Baby beets prove a great salad option
SOW AND PLANT BEETROOT
Sweet baby beets are perfect in salads and the best news is that they can be sown year-round. Sow beetroot seeds direct, into well cultivated soil in a position that gets full sun. Space the corky clusters 15cm apart and water gently and often until germination occurs (usually 10-14 days). Beetroot also grows well in container – just make sure you place the pots where they will get some shade during the hottest part of the day or they could overheat, causing woody roots.
Beetroot tastes best when grown quickly so feed plants with liquid fertiliser during the next few weeks.
You can also transplant seedlings from punnets (pictured), rather than sowing direct. This will save about a month of growing time if you’re in a hurry! Remove the seedling plug from the punnet with care so you don’t knock the roots too much.
Harvest as baby beets from 6-7 weeks or let them grow to their full size for slicing or preserving. Young beetroot leaves are also edible.
GROW PLANTS & FLOWERS TO BRING IN BEES
September is bee awareness month and since many of our edible crops are pollinated by bees, it’s a great idea to provide nourishment for them in your garden.
Bees, hoverflies and predatory wasps have small feeding parts, so plants with small flowers suit them. You don’t need to dedicate a huge area either. A few pots or a thin strip around the edge of your vege patch can be all you need. Sow a patch of wildflowers or grow a mix of flowers and herbs including anise hyssop, sage, lavender, bergamot, borage, thyme, cornflowers, monarda, calendula, purple tansy, marigolds and phacelia, to name but a few.
When making your garden a little more bee-friendly, here are some things to consider. Bees love purple, white, yellow and blue flowers best. Flowers planted in groups not only aid bees, they bring in butterflies as well. Plant a range of different-sized and shaped flowers and try to include flowers for every season. Avoid using pesticides or spraying when flowers are in bloom. Provide clean drinking water for bees.
The September issue of NZ Gardener magazine (on sale now) has a free packet of bee-friendly wildflower seeds for every reader. We’re calling on Kiwis to sow these seeds and sign up to Plan Bee by registering your garden in our interactive map.
This month you can find out more about our beneficial insects, bees and pollinators in a series of stories on www.homed.co.nz including Ruud Kleinpaste’s look at why honeybees may pose a threat to our native bees (click here to read); a fun quiz on pollinators and close-up photos of the various bees, wasps, hoverflies, bumblebees and flies typically found in our gardens.
FOR SPEEDY SALADS SOW PEA MICROGREENS
The arrival of spring means the rapid return of salads to our diet but the garden is often a little bare this time of year which can mean slim pickings when it comes to having enough leaves to eat. Enter the humble microgreen. These young vegetable (or herb) plants are harvested at the baby leaf stage and are a fantastic stop-gap while you wait for your lettuce crops to mature.
Peas make some of the tastiest microgreens I’ve ever eaten and are even easier to grow. Sow the seeds thickly into a pot, cover lightly with seed-raising mix and mist with water daily. Expect to start picking in about a fortnight. Try ‘Fiji Feathers’ from Kings Seeds.
PLANT MINT & TRIM STRAGGLY GROWTH
During the winter months, mint can get rather untidy – or dies
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 down completely – so before it bursts back into full spring growth give plants a good trim. You can chop them right back to ground level if you wish. Definitely do this if there’s any sign of rust – those orangecoloured spots on the leaves. Mint has a very strong root system and will bounce back quickly once the temperatures rise, so you needn’t fear being without a crop for too long. You could always pop in a couple of new plants while you’re at it (you can never have too much). I’ve just planted some in a big pot – where its wandering ways will be contained.