Grow & Tell

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Growing -

It’s time to get out your glad­dies

There’s a soft­ness in the air, blos­som ev­ery­where, growth push­ing up­wards, and birds busy nest­ing. Spring is beau­ti­ful. There’s the last of the daphne, kowhai and kak­abeak, fruit trees are in bloom, tulips are burst­ing forth, and camel­lias are do­ing their stun­ning best. Then there’s the smaller de­lights of for­get-me-nots, lily-of-the-val­ley, cal­en­dula, rocket and the bright yel­low of flow­er­ing bras­si­cas. It’s all sim­ply gor­geous.

While I’m en­joy­ing the present beauty, it’s also a good idea to look for­ward, but if you are get­ting ex­cited about your veg­etable gar­den, hold your horses. Get their ma­nure gath­ered up though, ready for when it is time to get plant­ing.

THE BEST CROP TO GROW RIGHT NOW

The de­sire and need to get plants in the soil in­creases as the days get longer, but it’s still pretty early so we plant some­thing that will sur­vive the va­garies of spring weather: mesclun. This is a di­verse range of salad plants which grow fast, re­quire lit­tle work and pro­duce many meals from a small area.

The name comes from the Provence re­gion of France where the lo­cals called the mar­ket mix­tures of salad plants ‘mesclun’ (‘mix­ture’ in French). Kings Seeds now of­fers packs of orig­i­nal, ori­en­tal and Ital­ian mesclun seed.

It’s best sown in wide rows or small patches. Close plant­ing helps to con­trol weeds and makes pick­ing easy.

Soil should be well worked, fine and fer­tile, and hope­fully as weed-free as pos­si­ble. I like to pre­pare the soil, then sprin­kle the seeds evenly and rea­son­ably thickly over the plot, be­fore cov­er­ing with fine soil to about 1cm deep. Pat the soil down a bit, then wa­ter the seeds in. Keep the bed moist, but not soggy.

Sow­ing com­ing up to a full moon will en­cour­age quick ger­mi­na­tion. Net­ting over the patch will keep the birds, cats and dogs off, and also pro­vides a bit of dap­pled shade.

Once the seedlings are up, main­tain mois­ture, pro­vide slug and snail con­trol, and pull out iden­ti­fi­able weeds.

The speedy magic of mesclun will be on the ta­ble within about six weeks. That’s my kind of fast food.

For­get-me-nots and cal­en­dula min­gle as part

of the spring car­pet. Tulips are a gar­den cliche but well worth hav­ing for

their gor­geous­ness. The am­mu­ni­tion against the

snails and slugs is ready, in this case ashes and saw­dust. My spring onions grown through win­ter, but more can still go in now.

JANE BELLERBY

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