5 Step Spring Veggie Plan
1. Time your sowing
The soil temperature required by vegetables to germinate differs. Start with root and other cool season vegetables and end with summer-fruiting vegetables.
2. Schedule succession planting
The intention behind succession planting is to spread the supply of a vegetable over as long a period as possible. For instance, it is possible to harvest bush beans throughout summer by planting a new batch every 3 – 4 weeks. The interval between succession plantings varies, with a smaller interval between leafy vegetables and a longer gap between fruiting vegetables.
- Leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, rocket) can be sown at two-weekly intervals, but this interval can be increased if there is too much of an overlap in the harvest.
- Root vegetables (carrots and beetroots) are generally harvested over a longer period so they can be sown about four weeks apart.
- Legumes (garden peas and bush beans) can be sown about 3 – 4 weeks apart.
- Fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, brinjals and runner beans) can be sown 6 – 12 weeks apart.
It’s not necessary to sow or plant the same number of veggies each time. Follow up crops should be smaller, about half of the original crop. Towards the end of a vegetable’s season, the last planting can be bigger to produce a surplus for preserving
3. Get the watering right
As well as ample sunshine, providing enough water at the right time ensures a good yield and good-quality crops. Daily attention should be paid to watering because growth is so rapid in spring. Small seedlings need only a little water, but they need it more frequently because their roots are shallow (in the top 5cm of soil) and so the soil dries out more quickly. Larger plants need more water but at longer intervals. The roots of a plant are almost double the volume, lengthwise, of the leafy section above the ground.
4. Be Prepared For Pest Management
Pests are the biggest spoiler of crops, which is costly in terms of time and money. With so many organic pesticides available it is possible to manage a crop responsibly without using chemicals. Snails become active as it gets warmer, and can wipe out newly germinated seedlings overnight. Use an organic snail bait like Ferramol or visit the garden at night to check for snail activity. Dispose of the snails in a bucket of water. As plants grow, look out for pests like aphids that suck on new growth tips. Control them with Ludwig’s organic insect spray, which also deals with thrips and bollworm. Spray early in the day before ladybirds and pollinators are active. Incorporate bonemeal into the soil preparation because it makes calcium available to the plants, which strengthens their resistance to disease.
5. What about fertilising?
Vegetables with a short to medium growing season should not need extra feeding if the soil was enriched with compost, bonemeal and an organic fertiliser before planting. Long-fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, brinjals and peppers benefit from feeding when the flowers start to form, or later in the season. Highly productive vegetables like Swiss chard will benefit from a nitrogen-based fertiliser after cutting as this encourages new growth. In very poor soil, vegetables will benefit from feeding every two weeks with a soluble fertiliser that is applied as a drench. Use a nitrogen-rich fertiliser for leafy vegetables and a flower and fruit fertiliser for root, legume and fruit vegetables.
From the beginning of September, when the soil is still cool, start sowing root crops, as well as cabbage, lettuce, peas, and Asian greens that need an early start because it becomes too hot from November onwards, especially in summer-rainfall areas.
By mid-September the soil should be warm enough to sow bush and runner beans, bush squashes and Swiss chard.
By the end of September it is safe to sow tomatoes, brinjals, chillies and sweet peppers, mealies, pumpkins, melons and other trailing squashes that need soil temperatures between 17° and 19°C. Very hot chillies might need higher soil temperatures and can wait until October.