Community Garden Blog: Spring Equinox

This month I take great pleasure in introducing a regular gardening contribution from the team at Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses (BPCG). Based in Brockwell Park, the Community Greenhouses is a community garden that includes an orchard, a series of demonstration gardens, a walled herb garden and two commercial-sized greenhouses. The team help people grow through learning and learning through growing.  They run a garden volunteering scheme of which I took part in a few years ago, school visits, family events, courses and workshops.  The most valuable aspect of the garden is that they help people learn about conserving the environment and wildlife, appreciate nature and understand organic gardening and food growing – and all in a very friendly community spirit. Rosanna Head

Here I hand over to Cat Stevens, Community Gardener to tell us what they are planting this month at the gardens and a look forward to the month ahead with some helpful tips for the keen green-fingered among us.

This Month: Spring equinox

This month at Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses we marked the spring equinox – the time of year when the number of day light hours and night-time hours are approximately equal. After the spring equinox the day-time hours continue to increase and this results in the acceleration of plant growth that we recognise as spring. 

Around the spring equinox is the time to prepare outside vegetable beds for seed sowing. We’ve been checking our irrigation systems, raking the soil in our beds to a fine tilth (creating a crumb-like structure while at the same time removing any weeds, twigs or stones), covering them in horticultural fleece to try and raise the temperature a bit, and then planting out several varieties of swiss chard and beetroot, as well as our early crop potatoes.  

In the greenhouse – what to pot this month

In the greenhouse we’ve been potting up chilli and tomato plants and sowing many more seeds to go into the heated propagators for germination.

Early March is also the time to prune fruit bushes – just before the plants come out of dormancy which allows them to heal quickly with the vigorous new growth of Spring. We’ve pruned away all the DDDs – dead, diseased or damaged wood – and shaped the bushes properly so they’ll be most productive when they begin to fruit.

In the Greenhouse

Looking ahead to April both at the Greenhouses and for your greenspace at home:

  • It’s not just the plants you want that will feel the boost from more sunlight! Now is the time to start weeding in earnest. Keeping weeds under control now will make everything else MUCH easier. Weeds can finish their life-cycle and set seed very quickly, leave them too long and they’ll start planting themselves all over the garden!
  • Your indoor plants will also be responding to the changing weather. They will be thirstier than they have been over the winter months, so gradually begin increasing your watering. Remember, overwatering can be very damaging for a plant, so increase by small amounts as the temperatures rise and check that the soil is dry to the touch first.
  • Get your tomato seedlings planted out in sunny beds and growbags. Watch for any signs of a late frost – they’ll need protection from unexpected cold.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a lawn, now’s a good time of year to rake away the thatch (brown dead grass resting at the very base of the lawn) re-seed any bare patches and give it a spring feed.
  • If you have space to plant potatoes, start chitting – allowing the potatoes to sprout, just like they do in the cupboard if you leave them too long! – and aim to plant in the back end of April.
  • April is the month to sow! You could try beetroot, carrots, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, leeks or spring onions. Remember to thin out the seedlings once they’ve grown large enough to be handled. Nice neat rows don’t just look good, they give each plant enough room to properly develop.
  • If you’ve got space indoors or a greenhouse, now is the time to sow seed for your later crops (often things that have a higher water content like courgettes, pumpkins,  squash and cucumbers).
  • The warm weather will lead to population booms in pests like aphids and caterpillars. While it can be tempting to begin chemical warfare, a healthy garden ecosystem will provide its own solution as natural predators wake up to the new food source. In the meantime, scraping and removing pests with a gloved thumb or spraying with diluted soap will keep the beasties under control until birds, ladybirds and other predatory insects arrive to do the job.

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