Go Gardening - - Edibles -

Plant­ing can start as soon as the soil is dry enough to dig with­out it stick­ing to your tools. Where the soil is heavy or the cli­mate is very wet, raised beds are a great way to achieve warmer, bet­ter-drained soil.

Plant out bras­sica seedlings; broc­coli, cab­bage, kale, cau­li­flower into well-pre­pared soil rich in com­post. Bras­sica plants pre­fer a higher pH than most, so the ad­di­tion of lime to ‘sweeten’ the soil can make a big dif­fer­ence to the size and qual­ity of your har­vest.

Sow pea seeds di­rectly into well-pre­pared soil with added com­post. Sim­ple teepees made from bam­boo stakes make at­trac­tive climb­ing frames for peas.

Plant early and main crop pota­toes. An as­sort­ment of va­ri­eties will give you a range of har­vest times from Christ­mas through till au­tumn.

Plant herbs for flavour, colour and va­ri­ety. Peren­nial herbs such as sage, thyme and rose­mary can be cut back for a fresh flush of growth. Plant new pars­ley plants so they’ll be grow­ing strongly be­fore the old ones go to seed. Sow frost-ten­der herbs such as basil in trays for plant­ing out later.

Start an as­para­gus patch. As­para­gus is a peren­nial plant that can be left in the ground to crop for many years, so cre­at­ing the per­fect bed prior to plant­ing is key. Dig a well-drained bed of soil mix­ing in lots of com­post. As­para­gus crowns are avail­able for plant­ing in early spring.

Sil­ver­beet can’t be beaten for an easy year-round sup­ply of healthy greens. It grows well in cool con­di­tions and likes plenty of mois­ture.

Slugs and snails are out in force in damp weather. Ten­der young seedlings are prime tar­gets. Be ready with slug bait, or what­ever pro­tec­tion you pre­fer.

Build the soil. Great growth comes from great soil. Im­prove soil struc­ture by re­plen­ish­ing its or­ganic mat­ter ev­ery spring. Bulky or­ganic fer­tilis­ers pro­vide both nu­tri­ents and hu­mus. When pre­par­ing for plant­ing, avoid dig­ging when the soil is heavy and wet. Too much dig­ging de­stroys the soil struc­ture.

Plant flow­ers for ben­e­fi­cial in­sects. Look for herbs and flow­ers that at­tract pol­li­na­tors as well as the preda­tory in­sects that will help keep pest populations in check.

Start a com­post heap and turn your house­hold and gar­den waste into black gold for the gar­den. Com­post is the ul­ti­mate soil con­di­tioner, en­hanc­ing drainage and water hold­ing ca­pac­ity while em­pow­er­ing plant roots to ab­sorb nu­tri­ents. Mak­ing your own com­post is the most cost ef­fec­tive thing you can do for a healthy thriv­ing vege gar­den.

Go un­der­cover. A tun­nel frame is handy when pro­tect­ing plants from cold and frost. It’s also great for or­ganic pest con­trol. Con­sider cov­er­ing your bras­si­cas with in­sect mesh be­fore the white but­ter­flies ap­pear with warmer weather. In­sect mesh is also prov­ing very ef­fec­tive against the tomato and potato pys­llid.

LEFT: A tim­ber slat bin keeps the com­post heap tidy, ac­ces­si­ble and well-aer­ated.BE­LOW: In­sect mesh is a use­ful in­vest­ment if you want to con­trol in­sect pests with­out spray­ing.

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