Seasonal Guide to Vegetable Gardening
The vegetable garden is a busy place for many months of the year, starting with ground preparation and sowing seeds in spring, followed by crop care and harvesting through summer and into fall. Use the winter months for clearing up, digging beds, and planning for the year ahead. Follow this year-round guide for an outline of the steps that will help your garden to flourish throughout the seasons.
- In early spring, give your greenhouse a really good cleaning. Remove any bubble plastic if the frost is over, and clean all the window panes — inside and out. Replace any cracked panes, and check that automatic vents are working. Paint any wood panels, and wash down the greenhouse floor and shelves with water and disinfectant.
- Turn over the soil to ensure that it has not become compacted — try to avoid stepping on it if possible.
- Put supports in place for climbing plants; construct wigwams from bamboo canes to support climbing beans.
- In late spring, prepare beds for early summer sowings.
2. Sowing seeds
- Sow vegetable seed in a greenhouse to give both hardy and tender varieties a headstart. Begin with eggplant, beets, carrots, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes.
- Sow hardy vegetable seed such as broad beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas and parsnips under cloches outdoors in early spring.
- In mid-spring, sow seeds such as green and runner beans, sweet corn, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, spinach and Swiss chard directly in the ground, and cover with cloches if frost threatens.
- In late spring, sow zucchini and squash seeds under cover in a greenhouse.
3. Planting out
- In early spring, plant out early seed potatoes, garlic and onion and shallot sets.
- In mid-spring, plant out mid-season potatoes and globe and Jerusalem artichokes.
- Lift and pot on seedlings of leeks, eggplant and early summer cabbages, and harden off those that will be planted outside. Use cloches or cold frames to protect vulnerable seedlings from frost or pests.
- In late spring, harden off, and plant out seedlings, such as peppers, tomatoes, celery and Brussels sprouts.
- Begin to transplant well-developed seedlings of cauliflower, zucchini and Florence fennel, and provide them with protection from cloches as necessary.
- Plant out store-bought, pre-grown herbs in late spring.
4. Routine care
- Remove and dispose of weeds as they appear.
- Earth up potatoes to protect them from frost.
- Put fabric on young plants on chilly nights.
- Water plants regularly, especially those in containers.
- Top-dress plants in containers if necessary.
- Harvest cabbage, cauliflower, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, Swiss chard, asparagus, broad beans, peas, salads, herbs and green onions.
6. Other tasks
- Prune perennial herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and sage. Divide clump-forming herbs and replant if necessary.
1. Sowing seeds
- In early summer, sow beets, carrots, zucchini, outdoor cucumbers, beans, herbs, peas, radishes, squash, rutabagas, Swiss chard and turnips. Continue to sow in succession over the summer months, and sow late-summer sowings for fall and winter harvests.
2. Planting out
- Transplant all indoor-sown seedlings to their final outside positions in early summer.
3. Routine care
- Feed and water plants regularly, particularly as the weather warms up and the plants begin to bear a crop.
- Keep plants well weeded, and clear beds of debris.
- Tie in climbing plants, and nip off their topmost shoots to encourage bushy growth.
- Remove sideshoots from cordon tomatoes.
- Earth up potatoes and leeks.
- Harvest crops such as beets, broad beans, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumbers, artichokes, lettuce, peas, garlic, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet corn, peppers, potatoes, carrots and Swiss chard. Harvest fruits as they appear, as this will encourage crops, such as zucchini and peppers, to produce a greater yield.
5. Other tasks
- Feed, weed and water greenhouse plants regularly, and ventilate on hot days to prevent temperatures from rising too high. As summer goes on, shade the greenhouse by applying whitewash to the glass, and on very hot days damp down the floor by splashing water on it. Remove pests and diseases on sight, or buy biological controls.
Fall and Winter
1. Sowing seeds
- In early fall, sow spinach and Swiss chard under cover, and transplant spring cabbages outside. Sow hardy lettuce varieties for winter and early spring picking.
- Plant out fall garlic and hardy onion sets, and sow broad beans, carrots and peas to overwinter.
- From midwinter onward, sow hardy crops under cover ready for planting out in early spring, such as broad beans, early carrots and cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, onions, shallots, spring cabbages and peas.
- Harvest the last crops of many vegetables, including beets, carrots, chiles, cucumbers, cabbages, green and runner beans, peppers, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, squash and turnips. Kale, leeks and parsnips should also be ready for harvesting as required, but can be left to stand in the ground for longer.
- Over the winter, continue to harvest Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, parsnips and leeks.
3. Other tasks
- In fall, remove any spent plants, and give the green-house a good cleaning after the busy summer months before bringing in the plants that will overwinter there.
- Tidy the garden, removing all dead plants — if the debris is disease-free, transfer it to the compost heap.
- Gather up any fallen leaves to use to make leaf mold.
- Dig well-rotted manure into beds and borders.
- Plan your crop rotation, and order seeds, onion sets, seed potatoes and bare root plants. Chit your seed potatoes.
- If the greenhouse is not heated, line the windows with bubble plastic to raise the temperature and keep out frost. Check plants for pests and diseases, and ensure their compost is slightly moist but not wet.