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At this point in the season all or most of winter jobs would be complete.
*This may include Leaf collection: Adding this to an area to root down leaf mould or to the general compost heap
*Cutting back any perennial growth left over from last year. I have perennials to encourage insects, bees, pollinators, to provide shelter and nest building medium for wildlife.
*Lift any straw used last season for mulching; add to the compost heap or a straw composting bin. Replace straw mulch where appropriate. Useful to mulch fruit bushes and the fruit bed or border. Also valuable for pathways depending upon the design of your kitchen garden and materials used. I use straw to mulch the pumpkin, squash, cucumber and courgette bed.
*Adding in organic matter, compost and soil conditioner. Ideally organic matter which is quite ripe is best added in the autumn giving time for its strength to be diluted by rain, weather and time prior to seeding. If you are doing this now just take care not to add material which may be strong and damage or prevent seeds from germinating. Also consider that plug and baby plants have sensitive roots.
*Clean and sterilize pots, seed trays, tools which may carry disease from last season. Always a good regular habit to have to keep gardening equipment clean. This can reduce disease spreading from one year to the next.
*I like to make sure my Kitchen Garden is as tidy and organized as possible. Then you can focus upon your tasks through the growing year as you need to do them and everything is on hand and easy to find. So place organization as a top priority.
* Most beds will be clear now of plant growth, debris etc depending upon what winter crops you had. Kale, cabbage, calabrese, broccoli, winter leaf, leeks, onion and garlic are a few which may still be in the ground. Clear dead and dropped leaf off these beds, removing plant debris on the soil, hoe new weed growth. I generally hard pick my kale so as the weather begins to warm there is lots of new growth. Often I will also cut the top portion of kale off which will resprout new growth.
*Fruit trees would generally be pruned by now. If not don’t delay as late pruning can affect the new season’s growth and fruit crop.
|Green Kale Top & Broccoli|
Crop Rotation & Allocating Crops to Areas:
At this point if you have not already done so deciding where to plant what is essential. Of course you can do this as you go through the seeding, planting season yet an ordered and planned kitchen garden will generally be a better use of space. You will certainly become confused on how to rotate your crops if you plant crops anywhere.
With your wish list of what you are growing this year, divide the crops into their plant groups as below and this will highlight their rotational groups as indicated with a star *.
Root vegetables *
Onion family *
Tomato Family *
The * families require rotation each year; the latter can be allocated space with more freedom.
This is important to avoid disease, avoid a build-up of pests associated with specific crops, can reduce weeds and aids to prevent the soil losing vitality of nutrients drawn by specific crops.
Once this task has been drawn and a listed made you can allocate specific areas in your growing space for specific groups. Next year you will rotate these crops and change their location to support long term soil and plant health. You will ideally do this each year.
You may also have long term crops which take a permanent position.
This would include perennial cropping plants such as:
|Root Vegetables; Carrot & Green Leaf, plus a pot of Strawberries Runners|
Perennial Vegetables; Depending upon your climate:
Artichoke: Jerusalem, also known as sunchokes Asparagus Broccoli: Nine Star, Purple Cape Radicchio Rhubarb Spinach: Ceylon, Sissoo, New Zealand
Sweet Potato Water Cress
Beans (Winged bean, Scarlet Runner)
Apples Apricots Avocado Blackberries Cherries Currants Fig Goji Berries Huckleberries Grapes Kiwi Lemons Limes Nectarines Oranges Peaches Pears Persimmon Plums Raspberries Strawberries: Ever-bearing varieties can be maintained as perennials in colder climates
Onions: Potato onions, Shallots, Egyptian, Japanese bunching & Welsh onions, Chinese leeks & Chives Oregano
Lemon Balm, Mint
Basil: African Blue, East Indian Fennel
Please note this list is not exhaustive and there may be other perennial vegetables, fruit, and herbs suitable for your climate.
Next task is to decide within each area with each rotational crop where you will allocate each row or section of the individual variety.
For instance: Within the root family bed there may be carrot, beetroot, parsnip, radish, celeriac, hamburg parsley.
So you need to allocate space for each root vegetable you are planning to grow.
This task can take time however to arrive at your kitchen garden or vegetable garden with a plan mapped out is very important. If you just decide to sow here and there you will most certainly get into a pickle later. It will also be difficult to remember exactly where what was sow and grown unless you plot it meticulously on paper.
I generally sow radish wherever I have space in small quantities to use as baby salad vegetables. I also sow leaf in empty spots as well as having an allocated section for green leafy vegetables. As these can be useful as infill if you have little areas and pockets of space left once areas have been allocated to main groups.
Rotating can be tricky especially when there are many crops you wish to grow. Depending upon your soil and diseases which can be more present. For instance carrot root fly, potato and tomato blight are, onion downy mildew are often evident in my specific area. So whilst it may take time to understand or put into practice rotation is a key element of success.
So get plotting and planning and enjoy the prospect of healthy organic vegetables, herbs and fruits you will be picking yourself from your own food garden.
And enjoy the process of creativity with nature.