Spring pro­vides a steady work­load


1⁄ cup white or brown su­gar.

2 Sim­mer for 5 min­utes then pour over the hot beet­root in jars and seal. Pick­led beets keep for at least a year.

Sow beet­root di­rect, or trans­plant pun­nets of seedlings, be­ing care­ful to han­dle their roots gen­tly. Plant in rich, freedrain­ing, well-cul­ti­vated soil (to at least 20cm deep). Beets pre­fer to keep their roots cool so, if pos­si­ble, choose a spot that gets a lit­tle respite from the hottest sun in mid­sum­mer, or they can pre­ma­turely bolt to seed. plant any­thing this spring.

Last year I learned that pa­tience is a virtue when it comes to plant­ing pota­toes, for all my seed spuds rot­ted in the sod­den soil be­fore they had a chance to sprout. And this year has been even wet­ter, so I’m glad I waited, but now time is run­ning out if I’m go­ing to get a de­cent crop to dig by Christ­mas.

If, like me, you’re run­ning late, stick to the va­ri­eties ‘Rocket’ and ‘Swift’. Th­ese are among the fastest of the waxy early spuds, tak­ing 70–90 days from plant­ing to pro­duce tu­bers.

Both va­ri­eties are vig­or­ous and gen­er­ous pro­duc­ers. Don’t wait for them to flower, as they of­ten don’t. To judge their readi­ness, just fos­sick un­der a plant af­ter 70 days to feel for their size.

For the quick­est potato crop, don’t bury them deep. In­stead, mound up the soil in rows run­ning north to south (so the soil is warmed all day by the sun) and slip your seed pota­toes into the mid­dle of the mound. Once they’re up, feed with sheep pel­lets, chook ma­nure or gen­eral gar­den fer­tiliser and wa­ter it in well. any ma­jor ob­struc­tions as they emerge.

If you keep chooks, grow­ing your own chives is a must, as no omelette or egg may­on­naise sand­wich is the same with­out them.

Chives – both the tra­di­tional slen­der va­ri­ety and its broadleafed gar­lic-flavoured sib­ling – are easy to grow in moist soil in a sunny spot. Give them a help­ing hand with liq­uid fer­tiliser early in the sea­son.

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