It feels as though the snow has hardly left the ground and it is still cold and murky most of the time, but now is the best time to get in the garden and start to prepare it for the spring. While spring often makes us think of flowers, they may actually be the least of your worries. The bulbs you planted at the beginning of winter will be giving your garden some wonderful colour already.
The beginning of spring is really a time for starting to plant some of the vegetables which will see us through the summer and autumn. Having a vegetable patch is one of those things we all want to do and never get around to. But if the sun is starting to shine and the ground is warming up it is time to dust off the hoe and get the patch ready to go.
- For a beginner the best size vegetable patch is around 2 to 3 metres long and a metre wide. If you have trouble getting down to the ground, then build a raised bed with some old timber, but bear in mind it take a lot of soil to fill it.
- The bed should be positioned to take good advantage of the sunlight. If you can get sunlight all the year this is best, but if you are limited for space then anywhere with a good few hours a day will be OK. Also have the bed close to your kitchen. Even with the best intentions, having to put on the wellies and head down to the back of the garden can seem like a chore and you might just not bother.
- Try not to have too much cover such as rocks and shrubs too close to the bed,. These make great homes for snails and slugs and other pests, who will happily use your garden as an evening playground.
- Seeds can be planted very early in the spring into seed trays and kept indoors in a sunny spot. In time they will become large enough to transplant into the garden. If you can't wait however, garden centres will have partially grown vegetables ready for planting.
- When planting take careful note of when each one should be placed in the soil (it will say on the pack)and be sure the frosts are well and truly over. Some plants are more hardy than others and can be planted earlier.
- Try spacing out the planting so that you have a continuous supply all through the spring and summer. This means planting just a few of each type of veg once every few days. This way you will have salad or carrots for weeks on end.
- It is important to keep on top of pests and weeds throughout the spring when the plants are at their most fragile. Use organic methods if at all possible, but if all else fails, sprays and repellents are available at garden centres.
At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to practise when it comes to gardening. Plant those vegetables which you enjoy eating and simply watch over them, feed and water them well. If they don't grow as you would like then try something else next year. Before you know it, you will have an excellent knowledge of just what your garden needs in order to produce a vegetable patch anyone would be proud of.