Cauliflower harvest season looms
If you planted cauli seedlings back in late summer or early autumn, they should now be ready to harvest. Cauliflower takes 75-120 days after transplant to mature (depending on the variety), so plenty of room and a little patience is required for this crop. Harvest the heads when they are tight and firm (as pictured). If you notice the heads on your plants are starting to separate, that means they’re getting a bit old, so pick those first. Check for any slugs and snails which can make their way inside.
The most common issues with growing cauliflower are tiny heads (known as ‘buttoning’) and the failure to produce anything but an abundance of lush leaves. Buttoning is often caused when seedlings are allowed to dry out or have become rootbound in their punnet, but can also be caused by overcrowding in the garden. Space plants 50cm apart for best results. Too much leaf growth is usually due to overfeeding. Brassicas need rich soil, but feed them with fertiliser low in nitrogen to help promote the formation of flower buds.
COMPILE YOUR SPRING EDIBLES SEED WISH LIST
The 2017/2018 Kings Seeds catalogue is out now and full of new season gardening inspiration. We’re always excited to see what new flowers, microgreens, herbs and vegetables will be available. Growing your edibles from seed is incredibly satisfying and offers much greater value for money than buying ready-grown seedlings in punnets from the garden centre (although seedlings are a great solution for a quick fix when you find yourself suddenly running short).
So what’s new this season? I’m particularly intrigued by oyster leaf (Mertensia maritima) which is a cold-hardy Scottish perennial (related to borage) with leaves that taste like oysters and edible flowers.
There’s also a traditional Japanese spring onion called ‘Ippon Negi’ that resembles a baby leek and is grown in much the same way (earthing up around the stem to blanch it).
In the tomato selection, we see three new organic varieties ‘Artisan Blush’, ‘Indigo Apple’ and ‘Sunrise Bumble Bee’ as well as ‘Indigo Gold Berries’ cherry tomato which sounds fabulous with its unique purple and yellow colouring.
You’ll also find Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) as a new addition to herbs, and in the microgreens section, three varieties of nasturtiums are making an appearance for the first time.
The ever-popular Asian vegetables category continues to expand with the mini-barrelshaped ‘Wa Wa Tsai’ Chinese cabbage, ‘Asian Loki’ gourd and ‘Karela’ bitter melon.
There are also new varieties of cabbage including ‘Mini Red’, cauliflower, onions, peas, Florence fennel, shallots, lettuce, capsicums, ‘Red Indian’ corn and watermelon.
Of course, all of the tried-andtrue favourites are included too, so start compiling your spring seed sowing list and get ordering before they sell out. Check out the new varieties and order online at kingsseeds.co.nz.
CLEAR GUTTERS AND DIG DRAINS
There’s nothing like a weekend of heavy rain to show you which parts of your garden need attention. My lawn resembles a lake at the moment so I’m digging small drains with my spade to guide that pooling water elsewhere. Clear out leaves clogging guttering and mend any broken spouting. Overflowing roof water cascading down onto your garden will quickly wash away your valuable soil and likely drown or damage any plants in the firing line. It’s not fun by any means, but it’s one you’ll be glad you knocked off your list of winter jobs.
PLANT SPRING ONIONS OR RAISE FROM SEED IN TRAYS
I use lots of onions during winter – they go into just about
everything I cook. I don’t have space to grow large onions but make an effort to grow my own spring onions. Pop in a punnet of seedlings from the garden centre or sow your own in trays or pots under cover. You can sow the seed direct but they’re very slowgrowing, so it’s easier to raise them in trays filled with seed-raising mix, then transplant the seedlings to your vege bed when they reach 6-10cm tall.
This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz