is starting to pick up again – hurrah! But now that plants are growing, they will need watering.

Check seedlings and plants to make sure they’re not going thirsty, especially under protection like in a greenhouse where, of course, it doesn’t rain! Lift pots and trays to gauge by their weight how moist the potting mix is, and water if needed.

Frosty garden
Frosts can still strike in many areas, so make sure vulnerable plants are protected

2. Watch Out For Frosts

Spring brings milder weather too, but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. In many areas, including mine – which is approximately USDA hardiness zone 8 - there’s still plenty of scope for a frosty night.

Bring frost-sensitive seedlings into the house should a frost threaten. Most cold-season vegetables will be absolutely fine as they are, but you may want to cover recent transplants and plants growing in the ground with something like horticultural fleece to keep them snug, especially if colder weather is forecast.

Dead seedhead
Dead plant material can be cut down to let new growth through

3. Cut Back Perennials

I prefer to let the old growth from herbaceous perennials stand over winter. Bugs desperately need the habitat provided by dead stems and foliage, and tidying up too soon can mean fewer pollinators and pest predators around.

But with new growth now emerging, it’s time to cut old stems back to make way for their replacements. Cut them right back to the ground. You may see new shoots waiting in the wings.

You can compost the old stems, but I prefer to leave them on the ground close to where they grew, just in case there are any bugs still hiding in and around the stems. It will give them a chance to move out in their own time. This old growth will rot down, out of sight under the new growth, to improve the soil.

4. Tidy Up Herbs

It’s also worth tidying herbs ready for the new growing season. Cut back the old stems to reveal denser, fresher growth. Pull up any weeds that have sprung up around your herbs too, and plant new hardy herbs like parsley.

Once the grass starts growing, cut it at the highest setting on your mower

5. Start Mowing

You may notice your lawn starting to grow again. The timing of this will vary depending on where you are in the world, but beautiful lime-green foliage is a sign that the growing season has well and truly begun! The first cut of the season is the most delicate one – we don’t want to go too low, otherwise we might give moss an advantage, so set your mower to its highest possible setting. As the weather warms and growth picks up more, you can drop the height in stages until you’re at your usual cut height.

Planting onions
Plant onions and shallots into good soil

6. Set Out Onions and Shallots

Whether you started onions and shallots from seed or if you’ve purchased sets or starts, now is a great time to transplant them into the ground.

Plant your alliums into a sunny spot in fertile soil, for instance soil that has previously been mulched with well-rotted manure, leaving just the tip poking out of the soil. Plant them in a block formation about 6in (15cm) apart in each direction. Water generously to settle your plants in.

Keep an eye on weeds as they establish, because onions and shallots have thin, strappy leaves that can easily be dominated by more rambunctious weeds.

Cauliflower seedlings
Plant cauliflowers but remember to protect them from pests

7. Plant Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers can be planted 18in (45cm) apart in both directions into rich soil. It is still very early in the season, so you may need to cover them to keep them cozy, for instance with a temporary tunnel cloche. This will also help to avoid them from being pecked by birds, which are especially hungry at this time of year. Remove the cover in a few weeks’ time, when they should have put on a bit more growth and be big enough to withstand the occasional peck from birds.

Planting strawberries
Plant strawberries now for a summer of sweetness!

8. Plant Strawberries

Early spring is the perfect time to plant up a new strawberry bed. You can find ready-to-go potted plants in your local garden centre or nursery, but look out for bare-root runners too, which offer excellent value for money.

Check out our recent Strawberry Growing Masterclass, where we discuss the different types of strawberry, and options for growing in both beds and containers.

Jute twine
Jute string is strong enough to support cucumbers and tomatoes

9. Prepare Supports

This next task can be completed at any point leading up to planting time, but I prefer to get ahead if I can, by setting up my plant supports now. It will save a little time in a month or two, when we’re at our absolute busiest in the garden.

If you’ll be planting vining crops like cucumbers and tomatoes under cover, you can get support strings in place now. Screw vine eyes into your greenhouse or hoop house frame, then attach thick-gauge galvanised wire between them. Tie string to the wire above where your plants will grow. To anchor the string securely in place, it’s a good idea to loop it round the rootball when you plant, so make sure to leave an extra couple of feet of string for this purpose.

I use thick jute twine for this. It’s very strong, so shouldn’t weaken and snap under the weight of the vines and all those fruits. I also reckon its slight hairiness helps the vines to get a good grip.

Get on top of weeds now before they become more vigorous and harder to remove

10. Tackle Perennial Weeds

Perennial weeds like nettles and bindweed never seem much of a problem in winter because you can’t really see them – they’ve died back down for the year. But with spring knocking on the door these weeds will be raising their hideous heads once more.

Get ahead of the curve by declaring war on weeds! Loosen the soil and pull out trailing roots and rhizomes now, before spring growth makes this job overwhelming. I like to just knock back the nettles towards the edges of the garden to stop them creeping into growing areas and swamping plants. Nettles are a valuable food plant for many butterfly and moth caterpillars, so I don’t want to eradicate them entirely. Like everything in life, it’s a matter of balance and taking a pragmatic approach.

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