November Top & Flop CROPS
Lynda Hallinan’s regular round-up of the best and worst seasonal performers in her Hunua garden.
GLOBE ARTICHOKES: It is my first rule of vege gardening: don’t plant it if you’re not going to eat it. But it’s also a rule I’m willing to bend for globe artichokes. I’d be lucky to eat one out of every dozen of these big-hearted edible thistles, and not just because they are such a faff to trim, steam, dismember and devour with garlic butter. (Hint: Wear rubber gloves when harvesting the heads as the sap in their stems is incredibly bitter and lingers on your fingertips.)
The problem is that globe artichokes look so gorgeous in the garden, in tight bud and in full psychedelic purple bloom, that I’m always hesitant to behead them.
Also, the nectar-rich flowers are a potent attraction for bumblebees, who appear anaesthetised by the sugar hit and need somewhere comfy to sleep it off before flying away. Some days it’s not uncommon to find half a dozen wobbly bumblebees staggering on each bloom. ORANGES:
The huge, old, late-ripening orange at our Tairua bach has developed a habit of biennial bearing, which means a flop crop (like last spring, when we had next to no fruit) is followed by a top crop (this season we’ll again be juicing by the bucket load).
Our orange tree is too tall to attempt corrective intervention but if you have an apple or a pear tree that pulls this trick, thinning off up to half of the developing fruitlets now can help to break the habit.
SAGE: The next time I see sage sold as a perennial herb at the garden centre, I’m going to lay a complaint about false advertising. Sage ( Salvia officinalis) is most definitely NOT a perennial in my herb patch. Sometimes it’s not even an annual as it’s lucky to last six months before rotting at the roots and collapsing in a wilted heap.
How can the jolly stuff be so difficult to grow? I can’t keep it alive in pots (too dry) or garden beds (too wet). Its only saving grace is that replacements are cheap. STRAWBERRIES:
The rabbits have returned. I wouldn’t mind sharing my strawberries but these vandalous varmints are no longer satisfied nibbling around the edges of my beds. They have taken to digging holes to nowhere, uprooting my plants as they go. I’m seriously contemplating asking Santa for a small, yappy dog, but which breed? HAZELNUTS:
Is anything more frustrating than a romance thwarted by bad timing? Seven years ago I put in a hedge of two varieties of hazels – ’Whiteheart’ for nut producing and ’Merveille de Bowillier’ as a pollinator – but it seems this mismatched pair just can’t get it together. The male catkins come and go, shedding their dusty pollen before the tiny pink flowers show up. All I can do is sigh and quote Rudyard Kipling: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”