We say this every year, and could be accused of repeating ourselves often, but getting ready for spring is an exercise in careful timing when it comes to your garden.
Many of us fall into one of two categories:
- The gardener who is out there preparing their beds for spring planting.
- The gardener who ignores the garden until daylight saving starting and the daffodils coming up remind them they need to do something.
Here's an option if you are like me................
Why not put in a manure crop while you're waiting for the temperatures to warm up and your seedlings to grow big enough and strong enough to be transplanted outside? The fantastic bonus of sowing manure crops in my opinion is weed suppression. Anything that prevents me from having to weed gets the thumbs up!
This is also an excellent way to treat your soil to some beauty care and balancing. The crop will improve your soil by cleaning up soil fungi and providing nitrogen. When you cut it down and dig it in, it provides good organic matter. We recommend digging it in at least one month before sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings so that your crop has time to break down in your soil.
We have lots of choices and recommend sowing these in April but if you are in a warmer part of the country you will still get away with it now, in particular Phacelia, Blue Lupin or our Kings Manure mix. If you are in the colder parts of the country you could try sowing a manure crop in August.
Planning your plot
Here's another "Why not"........Use this time to draw up a garden plan. This is very helpful when following a crop rotation regime. The point of planting different crops in different parts of your garden each year is that you will minimise the spread of any fungi and disease problems in your garden.
I have a tendency to stand in front of my garden surrounded by seedlings and tools, trying to remember where I planted things last year but as my memory suffers some golden moments more frequently than I would like to admit, planning on paper or in a gardening book is a really really good idea (more about this below). The hardest part for me is managing to rotate what I plant on my trellises as this is always precious space. There are some free garden planners on the web if that is your preference.
Do you know generous souls who love to share their seedlings? Saving some space where last minute, kindly donated seedlings can be planted is a must.
You seek our advice on this often! It's great to see keen gardeners thinking early about what they want to grow in spring but there are some who want to plant their seed as soon as they receive it, even at this time of the year. There are a few things to consider to ensure that you don't waste your precious seed. Most have to do with temperature, so keep reading..................
What region are you in?
Our general advice is to work on transplanting your seedlings after Labour weekend when the threat of frost has gone. There are not too many plants that can handle frost or snow, let alone those delicate seedlings. Some luck is involved when planting out your seedlings as we can have frosts right through to November.
Got some heat?
If you want to start raising your seedlings early there are two items you should consider adding to your gardening paraphernalia.
A heat pad - this enables you to keep your soil temperatures constant and warm enough for raising seedlings.
A thermometer for checking that your soil temperature is high enough.
Heat is important early in the season!!! Even if you have a hothouse!!! When those night temperatures fall around 4am, your soil temperature will definitely be lower too unless you have a heating system maintaining constant temperatures.
The temperatures required for germination are included in the information for each variety, on our website and in our catalogue. You will find that the tropical items naturally require higher temperatures to germinate so ensure you take this into account. There is no point in starting your watermelons or chillies too early.
When to plant out
Check the information on our website or in our catalogue for approximate germination times of each variety and work backwards from your intended plant out date. In fact, I recommend a calendar or diary that is dedicated to your garden. Then you can plan your seed germination start dates for each variety.
It is also a great place to record your successes and failures so you are armed with information next year when planning your garden. You can also record particular information about your garden environment such as:
- Which varieties worked really well
- How long each variety took to germinate
- Crop sizes
- Favourite brands of seed raising mix, fertilisers, etc.
Happy garden planning!!