what to do when

03 Early Spring

this should be March but it’s hard to tell, now the huge workload arrives with grass and weeds pushing into growth, the indoor plants start to motor and almost everything needs sowing

OUTDOORS

Examine each and every plant in your care for pests, diseases and dieback before they start to leaf up

Do any leftover fruit pruning asap before growth resumes and the leaves block your sight

Prune roses and tender plants, evergreens, herbs and hollow stemmed shrubs such as Bamboos and Buddleijas

Dead head earlier flowering bulbs to improve their flowering next year

Weeds start germinating in profusion so hoe early and hoe often, hoe, hoe, hoe and hand weed every where every other week at least

Apply new mulches now to trap winter moisture underneath

Add extra mulch on top of any thin ones

As soon as ground becomes workable plant out evergreens, herbaceous plants, herbs and roses

Have a snail hunt turning out their haunts and thin numbers before they breed and multiply

For really green lawn, pee in the watering can, dilute well and apply often

Give your grass the first cut with blade set really high to remove tussock forming grasses before they get stronger, next time lower it a tad, and so on

Cut the grass at least fortnightly, preferably weekly, collect the clippings to put around fruit trees and bushes, roses and shrubs

Move, lay, sow and repair turf in non-frosty weather

Over-sow bare bits of grass with seed and rake it in, use tough recreation seed not fine or fancy

Add a measure of seaweed solution to all your watering to provide trace elements as your plants start to get moving

Spray everything in the garden with dilute seaweed solution to act as a tonic

Cut first leaves of comfrey, borage and stinging nettles to rot into liquid feed to give to spring greens and plants in pots

Stop feeding nuts to birds as they may choke chicks, feed bread crusts, and fats, don’t forget the bird-bath needs clean water

Although it may be raining plants with large foliage in small pots may stay dry and need watering as they start growing strongly

Nip off new stinging nettle tips, with gloves, fry with bacon for tasty treat

Pull stinging nettles and other weeds as they come back to life

AND in the orchard and fruit cage

Dust wood-ashes around fruit trees and soft fruit especially the older ones, cooking apples and gooseberries

Hand pollinate first blossoms with a soft paint brush, or a cotton wool ball, as few bees are about so early

Spray young peach trees second time with Bordeaux mixture to prevent Leaf Curl if they have not been kept bone dry

Re-plenish, or make, sticky bands round trunks of fruit trees to stop pests climbing up to attack opening buds

On still cold nights protect blossoms and young fruitlets from frost damage with net curtains or sheets

As soon as soil workable plant soft fruit

Check ties, stakes and wires before growth obscures them

Thin apricot and peach fruitlets on walls as soon as there are any set

Spread sieved garden compost and organic fertilisers under soft and tree fruit to be washed in by rain

AND in the vegetable plot

Tidy up dead and decaying leaves on over-wintered crops

As soon as possible plant artichokes, asparagus, seakale and rhubarb crowns

Set garlic cloves, onion sets, shallots

Start planting out potato sets once your soil is friable, preferably under cloches, Mains as soon as Earlies as they need the longest time to crop

When planting your Earlies leave all the shoots on, but rub off all bar three developing on your Main crops, and preferably those from the rose end

When planting Main-crop potatoes sow a couple of broad beans with each set as a catch crop, after they finish their root nodules will feed the spuds

Sow outdoors in warm soil, preferably under cloches; peas and broad beans, onions, leeks, beetroot, kohl rabi, cabbages, cauliflowers, lettuce, spinach, turnips, carrots, chards, salsify, scorzonera, parsnips, herbs, radishes, spring onions, sweet peas and hardy annuals

Sow first carrots by covering seeds with sowing compost not soil to keep down weeds and use fleece to keep off the fly

When sowing parsley pour boiling water in the drill first to kill weed seeds and warm the soil a bit

Do not pre-soak early sowings of peas, and sow on flat or a low ridge rather than deep in a cold drill

Put pea guards or similar protection over all your sowings as birds are active now and scratch up everywhere

Put out slug pubs, saucers of beer or juice, now amongst over-wintering and seedling crops to thin out their numbers before they multiply

Plant out onion, garlic and shallots if soil is friable

Give areas chosen to grow brassicas later this year a dressing of lime at a handful per square yard

Sow borage in empty beds to later pull and compost or make into liquid feed when you need the space

Asparagus should be cropping soon so cut early and regularly

ORDER & BUY

If it’s too late for ordering mail order you can still get most seeds, sets and spring plants at the lcal garden centre

Buy more potting compost than you think you’ll need so you end up potting up generously rather than meanly

Order bulbs and plants for summer bedding, don’t have them come too soon as growing without check will be best

UNDER COVER

Check your stores, remove any thing starting to rot before they infect others

Check remaining stored apples, spuds, onions and so on- process those looking dubious before they’re totally wasted

Don’t forget to top up rodent bait and traps as with a shortage of natural food now’s the best time to get them

Paint your butts and watering cans black outside, they pre-warm water whenever the sun touches them

Collect used but unreadable labels, wash, dry then sandpaper off redundant writing for re-use

Write labels indoors the night beforehand and slip in seed packet ready rather than out in cold later

Spend a lot of time in wellies- why not walk on carpet, cut in-soles from a nice soft remnant

GREENHOUSE

Sun can be hot from now on so watch greenhouse and coldframe ventilation

Be careful not to over-water young plants especially on colder days

Inspect all plants under cover, even in the propagator for aphids and other small pests before these multiply

Pollinate early flowering plants under cover by hand

Bring sowing and potting composts indoors to warm over-night before use

When sowing try dusting your seeds with talcum powder or flour so you can see them better

Sow plants in warm for growing on indoors; tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, sweet and hot peppers, hardy

Sow quick salad crops in trays for small fresh leaves

Sow half hardy annual flowering plants in cells or pots to plant out later

Pot on all seedlings and young plants before they become potbound

Sow sweet corn in warm now and grow on indoors individually in bucket sized pots for a super-early crop

Bring in second batch of tubs of grapevines, potted gooseberry bushes and strawberry plants for early crops

Sow the most blight resisting tomatoes such as Ferline at the end of the month in the warm for growing on outdoors later