Time to get those tulips sorted

South Taranaki Star - - FRONT PAGE - RACHEL CLARE

They may not look pretty (the broad beans; not my hands), but th­ese win­ter toughies will ger­mi­nate even where night tem­per­a­tures plunge be­low zero, and they’re bril­liant in sal­ads and stir-fries or teamed with ba­con in pasta, and it’s now a` la mode to puree them with mint or pecorino.

Sow broad bean seeds suc­ces­sively be­tween now and mid-June. Soak the seed overnight, then plant them di­rectly into pre­pared soil at a depth of 4cm and 15cm apart. Most va­ri­eties grow to at least 1m high so will re­quire stak­ing. Wa­ter seeds deeply after plant­ing, then make sure you give them ad­e­quate wa­ter through­out the grow­ing sea­son, par­tic­u­larly when they flower and set seed pods. Kings Seeds sell both ‘Dwarf Early Green’ and ‘Su­per­aguadulce’ which both ma­ture 75 days after plant­ing.

Broad beans are pro­lific pro­duc­ers but need to be picked reg­u­larly to keep them com­ing on. For pod­ded beans, pick the pods when they reach about 30cm long and as thick as your thumb. Once they’re too big they tend to lose their ten­der tex­ture. Twist off by hand or snip with a pair of scis­sors. been lin­ger­ing on: the rusty, stringy cel­ery, crispy sun­flow­ers I’d been leav­ing for the birds and the leggy basil which is now more flow­ers than leaves. My to­mato plants are still pro­duc­ing a small amount of fruit, but lots of new plants have popped up and are cov­ered in flow­ers. I’m go­ing to leave a few in for cu­rios­ity’s sake.

If you’ve got loads of green to­ma­toes, you can cut the plants off at ground level and hang them up­side down in your shed. The fruit will con­tinue to ripen slowly on the trusses. This is a more ef­fec­tive method than pick­ing in­di­vid­ual fruit and leav­ing it to ripen on a win­dowsill. Why not make green to­mato chut­ney.

As you clear out your old crops, take the time to pull out any weeds and dig the soil over too. Sow cover crops like broad beans, mus­tard and oats (Bur­net’s has a good se­lec­tion of bulk cover crop seeds in gar­den cen­tres now), dig in com­post and an­i­mal ma­nures and pre­pare your gar­lic and as­para­gus beds for win­ter plant­ing.

I’ve been en­joy­ing my­self this week plant­ing dif­fer­ent colour com­bi­na­tions of veges and flow­ers. I’d like to say that this is purely an act of en­vi­ron­men­tal al­tru­ism to pro­vide food for pol­li­na­tors, which it partly is.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have so many to­mato flow­ers right now if it weren’t for the cleome and sun­flow­ers that flow­ered in my vege beds all sum­mer long and were a bee metropo­lis, plus my beans and to­ma­toes were free of green shield bugs – th­ese flow­ers act as a catch crop. Mainly though, I’ve been do­ing this to sat­isfy my life­long ad­dic­tion to flow­ers (per­haps the honey bee is my spirit an­i­mal?).

In one bed of salad greens,

I’ve gone for a white and green combo, in­ter­spers­ing rows of white pan­sies, di­anthus and alyssum with rocket, curly pars­ley and ‘Lit­tle Gem’ let­tuces. I’ve also planted white cro­cuses and the white daf­fodil ‘Thalia’, which will both flower in spring.

With the more hard-core win­ter veges – cavolo nero, broc­col­ini and sil­ver beet – I’ve planted blue pan­sies and lo­belia. Next I’m go­ing to sur­round a bean tee-pee with an orange, red and yel­low combo of co­re­op­sis, tagetes marigolds and trail­ing nas­tur­tiums.

In the re­cently pub­lished Veg­eta­bles Love Flow­ers, Vir­ginia-based cut-flower and vege grower and com­pan­ion­plant­ing ad­vo­cate Lisa Ma­son Ziegler rec­om­mends a ra­tio of 40% flow­ers to 60% veg­eta­bles to pro­vide enough food for pol­li­na­tors. She says that it’s bet­ter to plant flow­er­ing an­nu­als rather than peren­ni­als be­cause they’re more pro­duc­tive, com­plet­ing their flow­er­ing and fruit­ing cy­cle in one year and give you the op­por­tu­nity to try some­thing new each sea­son, and ad­vises mass plant­ing of the same types of flow­ers to make them easy for pol­li­na­tors to find.

For a con­stant sup­ply of flow­ers, Ziegler ad­vises hav­ing two dif­fer­ent plant­ing ar­eas – while one area is in the process of grow­ing, the sec­ond area will be flow­er­ing. Con­stantly har­vest­ing flow­ers is key to en­sur­ing a longer bloom­ing sea­son and Ziegler rec­om­mends cut­ting flow­ers once or twice a week. She also ad­vises suc­ces­sion plant­ing through­out the sea­son so there is con­stantly a buf­fet of flow­er­ing plants avail­able for pol­li­na­tors and ben­e­fi­cial bugs.

What are your favourite flower and vege com­bi­na­tions?

Write to me at in­box@get­grow­ing.co.nz.

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