Handy hints for bed preparations
PREPARE YOUR BEDS FOR SPRING CROPS
While you’re waiting for the ground to warm up enough to plant out vege seedlings, turbo boost your soil by adding a generous amount of compost (approximately 40 litres per 2 square metres) and some wellrotted manure, such as sheep pellets. Top this with a thick layer of mulch, such as peastraw or bark. This helps to retain water and suppress weeds. My in-laws, who grow all their own veges, place layers of newspapers (not the glossy stuff) over their garden beds. This creates a natural weed mat, which gradually breaks down over the coming months and is eaten by fungi, bacteria and worms. Because we have a heavy clay soil which will take time to improve, we’re taking the easy route and growing crops in raised beds with organic vegetable mix. However, a frequently touted tip is that growing a crop of potatoes can help break up heavy clay soils. I’m curious to see if this works and am going to give it a go. It’s important to work in plenty of organic matter before planting them.
GROW A TOMATO RAINBOW
Where does one start when it comes to choosing tomatoes? There are so many to choose from (more than 20,000 varieties worldwide, and at least 15 different types at your local garden centre) that it can be overwhelming. I like to grow a range of tomatoes of varying colours and flavours, so I usually buy a range of well-established plants at the garden centre, or mix your tomatoes up a bit by growing different varieties, then swapping seedlings with friends. An ideal tomato for beginner gardeners is ‘Sweet 100’. True to its name, it produces hundreds of sweet-tasting tomatoes for months on end. If you want some drama on your plate, ‘Black Krim’ is a dark-skinned heirloom tomato with lots of flavour, which originates from the Black Sea area. Another dressed-to-impress heirloom variety which really shows its stripes of orange-yellow is the heirloom variety ‘Tigerella’. When it comes to yellow tomatoes, ‘Sungold F1’, a sweettasting yellow-orange cherry tomato, is an ideal lunchbox filler. Tomatoes need steady warmth to grow so remember that the golden rule is not to plant your tomatoes out until Labour Weekend or until the last frost is well over.
PLANT FOOD FOR MONARCH CATERPILLARS
Swan plants are to monarch butterfly caterpillars what bamboo is to pandas so sow swan plant seeds now. These black and yellow crawlers have massive appetites so you’ll need quite a few plants if you want them to stick around long enough to metamorphose. Raise seeds in seedraising mix or sow direct outside if frosts are over in your area. Swan plants like freedraining soil and a sheltered site, and will grow up to 2 metres. For find out more about monarch butterflies, visit www.monarch.org.nz. Rachel Clare
I know they only have a few good years in them before they turn up their toes, but who can resist these tangy subtropical beauties? Passionfruit like free-draining,
This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz light soil and a sheltered spot and can be trained along fences, trellises and up verandas.Make sure you dig in plenty of compost when planting, and feed them with a general balanced fertiliser when planting and then twice throughout the growing season. Vines planted now should fruit within 9-18 months.