Getting Ready for Spring – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

The first day of February and still three months to go until planting season is in full swing. I’m always surprised it’s not sooner – the minute I see daffodils and the first shoots of wild garlic in the woodlands nearby, I get a little over enthusiastic about the garden and have to remind myself that it takes a while for things to unfurl from their wintering. I never normally plant out until May because it’s just a little too cold for the seedlings with the chilly nights that we have in early spring. By May, the soil is warmer, the cold winds have eased and night time temperatures are kinder.

Still, this time of year does give me a bit more get up and go, and I like to channel that into the veg garden anyway. It’s a good way of getting ahead, and a good way of getting outside and active again, as we humans unfurl from our own wintering.

I thought I’d share a list that I have in my head of all the things I can be busy getting on with over the next few weekends. There may be some inspiration in there for others who are feeling the urge to get going…

  • Weed empty beds – I have a lot of weeding to do this year, so this could easily take up a few weekends. Being that I am growing no-dig, most of the weeds are quite superficial so I can just pull them out by hand rather than digging them up with a fork.
  • Mulch weeded beds – I’ll most likely mulch each bed with fresh compost after weeding to help keep things under control, and to feed the soil.
  • Replace raised bed edging (for me, this entails ‘planting’ wine bottles neck down in the soil to replace rotten timber planks that are no longer doing their job)
  • Pull up old plants – kale, spinach and chard that I planted last spring are all going over now, so they’ll be pulled up and composted. I also have several leeks that I need to pull up and cook before they bolt and that central stem toughens up and becomes inedible. Winter salads are beginning to look a little worse for wear, so I think I’ll harvest what I can over the next few days, and the rest can go to the chickens. I have a very oversized swede that I really ought to harvest, as well as some undersized celeriac that I suspect won’t grow much bigger. They must all be pulled up soon, which will leave just the autumn planted kale, spinach and chard and the not-yet-sprouting broccoli growing on through spring.
  • Pull up brambles/nettles/docks from herb beds & strawberry patch – this weeding is a little more tactical, going in with a more targeted approach so as not to pull up the strawberry plants or the herbs. Best done before these tough weeds get too comfortable!
  • Clean up greenhouse – I think my ramshackle greenhouse, cobbled together out of old window frames, only has one more season in it. I’ll be giving the window panes a good scrub and mulching the beds inside with a good layer of compost. I also have a few brambles creeping in from outside that need to come up.
  • Sort out pathways – the paths between veg beds in my garden are covered in wood chip. It’s totally covered in weeds this year, so I’m hoping to rake it all up and compost it, whilst laying new woodchip that I hope I can source from a local tree surgeon.
  • Cut back encroaching bamboo and other hedging – this is growing in from outside the veg garden, and if left to its own devices will soon take over.
  • Turn compost piles – I find it is good to do this a few times between now and spring, if only to disturb the pile in the hope of encouraging any resident mice/rats etc move elsewhere.
  • Check & repair netting – this is a good job for me to crack on with at this time of year. A lot of the mesh netting that I use for brassicas gets quite grubby and a good clean (try soaking in a bucket of vinegar solution) is usually necessary. There are often some big holes, and these can be easily repaired up by sewing on a patch. It does the job.
  • Gather/make cloches – I have plenty of old plastic bottles that I’ve halved to make little individual cloches for seedlings when they are newly planted. It’s a good way of protecting them from wind and keeping them warm.
  • Build bean supports – I won’t do this until closer to planting time, but it is good to be mindful that it needs doing at some stage
  • Chitting seed potatoes – I’ll start this when seed potatoes arrive later in Feb, and then will plant out in late March/early April

Ultimately, this is what I’m aiming for, ready for planting in May:



At this moment in time, I can assure you my plot looks nothing like this… so I have some busy weekends ahead of me!

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