The days are getting longer, the soil is warming, the sap is rising, and allotmenteers emerge blinking from their winter hibernation, ready to tackle another growing year.

General advice

  • Don’t rush into jobs – pace yourself. The last thing you want is to put your back out from overdoing things and keep you off the allotment for the next couple of months.
  • Dig in any green manure as soon as possible.
  • Spend some time breaking down larger soil lumps with the back of your fork. Lightly firm the soil to remove any air pockets that could sink and form water-holding craters. It is important to create a firm level surface to ensure all the seeds are sown at the same depth to provide even germination.
  • The weed battle starts now – keep your hoe moving through the soil at every opportunity. The effort now will pay off in the long term, as weeds are removed before they get the chance to set seed.
  • Keep an eye out for pests and diseases as the season warms up. Inspect plants regularly and be ready to spray with a suitable insecticide or fatty acid before their numbers get out of hand. Be extra vigilant under glass, as in the warm conditions, the populations of greenfly and whitefly will soon get out of control. Although it is too cold for biological controls, you can set up sticky traps to capture the first hatchlings.

Early-season jobs

  • Harvest any remaining over-wintering veg and forced rhubarb.
  • If the soil is warm enough, sow parsnips, leeks, carrots, peas, beetroot, lettuce, broad beans and kholrabi in the open ground. Plant out shallots, late garlic and early cultivars of potatoes. Delay if the ground is still cold, as planting them in cold soil will set them back by several weeks.
  • Sow short rows for succession and long rows for main crops that will stay there for the rest of the summer. As there is still the danger of frost damaging young crops, organise frost protection at the end of the rows to cover them in an emergency.
  • In the greenhouse, sow Brussels sprouts, celeriac and celery for later planting.
  • Check the ties and stakes of fruit trees and bushes before they break into growth and start to produce their delicate fruiting buds. Damage to fruit buds provides the perfect entry point for disease.
  • Protect strawberry plants from frost. Cover them with fleece or cloches, but don’t forget to ventilate on sunny days.

Mid-season jobs

  • Now is a good time to plant out new asparagus and globe artichoke crowns.
  • If you are planting Jerusalem artichokes, don’t plant them where they will shade other plants.
  • Plant second and main crop potatoes. Earth up first earlies if necessary.
  • Transplant leeks.
  • Support earlier sown broad beans and peas with sticks and/or netting.
  • Continue to sow peas, carrots, parsnips, French beans (end of the month), beetroot, lettuce, radish and spinach outside.
  • Sow indoors or under cover French and runner beans, chillies, aubergines and sweetcorn.
  • Hoe between rows of plants and seedlings at every opportunity.
  • Inspect gooseberries for first signs of gooseberry mildew, spray with suitable fungicide to control.
  • Greenfly and whitefly numbers will be increasing now, both outdoors and under glass. Spray with appropriate insecticide or insecticidal soap to knock them down. If you are spraying, please only do so in the evenings when bees and other beneficial insects are safe. Don’t spray over open fruit blossom.

Late-season jobs

  • Thin out seedlings as they grow.
  • Keep potting on, hardening off and transplanting new seedlings.
  • Watch for slug and snails, vine weevil and aphids.
  • Dig your runner bean trench and fill with your kitchen peelings and other compost. Cover with soil. You can use this area to grow a quick catch crop of lettuce before your beans are planted out later.
  • Keep earthing up potatoes.
  • Sow outdoor main crop varieties of carrots, leeks, beetroot, winter cabbage, kale, broccoli, sprouting broccoli and swede.
  • Sow parsnips and Swiss chard outdoors.
  • Sow outdoors and into June sweetcorn, French beans and runner beans.
  • Sow courgettes, marrows, squashes, pumpkins and cucumbers indoors or under cover.
  • Tuck straw or mats under your strawberries to prevent rain splashing earth over the fruit and to deter slugs.
  • Prune out any unwanted shoots of raspberries for good air circulation.
  • Sow outdoors parsley, coriander and dill.