Gardening Jobs in May

Gardening Jobs in May

Gardening Jobs in May

What gardening jobs are there to do in May? Where I live, April has been unusually cool and wet. I didn’t get all my April jobs done, and my ‘gardening jobs agenda’ for May is rather full. The wheel of the year is turning, and the garden does not wait.

Potatoes

If you got all your potatoes planted in April, they are probably developing their first leaves by now. It’s time to earth them up now. Cover the leaves with soil, and only let the tops peek out. Repeat this process regularly as the plants grow and develop.

Sweet Corn

If you are planting sweet corn, you can now sow them in deep pots indoors. That will give them a head-start. Transplant them to a sunny spot in June.

Beans

Once there is no more risk of late frosts, you can sow all kinds of beans outside (runner, broad, dwarf). They like a sunny spot, but not too hot. Protect them from the slugs and snails—young bean shoots seem to be their favourite snack. If slugs are a big problem, it is best to start the plants in seed trays and transplant them only once they are strong enough to withstand a slug attack.

 

Warmth-loving plants: Tomatoes, Peppers, Courgettes, Aubergines

Your tomato, aubergine and pepper plants are probably growing fast now. There comes a point when they seem to yell, ‘get me out of here and plant me into the garden!’ Resist the temptation unless there is no more danger of late frosts in your growing zone. But, to appease them, you can harden them off. Take them outside during the day, but bring them back in at night until night temperatures are reliably around 10 °C.

You can also still sow cucumbers and melons—but keep them warm and protected for now.

Salad Veg and Greens

Sow batches of salad vegetables like radishes and lettuce, Swiss chard and Arugula/Rocket, to ensure a continuous supply.

Root crops

You can still sow root crops such as carrots, beetroots, leeks and turnips.

Winter Veg

Sow Leeks and brassicas for overwintering. It is best to start them off indoors to protect them from slug- and insect attacks.

Kitchen Herbs

It is also the perfect time to sow warmth-loving herbs such as basil and coriander. Protected them against attacks from ravenous slugs.

Weeds

May is lush! Everything sprouts and grows – including the weeds. But no need to curse them – if you can’t beat them, eat them! Check your garden weeds to see if they are edible and could go into a ‘foraged’ dinner. Bishop’s Weed, Stinging Nettles, Ground Ivy, Wild Garlic and Dandelion are all excellent in the ‘wild food cuisines’.

Flowers

Sow annuals like Californian Poppies, or nasturtiums in any gaps you might have in your borders for extra colour in the summer. The bees and insects will thank you.

Maintenance Jobs

There are always maintenance jobs that need to be taken care of:

  • If you have a pond, check for pondweed and algae and clean it out if necessary.

  • Build supports for climbing plants.

Keep bird feeders and birdbaths clean.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies.

 

Gardening Jobs in April

Gardening Jobs in April

The main gardening jobs in April are planting, sowing, and weeding. 

April is a busy month for gardeners. Hopefully, you have been able to prep your veggie plots in March, and they are now ready for action.

 

Seed Potatoes

Your seed potatoes should be chitted (=sprouted) and ready to plant. Now it is time to plant them. If you don’t have much space, try growing them vertically in potato grow bags, or towers.

 

Tomatoes, Chillies & co

Warmth-loving plants
Really, the best time to sow Tomatoes, Chillies, Aubergines, and Zucchinis is in the latter part of March, from about Equinox. So hurry if you want to grow them from seed. Start them under glass or indoors.

Alternatively, you can buy plant starts at the farmer’s market or garden centre next month. Or, perhaps one of your gardening friends has far more plants than space in their own garden and would be happy to share.

If you started your tomatoes very early, they begin to look straggly by now. Don’t be tempted to plant them out until all danger of night frosts has passed. Instead, pot them up to just below the first leaf node. This will encourage them to develop more roots and prevent the stem from getting too dangly.

 

Gardening Jobs in April: up-potting Tomato Seedlings

Onion Sets and Shallots

Continue to plant onion sets to extend your harvesting season.

 

Direct sowing

Beetroots

Sow beetroots directly into the prepared plots or containers. Sow about 10 cm apart, or thin seedlings out once they are about 3 cm tall.

 

Carrots

Carrots can be sown directly into the well-prepared ground. They prefer loose, sandy, well-draining soil. They will fork if the ground is too heavy or full of stones. The seedlings are very fragile and don’t take well to being transplanted.

 

Starting carrots in a gutter pipe is a nifty gardening hack. Watch here to see how it is done.

The contents of the drain pipe can be transferred directly to the prepared plot without having to handle individual seedlings.

 

Leeks

You can still sow leeks under glass now. When they have grown to about 15-20cm tall, transplant them into well-prepared soil. To get a long blanched shaft, plant them deeply into approx. 20cm deep holes 15cm apart. The rows should be about 30cm apart.

If you stagger the sowing and transplanting the harvest can be significantly extended. In theory, it can start as early as August and continue through the winter. Harvest them fresh, as needed.

 

Radishes

Sow radishes at regular intervals right through August to ensure a continuous supply. The seeds are tiny, so thin out the seedlings to about 2,5cm per plant once they are about 3cm tall. They are an ideal ‘gap’ crop or row marker as they grow fast and can be harvested long before a slow-growing main crop develops. Filling gaps with radishes also helps to keep the weeds at bay. Water regularly and keep an eye out for predatory slugs and snails.

Gardening Jobs in April: Sowing Radishes

Swiss Chard

Coloured varieties of Swiss Chard are beautiful edimentals, even if you like the taste. Sow directly into a well-prepared bed. They are tolerant of partial shade, so they don’t have to take the prime spot in the garden.

 

Turnips

Like radishes, turnips are fast and easy to grow. Harvested young, they can be eaten raw or cooked, and the leaves are edible as well.

 

Peas

Sow peas at intervals to ensure a continued supply. Unlike most plants, peas don’t mind growing closely together. There is no need to thin them out; growing them in thick bunches keeps the weeds down and increases the yield. Keep them moist at first. Later, they usually only need to be watered deeply once a week, especially once they start flowering. Mulch them to keep the moisture in the soil.

 

Weeding

Controlling weeds is a tiresome task. Get on top of it early, and you will save yourself a lot of time and effort later on when it gets much harder to pull them out without damaging your crops. Mulching is a great way to keep the weeds down and the moisture in the ground.

 Happy Gardening!

 

Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies!

Gardening Jobs for March

Gardening Jobs for March

Gardening Jobs in March

March is ‘busy season’. As soon as the sun comes out, and it’s warm (and dry) enough to be outside, every gardener itches to get their hands into the dirt again. But where to start?

Preparing the vegetable beds

Once the ground has thawed and dried off a bit, it’s time to get going with the preparations:

1) It is a good idea to get rid of the weeds early on (especially the perennial or biennial ones). They will be half the trouble later on.

2) If you haven’t done it yet, start tidying up the garden: dead-heading old flower heads and clearing everything that has died off. But, remember that butterfly larvae overwinter on old nettles and such. Nettles support some 40 species of insects and butterflies!

If fresh, you already have young nettles  coming up, make the most of this wonderful early wild vegetable. Consider leaving some standing year-round for the wildlife, if you have a spot where they are not in the way.

3) Work in plenty of good, home-grown compost into the vegetable plots and prepare the soil to get a fine crumb. This will make it a lot easier for your seedlings to break through the crust.

What to sow in March?

Your sowing schedule largely depends on your growing zone and whether you have a suitable space to start seedlings indoors. If you live in a mild climate, you can sow some hardier, early varieties out in the open, as early as March. But frost-sensitive plants, like tomatoes, should be started indoors. Lettuce and radishes do well in a cold frame. The shorter your growing season, the earlier you need to start your seeds indoors on the window sill. That way, they will get a head start and prolongs the growing season. By the time there is no more danger of late ground frosts, they will have developed into little plants that are more resilient by the time you plant them out. 

 

Indoors or under glass

You can sow fennel, broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage (early varieties), Savoy cabbage, Malabar spinach (late March), New Zealand spinach, carrots, autumn leeks, and celery either in the cold frame or indoors. Warmth-loving plants, like tomatoes, zucchini, aubergines and chillies, fennel, and bell pepper do best when started indoors in an environment of about 20°C.

On sunny days, don’t forget to open the cold frame to give your seedlings some air – otherwise, they will get baked under the glass.

Most importantly, make sure your seedlings never dry, after sowing them. Water is life – they cannot grow without it.

Outdoors

Onion sets can be planted out in March. Beetroots, Swiss chard, lettuce, (also Asian lettuce, peas, rocket, radishes, and nasturtiums are all hardy enough to be sown directly into your well-prepared veggie plots. 

 

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Gardening Jobs in February

Gardening Jobs in February

What kind of gardening jobs can there possibly be in February?

Around about the middle of February is the time that I itch to get back into gardening. Granted, it’s early days and there isn’t that much to do – but there are some things that can be done even as early as February.∗

It is still winter, and it has been pretty wild and stormy, yet, I have spotted the first snowdrops and even the first Winter Aconite! They are such a welcome sight – the first tentative signs that spring is on the way. Even though temperatures are far from balmy,  Mother Earth is stirring…

It’s a kind of botanical wake-up call. Suddenly, I feel restless, itching to do some gardening. But where to start, and what to do?

Crocus

(Crocus vernus)

The spring crocus is one of the most cherished spring flowers. Its flowers come in many different colors and to me, they are reminiscent of Easter Eggs – although Easter is still a long way away. It is the shape of the balloon-like flowers that create this association in my mind. Like the other early flowering plants, it too makes the most of dry sunny weather, to attract early pollinators, but close their flowers to protect their delicate parts as soon as cold or rainy weather is on the way.

Winter Aconite

(Eranthis hyemalis)

Like miniature suns, these golden stars warm the heart in early spring. Daringly, they open up fully to the first warming rays of the sun. But they are not stupid. As soon as the sky clouds over, they fold up their petals to keep their stamens and stigma protected and warm. While heart-warming and pretty to behold, it is good to remember that this is a Ranunculus species and all of its parts are poisonous.

Cyclamen

(Cyclamen coum)

Cyclamens are so cute! Their pink little flowers remind me of piglets, with the snout pointing down and their ears (petals) flying in the wind, so to speak. The dainty flowers appear to be ‘inside-out’, seemingly exposing their pollinating parts. But that isn’t actually the case. Their delicate stamens and sepals are sheltered inside the ‘snout’, which forms a tubular structure that protects them against the elements. 

Snowdrops

(Galanthus nivalis) 

These tender little flowers are the most daring of all! Long before other flowers wake up, this one has sent its spear-like flowers up, even piercing the snow, if necessary. Its bell-like dangles tenuously on the stem, protecting itself from the elements by facing the earth, rather than the sky, its petals sheltering the stamen and stigma. Snowdrops are heralds of hope at a time when winter is still raging. The message is clear. It’s early days yet, but spring IS on the way. Life will return…soon.

Indoor Gardening

 

Start some long-season plants indoors

I live in climate zone 7/8, so gardening starts indoors, in February. My house turns into a potting shed. I am not suggesting you should do the same. Maybe you are better organized. Or, you have a greenhouse or a heated cold frame where you can start the earliest seeds, protected from the cold.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the growing season is limited. To extend it as far as possible, start off long-season plants, like chilli peppers or aubergines, indoors.

All you need are some starter trays and some soil. Sterile starter soil, not too heavy in nutrients, is best. It should be sterile so that your tender seedlings won’t have to compete for nutrients. This is particularly important for slow germinating seeds. Garden centres and DIY stores sell both.

DIY seed trays

The fancy seed trays make things a little easier: they often come with a clear plastic lid to prevent the moisture from evaporating. Sometimes there is even a mechanism to open them without taking the lid off.  But, truth be told, you don’t really need them. It is easy to improvise by recycling your yoghurt pots, other plastic containers or even empty milk cartons with one side removed.

The right time

The rule of thumb is to start warmth-loving long season plants 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost in your area. If you are doing the DIY seed tray route, spray the seed trays regularly with water to the soil moist and cover with cling film. Place the starter trays in a bright, warm spot, and you should see the first seedlings pop up in 7-10 days, on average. Don’t let the seedlings dry out! That would kill them! Once all danger of frost has passed, and soil temperatures have risen to about 15 °C/60 °F, you can begin to harden off your ‘babies’ before transferring them to their permanent spots.

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∗At least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and are living in a growing zone 7-8. Every climate zone is different, and you may have a microclimate, so take this as general guidelines – there are no guarantees.

You might also be interested in:

Garden Planning

How to plan a garden

Before you plant anything, try to really understand your garden.

Garden Planning for Success

Topiaria Gaudium

There is a strange fever going around. Strangely, it only affects gardeners: ‘Topiaria Gaudium Fever’. It is a special condition marked by high levels of excitement caused by the anticipation of the new gardening season.

what to sow in January

What to Sow in January

Here are some veggies you can sow (indoors or under glass) at the end of January (about 4 weeks before the last expected frost):

Outdoor Gardening Jobs

Once the snow has melted and the soil has dried off, it is time to get busy preparing the beds.

Loosen the soil and get rid of any invasive weeds. (Some may well be edible!) Mix in some fresh compost. Beds that won’t be used immediately should be mulched. Let the soil settle until the temperatures are high enough to transfer your first seedlings or to sow directly into the prepared bed.

Sowing directly into the soil

Sow hardy crops, such as peas, early varieties of radish, parsley, spinach, and carrots, as well as lettuce, and onions sets, directly into the soil. If you are worried about late frosts, start them in a cold frame and wait to transfer them until the soil has warmed to about 15 °C.

Carrots and parsley can be slow to sprout. You might want to start them in a dish of wet sand. Leave the dish in the cold for about a week, then take it indoors, and you should see them sprout pretty quickly. The most important thing to know about sowing carrots and root parsley is that they like loose and even soil. So make sure their permanent spot is well-prepared. You can do this by mixing sand and garden soil and sifting both to create nice light soil.

Potatoes

By the end of February, you can start chitting your spuds. For best results, use seed potatoes. Lay them out in egg cartons on the windowsill, with the side that has the most ‘eyes’ facing up.  Let them sprout for 5-6 weeks, before planting them out.

For less hardy vegetables, it is best to wait until early March.

Happy gardening!

Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies!

 

Check out these gardening book titles:

How to Plan a Garden – the basics

How to Plan a Garden – the basics

How to plan a garden – getting started

When I first started to garden, I went about it very haphazardly. I’d sow things here, there, and everywhere and did not pay much attention to what it said on the seed packages.

That’s how you learn – or rather, that is how I learned. I hope you are smarter than that!
Plants have likes and dislikes and different nutritional needs. Some like it cool, others hot, some don’t really care. Some are fussy, and some are persistent – they are all different, and it makes sense to get to know them. So, now I spend a lot more time thinking about the garden, and its needs, as well as mine.

Here are some things to consider:

Climate or Microclimate?

Before you plant anything, try to really understand your garden.

Do you know your growing zone? Or, do you live in a microclimate with weather patterns that don’t match the hardiness index? How much rainfall do you get? Which are the driest months? Have you traced the path of the sun through your garden at different times of the year? Do you know the sunniest and the coldest spots?

Growing zones

You can find out about your local growing zone with a simple google search. Due to climate change, such zoning is no longer completely reliable. Talk to the farmers or neighbours and listen to their observations.

I made my first plot in a south-facing spot, but later realized it was actually the coldest part of the garden. It lies lower than the rest of the garden and forms a dip where all the cold air collects.
Climate change has shortened our winters and made them milder. But we often get a late frost, even if the weather had been warm and spring-like for weeks.

Soil

Do you know what kind of soil you have? What is the pH level? Is it loamy or does it drain freely?
Plants don’t like wet feet. If you want to grow nutritious vegetables, concentrate on optimizing the soil. That alone will have a huge impact on your harvest.

Once you know your basic perimeters, it is time to choose your seeds. Part of the excitement of growing your own food is that you can experiment with unusual varieties. But always make sure, your local conditions match their requirements.

Friends or Foe

Certain species don’t like to grow next to each other, while others are friends. If you take the time to pay attention to their preferences, you will end up with a much happier garden. (I will write a separate post about this topic).

Getting the most out of the available space

Some plants mature quickly, while others take a long time to grow. But you can make the most out of your limited space by using a technique called ‘intercropping’.

Intercropping simply means sowing fast-growing crops like radishes among rows of slow-growing veggies.

 

 

Also see Gardening Jobs for January

 

Gardening Jobs in December

Gardening Jobs in December

Gardening Jobs in December

It’s December, and gardeners are longing for spring! The garden has gone into hibernation, and there isn’t that much going on out there. Or so it seems.

But wait, there is always something to do!

 

Sowing

Yes, in the midst of winter, you can do some sowing: if you live in a comparatively mild climate zone, you can sow broad beans outdoors – or under cover, if weather conditions are harsher.
Frost hardy lettuces, such as lambs lettuce and Asian salad mixes, are also good winter crops.

You can get a head-start on some long season crops like chillies or aubergines. But you might need a grow-lamp to ensure they are getting enough light.

December is the perfect time to start onions from seed. Sow them indoors to give them a nice head start.

If you have a tunnel or greenhouse, you can start garlic in trays to plant out later.

 

Harvest

Harvest your winter veggies now. Leeks and Brussels sprouts are ready now.

Any young Brassicas you might have outside are at risk to be eaten by hungry birds. Cover them with netting and remove any yellow leaves to prevent mildew and other fungal diseases.

 

Trees and Bushes

 

Pruning

Prune apple and pear trees, and berry bushes, such as Black Current, Red Currents, White currents and Gooseberries.

 

Planting

Winter is the best time to plant bare-root trees and bushes. Think of the wildlife when you make your choice! Hawthorn, Rowan, Hazel, Elder, and Guilder Rose provide food for hungry birds.

Speaking of Wildlife…

Many animals are hibernating. They might be sleeping right under a pile of leaves or under the compost heap, so don’t disturb them until spring.

The birds are hungry all through the winter. Keep the bird feeders topped up and put out some water – they still need to drink!

Prepare for spring by building nest boxes and insect hotels.

 

Planning

Winter is dream time. Think of the summer to come and what you would like to harvest next year. Planning the garden early means you can sow and plant much more efficiently and harvest all year long.

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