The continual magic of new season potatoes
Potatoes are quite possibly my favourite thing to grow. Slipping rows of seed spuds into deep trenches and waiting for those leafy tops to rocket up while fat tubers swell below the soil is as magical as watching daffodils bloom from dormant bulbs. Sprout the seed potatoes first. Just lay them in a single layer in a box until their goggle-eyes have 1-2cm sprouts, then they are ready to go into the ground. They’ll take about three weeks to emerge, so if you live in a part of New Zealand that gets late frosts, keep a roll of frost cloth handy.
To prepare the soil for planting, dig over the ground to a spade-depth and add compost (not too much as it leads to potato scab) and a light dressing of general NPK fertiliser. Dig trenches 20cm deep and space your seed potatoes 40-50cm apart (for early varieties like ‘Jersey Benne’, ‘Swift’ and ‘Rocket’) or 60-80cm apart for main croppers like ‘Agria’ or ‘Summer Delight’ (still my favourite for its speed, size and vigour). Then mound up the soil over the potatoes... and wait. Nature does all the rest of the work. Lynda Hallinan
Broccoli, cabbages and cauliflowers are all easy to raise yourself from seed sown either in individual cell trays (like the ones pictured here) or in recycled plastic punnets or trays.
These brassicas take about 160 days from plot to plate... which means that if you get them in the ground now, they should be ready to eat before the white cabbage butterfly is at its worst in summer.
Or, you can speed up the process by transplanting punnets of seedlings from the garden centre.
These will already be at least a month old, which means they’ll be ready to harvest by late November.
Feed transplanted brassicas with liquid fertiliser and cover with netting if you have chooks or pukekos at your place, or they’ll attack those baby leaves. Keep watch for slugs and snails too – you may need to lay bait.
Having a tidy up? Put all your winter prunings to good use by layering them at the bottom of
a new compost heap. This is one of the few times of the year when our gardens produce as much carbon-rich ‘‘brown’’ waste (fallen leaves, dried stalks and twigs) as nitrogen-rich ‘‘green’’ waste, especially while lawns are on the go-slow and don’t need regular mowing.
The best spot for a compost heap is somewhere sunny but out of sight, as very few compost heaps make attractive garden features. 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
If you have a small garden, it’s still possible. Just plant them in pots. Later in the season, annual herbs such as dill, chervil, basil and coriander can all be sprinkled in tubs or trays to cut as baby leaves, while perennial herbs, which are generally tough enough to withstand the hot, dry conditions in most containers, can be grown year-round.
Spring means new potatoes.