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Although spring is an exciting time in flower beds, it can be a barren phase in the vegetable garden. Careful planning and a greenhouse can help to fill the ‘hungry gap’ until spring-sown crops are ready to harvest in summer.
Vegetables: growing for spring
Most vegetable gardens can accommodate a few crops for spring. If a greenhouse or polytunnel is available, it will help to over-winter some crops and start off others early, but heating greenhouses for year-round harvests is rarely efficient.
Choose an open site with free-draining soil, cultivated thoroughly prior to sowing or planting and enriched with organic material. Clay soils can be problematic as they warm up slowly; in this situation raised beds can be helpful. Where ground is in short supply, containers will support a few plants.
In the north of England, spring-sown crops may need to be sown later than in the south and most crops will mature two to four weeks later.
Vegetables can be sown in spring, summer, or autumn for spring harvests.
Getting started with your crop;
As with any vegetable growing, spring crops can suffer from various cultural, pest and disease problems;
Some leafy crops are prone to bolting if they experience stress.
Cabbages will need a covering of fine mesh to protect them from caterpillars. Flea beetles are a common problem on oriental salad leaves. Cabbage whitefly can infest all brassicas but may be tolerated or treated with a range of sprays. Winter vegetables are often attacked by pigeons and will need the protection of netting from autumn onwards. Slugs and snails are a major pest of seedlings and leafy crops. Aphids can be a problem on a wide range of vegetable crops, especially beans.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages are prone to club root. Damping off is a common problem in seedlings sown indoors. Lettuce downy mildew can be a problem when plants are overcrowded and in wet weather in autum.
Crop rotationGrowing vegetables in containersGrow your ownRHS video: vegetable seed sowingStarting an allotmentVegetables for exhibitionVegetables: growing for winterVegetable seed: sowing
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