TOP & FLOP CROPS

NZ Gardener - - 2018 Gardener Of The Year -

AS­PARA­GUS:

Two years after I moved my es­tab­lished ‘Pa­cific Pur­ple’ crowns to a sun­nier spot (their former bed had be­come shaded out by my peach trees), there are oo­dles of fat, ten­der spears to pick this sea­son. But some of the old crowns didn’t sur­vive the move so, last year, I slot­ted ‘Jersey Knight’ seedlings into the gaps. They sent up their first green spears in the last week of Au­gust whereas the pur­ple va­ri­ety doesn’t emerge here in Hunua un­til Oc­to­ber.

Fancy home­grown as­para­gus? Sow seed now. Pre-soak seeds for 1-2 hours then sow in deep pots (such as re­cy­cled ice­cream con­tain­ers with drainage holes). Ex­pect ger­mi­na­tion within 2-3 weeks. After 2-3 months, trans­plant into larger pots or a tem­po­rary bed in your vege patch. Grow on un­til late next win­ter, then trans­plant into per­ma­nent trenches.

PINE NUTS:

I’m jump­ing the gun a lit­tle but my stone pine trees ( Pi­nus pinea) have their first wee pineap­ple-shaped conelets. Pi­nus pinea has a very long ges­ta­tion pe­riod but all go­ing to plan with pollen pro­duc­tion, I’ll be har­vest­ing my first cones in… 2021!

Mean­while, a friend has bought a block up the road that was once owned by a stal­wart of the Tree Crops As­so­ci­a­tion. She has in­her­ited ma­ture al­monds, pecans and a wee plan­ta­tion of stone pines laden with cones. Pa­tience is a virtue, but so are friends blessed with good or­chards!

CAR­ROTS:

What’s up Doc? I’ll tell you what’s not up at my place: any car­rots. My re­cent sow­ings have come to noth­ing and I’m not sure who to blame – pos­sums, pheas­ants, pukeko,¯ rab­bits, black­birds or chooks? I’m sure seed vi­a­bil­ity isn’t the cul­prit, as car­rot seed usu­ally sprouts with­out is­sue, so per­haps I’ll have to start cov­er­ing the bed with a net­ted tent.

Car­rots are one of our sta­ple crops (as one of the few veges my chil­dren eat with­out com­plaint) so I’m an­noyed by their ab­sence, be­cause gen­er­ally they can be re­lied upon to feed us year round from two sow­ings, one in early spring and an­other in late sum­mer.

Some gar­den­ers swear by cer­tain car­rot va­ri­eties but I tend to sim­ply sow what­ever I find in my seed box.

PUR­PLE KOHLRABI:

I’ve come to rather fancy these weird bul­bous bras­si­cas, be­cause they are so much faster and quicker to grow than stan­dard broc­coli or cab­bage, yet they add the same flavour when grated or finely sliced into slaws and stir­fries.

Kohlrabi are sup­posed to fat­ten up at the base, like an over­filled wa­ter bal­loon, but my en­tire crop bolted to seed when the stems had only just started to swell. Like but­ton-headed broc­coli, I sus­pect I’d left the seedlings in trays for too long prior to plant­ing out, and their hasty exit was a symp­tom of post-trau­matic stress.

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