Month by Month in the Vegetable Garden

JANUARY

Usually the weather is too cold to do very much outdoor work. If you can do any digging, however, just turn the ground over and leave the soil in clods to be broken down by the frost. If the ground it too hard for digging then just spread manure over the top and leave it there.

Spend any other leisure time planning out in detail what you are going to grow and just where you are going to plant everything. Keep in mind the importance of crop rotation. Finally, order your seed potatoes, vegetable seeds and fertilizers. When your seed potatoes arrive, sort them into shallow trays with the crown or rose end upwards and keep them in a cool dry place with plenty of light. Make sure they will come to no harm from frost. If necessary cover them over in severe weather, but do not leave them like this very long since it will tend to produce long, white, weak shoots. If the severe weather continues, move the trays to a cool place into which the frost cannot penetrate.

You may be wondering just how much seed of each type you should order. Seed packets rarely shows the weight of the seed enclosed but the following table may guide you since you can always weigh the contents of the packet yourself. In the case of potatoes, the ideal potato set weighs 2 ounces so you will get 6 or 7 sets to the pound. Early varieties should be planted about 12 inches apart, others 15 inches apart, so from this you should be able to work out how many to order.

QUANTITY GUIDE FOR SEEDS

Broad Beans1 pt. will sow 100 ft.
Beans French1 pt. sows 150ft.
Beans Runner1/2 pt. sows 50 ft.
Beetroot1 oz. will sow 90 ft.
Carrot1 oz. will sow 100 ft.
Leek1 oz. will sow 180 feet.
Lettuce1 oz. each variety enough for successive sowing for summer and winter supplies.
Onion1 oz. will sow 150 ft.
Parsnip1 oz. will sow 100 ft.
Peas1 pt. will sow 90 ft.
Radish1 oz. will sow a full season's supply.
Shallot25 bulbs will give a row 15 ft. long.
Swede1/2 oz. will sow 100 ft.
Turnip1 oz. will sow 100 ft.

If you didn’t manage to dig over your vegetable plot in the autumn or during January then try and get it done as soon as possible now. There are often quite severe frosts during February and these are wonderful for breaking up the newly-turned soil.

Don’t try working the soil when it is very wet and sticky and certainly don’t try putting in seeds or plants when the ground is wet or heavy since they will rot instead of germinating and even those that do survive will be only poor quality.

FEBRUARY

If you didn’t manage to dig over your vegetable plot in the autumn or during January then try and get it done as soon as possible now. There are often quite severe frosts during February and these are wonderful for breaking up the newly-turned soil.

Don’t try working the soil when it is very wet and sticky and certainly don’t try putting in seeds or plants when the ground is wet or heavy since they will rot instead of germinating and even those that do survive will be only poor quality.

Towards the end of the month, onion sets and shallots can be planted. The seed potatoes for early varieties should now have shoots an inch or so long on them but it is advisable to leave planting them until mid-March. Broad beans and the early varieties of peas can go in now and it is the right time to divide up rhubarb roots and re-plant.

MARCH

This should be a very busy month in the garden. Seeds of most vegetables which mature above ground such as greens of all kinds, should be sown towards the end of the month given favourable weather conditions. If you can arrange to sow your seeds just prior to a shower then this is first class. Rain is far better for them than watering. If, however, the ground is very dry then it should be well watered using the fine rose on the watering can an hour or so before sowing.

If you haven’t already done so make sure you sow parsnips, peas, summer lettuce, radishes, parsley, onions and potatoes all before the end of the month. Lettuce and radish should be sown again in a few weeks’ time to make sure you have a continuous crop.

As soon as seedlings appear above ground and are large enough to handle, thin them out leaving the strongest ones to grow to maturity. If you don’t thin out properly then all the plants will be stunted and useless.

APRIL

Finish sowing seeds you may have forgotten or not been able to sow during March.

Everything starts to grow in April, the weeds in particular, and unless you use your Dutch hoe regularly and often the weeds will overtake the plants. Remember you only need to hoe the surface between growing crops; don’t hoe deeply and take care not to damage the young growing plants. Towards the end of the month make second or even third sowings of such things as radish, carrot and lettuce to make sure you have a supply right through the summer months ahead. French beans can also be sown, provided the weather is reasonably mild.

MAY

This is another very busy month. Seedlings must be thinned out, potatoes earthed up and peas and beans will benefit from mulching. Pinch out the topmost bud from your broad beans and this will help in controlling the black fly which so often infests this plant.

A late frost in May can do a great deal of harm to your potatoes so if there is any signs of frost cover the young plants over lightly with soil if they are small enough for this to be effective. Otherwise have a very large sheet of polythene handy for covering the whole potato plot at night remember this must be removed early the next morning.

Runner beans should now be planted but make sure the soil is not too wet for them and decide whether you are going to grow them in rows or in a circle round a central stake as described on p. 18.

Don’t forget to sow some marrow seeds, put in celery plants and right at the end of the month put in tomato plants.

Don’t forget to keep your compost heap going. Weeds, lawn mowings and any other available waste should be collected and the heap built up and allowed to rot down.

Pinch out the young broad bean tips when the plants are about 3ft high.

JUNE

Potatoes will now need a second earthing up. If you haven’t planted any greens for winter picking now is the time to put in plants of Brussels sprouts, savoys and any other varieties you like.

Main crop carrots, swedes and turnips can all be sown towards the end of the month.

Beet, carrots, parsnips, lettuce and spinach will all need to be thinned out and those that were thinned out in May should be given a feed of liquid fertilizer.

Keep an eye on your tomato plants and pinch out the side shoots, keep them well watered and feed them occasionally with liquid fertilizer. When watering remember you should allow about gallon to each plant. If you have rain water available so much the better.

Don’t let up on the hoeing during June, the weeds are still growing fast. Make sure you are picking peas and beans as soon as they reach perfection and don’t leave lettuce to run to seed. It is best to do your picking first thing in the morning or in the late evening. If you gather them during the heat of the day they will appear limp.

JULY

Leeks, Onions and Green Crops for next winter should all receive special attention this month. Plant out winter cabbage and if the ground is very dry water in each hole before you put the young plants in. Make sure they are planted very firmly. If you are putting in Brussels sprouts, remember they like very firm ground and it’s a good idea to earth up around the stems about a week after planting.

This is your last chance to sow French beans and peas in order to pick a late crop but it is well worth doing so. Keep them well watered.

Check over your root crops such as carrots and turnips to make sure they are not overcrowding each other. Thin out if necessary otherwise you will not get any roots of worthwhile size.

Don’t forget to keep your compost heap going with all the waste vegetable growth, grass cuttings and so on, since this will produce valuable humus for digging into your soil in the autumn.

This is the best time for planting out leeks. Using a dibber, make a hole at least six inches deep and drop the plant in, put some water into the hole first and then enough soil to keep the plant firm.

AUGUST

Frequent picking of runner beans will encourage the plants to go on producing right up until the first frost. If you have an abundant crop remember they are worth freezing for winter use, or you can pickle some in salt if you haven’t room for them in your deep freeze cabinet.

Feed your cauliflower with liquid manure once or twice a week and cut them when the heads are really firm and white. Once they start to turn yellow they lose both their flavour and eye-appeal.

It’s important to keep hoeing between growing plants to keep the weeds under control and as ground becomes vacant it’s a good idea to dig it over and manure it in preparation for next season, or to plant greens for winter and early spring use.

Early beet should be ready for pulling, if you leave it in the ground too long it will become woody and stringy, remember.

Summer turnips should be ready to use and any early-sown carrots should be pulled and used. Marrows and tomatoes should be picked as they ripen. If you haven’t already pinched out the main growing shoots of these plants then do so now, otherwise the fruit already formed will not have a chance to mature before the frost arrives.

SEPTEMBER

Your onions should be ready for picking. After you have dug them up lay them out on wire netting so that they can dry off thoroughly.

Keep a close watch on your tomato plants, unless you pinch out any shoots or late forming fruit, the existing fruit will not ripen quickly enough. Remove seed pods from dwarf and runner beans and this will encourage these plants to go on producing right up until the first frost.

If the weather is dry, vegetable marrows, tomatoes and cucumbers will need watering daily and occasionally they should be given liquid manure. Choose a dry spell to lift potatoes, and leave them spread out in the open air to dry before storing them in sacks or barrels.

Don’t put the potato haulms (tops) onto your compost heap if they show any signs of disease or blight. Instead burn them.

Fully developed marrows can be gathered and stored for winter use providing you handle them with extreme care so as not to damage or bruise them in any way. The best way to store them is to hang them from the ceiling in nets.

Any tomatoes which have not yet ripened should be picked, stored on trays with strips of newspaper between them so that they do not touch, and then stored somewhere warm yet dark. Examine them from time to time and remove any which may have split or show signs of decay, otherwise bring them out a few at a time for ripening off as required.

OCTOBER

If you haven’t completed the lifting of potatoes then this should be attended to as soon as possible since once the frost has got at them they will not be suitable for eating. Any carrots or beets still in the ground should also be lifted.

October is the month for giving your vegetable garden a good clean up. Keep the hoe going between any plants still in the ground.

The compost heap that you have been building all year should now prove invaluable since everything should have rotted down and be ready for spreading over your garden to ensure the ground is rich for planting in next spring. Before you do this, however, clear the ground thoroughly of all weeds and dead foliage. Start a new compost heap with this. Don’t put any diseased, or pest infected waste onto the compost heap but burn it instead.

Early planted Brussels sprouts should now be ready for picking; start at the bottom and clear the stems of sprouts as they become large enough. If you have a very large crop of potatoes you may wish to consider storing some of them in clamps, that is in a deep trench in the ground that is lined with straw to protect the potatoes from frost and damp.

NOVEMBER

Before the really bad weather sets in, dig over your vegetable garden and leave it to lie rough through the next month or so. The frosts and snow and winter weather generally will break up the heavy clods, disperse the nutrition from the manure or compost you have spread over it and do all the hard work of preparing the soil for next year’s crops. If you have very heavy ground, dig in some sand to help lighten it. Apart from this and general tidying up, there is not a great deal you can do in the garden during November.

Sweep up any dead leaves and store them in a compost heap, covering them with loam from time to time to help them decay more quickly, and to prevent them from being blown about.

From time to time check over your stores of root vegetables and remove any that show the slightest signs of decay before they can affect any others. 5*

DECEMBER

Not very much to be done out of doors this month, in fact many gardeners make a point of thoroughly cleaning and greasing their tools and hanging them up for a few weeks. While doing this, check to see if there are any replacements needed or any new tools you feel you particularly need. Christmas is only just around the corner so it may not be too late to drop some hints. Be specific about the type you want, though, as it is a false economy to have inferior quality tools or ones which are not suitable for the job you need them to do. If you would prefer to choose your own tools, and try them out in the shop to get the ‘ feel’ of them before buying, then it may be better to drop hints concerning other things for your garden, such as books on specialized cultivation, or seeds of new varieties of vegetables you would like to try.

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