Gardening: Make a date for successful harvest

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THE garden is full of promise at this time of year, and the mild weather we are experiencing, combined with the appearance of fresh green shoots and buds, is creating a giddy buzz of excitement with the Edible Gardening Project team.

Spring is an exciting but busy time for vegetable growers. The majority of vegetable seed is sown over the next few months. In order to achieve long successful harvests a degree of organisation and planning is required.

It is a good idea to choose what you want to grow and draw up a calendar of sowing times that you can refer to throughout the season.

The volunteers have been working hard preparing for the season by cultivating the beds and digging in organic matter where required. Some crops are hungrier than others. Runner beans, for instance, like a deep trench full of rich compost and well rotted manure. Other crops such as carrots do better in a soil that has not been improved in this way.

We are aiming to create a fine tilth – a nice crumbly soil structure that is ideal for germinating seeds. Once this has been achieved we can get on with the business of sowing crops outside such as beetroot, broad beans, brussel sprouts, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, radish, parsnips, spinach beet and early turnips.

Early peas, summer cabbages, early cauliflowers and early carrots can all be sown under a cloche or in a greenhouse. And finally, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers are all sown inside in the warm either on a windowsill or in a propagator.

We are also investigating options for protecting our crops. We will need cloches to keep the final frosts of the year off emerging seedlings. As well as protection from the weather the vegetables we will need to be guarded against wildlife. The pigeons made short shrift of our kale last year. They won’t have the opportunity this time round, though, as we will put up netting to protect our precious crops immediately.

Jenny Foulkes is manager at the Edible Gardening Project, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh