It’s time to get growing
Think tomatoes Growing your own tomatoes from seed is economical if you want to grow many different varieties, or if you’ve saved your seed from last year’s fruit. They do, however, need a little molly-coddling. Sow tomato seeds in plastic seed trays or small individual pots filled with sterile seed-raising mix. Don’t sow too deep – a light (1-2mm) sprinkle of seed-raising over the top is sufficient. Ensure the mix is moist, but not waterlogged, and cover with a plastic sheet or bag. This traps the humidity to speed up sprouting. Place the trays or pots in a warm spot, such as inside a hot water cupboard. As soon as you see signs of germination, remove the plastic and move the pots into a brightly lit location indoors, such as a sunny windowsill. They need as much natural light as possible or they’ll grow tall and spindly (leggy). Once they are 3-5cm tall, move them under a cloche or to a tunnelhouse for better light. The seedlings will need repotting into larger pots of potting mix after a month. They will be ready to transplant at Labour Weekend.
Weed and feed strawberries The first strawberries will be ripe in a few weeks, so spend some time this weekend tidying up established strawberry beds. Weed (carefully) around your plants. Do this with a hand-held trowel or fork rather than a push hoe or spade, as strawberries have wide spreading roots that are easily damaged when you’re yanking out competing weeds. Once the weeds are all cleared, lightly water in fertiliser. You can use any general purpose NPK fertiliser, because strawberries are vigorous growers with a general hunger for nitrogen as well as the potassium in a specialist fruit fertiliser such as Daltons Strawberry Fert or a tomato fertiliser. The final step is to lay mulch or straw over the bare soil around your plants to suppress weed growth and keep the developing fruit clear of the soil. Get your bird covers sorted now too. Plastic netting does the trick.
Sow or transplant spinach Although it’s officially spring, we have a wee way to go yet before our vege gardens are back into harvest mode. Bridge the gap between the last winter brassicas and the first summer salad greens with spinach, silverbeet or colourful Swiss chard. Plant a row of spinach (or the mild ‘Perpetual’ variety of silverbeet), under a cloche or plastic-covered grow tunnel to cut the growing time from plot to plate.
Tomatoes will be ready for transplanting into the garden at Labour Weekend.