As the weather warms and the days lengthen, vegetable gardeners are always eager to get growing. However, it is a good idea to find out the average date of the last frost in your area and not to sow any tender crops under cover until 4-6 weeks before this date. This gives plants time to grow to a good size for transplanting and hardening off, without their getting too large or leggy.
Sowing and Planting Outdoors
Many hardy vegetables can be sown directly into sun-warmed prepared soil.
- Early spring: sow fava beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, green onions, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, summer cauliflowers; plant asparagus, globe and Jerusalem artichokes, early potatoes, garlic, onion and shallot sets.
- Mid-spring: sow arugula, beets, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, calabrese, carrots, cauliflowers, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips; plant globe and Jerusalem artichokes, onion sets, potatoes.
- Late spring: sow arugula, cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, French and runner beans, lettuces, parsnips, peas, radishes, sweet corn, Swiss chard.
Sowing Under Cover
Sow hardy vegetables under glass for an early crop, and give tender vegetables a head start with protection from unpredictable spring weather.
- Early spring: arugula, basil, beets, carrots, celeriac, celery, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce, parsley, peppers, tomatoes.
- Mid-spring: basil, celeriac, celery, cucumbers, eggplants, French and runner beans, parsley, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes.
- Late spring: squash, summer squash, zucchini.
Harvest overwintered brassicas, and pick crops that have been grown under cover.
- Early spring: cabbages, cauliflower, evergreen herbs, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, salad leaves.
- Mid-spring: cauliflower, evergreen herbs, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, salad leaves, Swiss chard.
- Late spring: asparagus, fava beans, green onions, kohlrabi, peas, perennial herbs, radishes, salad leaves.
There are plenty of tasks to keep you busy at this time of year, so make the most of good weather.
- Prick out and pot on seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle. Harden off young plants as the risk of frost decreases.
- Hoe to control weeds; prepare beds for planting; put up supports for peas and beans; lift and divide perennial herbs; repot herbs in containers; water plants in pots.
- Earth up potatoes to protect from frost and cover early crops with cloches or fleece to keep out the cold; protect young brassicas from birds.
Excerpted from Simple Steps: Vegetable Gardening
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007