Spring provides a steady workload
SOW & TRANSPLANT BEETROOT FOR BURGERS & SALADS
Can you ever plant too much beetroot? I don’t think so. It’s such a versatile vege, being useful (and delicious) at every growth stage. Beets can be sown thickly for snipping as microgreens or gourmet salad leaves, or plucked after 8–10 weeks to roast whole or grate raw into salads. Or you can leave them in the ground all summer then boil, peel, slice and preserve hamburger-sized slabs in jars.
To preserve beetroot, make a simple pickling solution from 1 cup malt vinegar, 1 cup water and
cup white or brown sugar. 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.
KEEP PLANTING SEED POTATOES
If you haven’t put in any spuds yet, don’t panic: you’re not alone. It has been too wet at my place to 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.
WEED AROUND YOUR CHIVES
Perennial chives will be popping back up after their winter dormancy. Make sure the soil around them is weeded and cleared of mulch, fallen leaves or winter debris, so they don’t hit 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.
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
BRIGHTEN UP BARE BEDS WITH POTTED COLOUR
Got gaps? Fill them with flowers. Most spring vege gardens look a bit barren so, while you wait for the soil to warm up sufficiently for beans, tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkins and their spacehogging siblings, whack in some cheap and cheerful potted colour. Most spring flowers come in pastel shades of lemon, baby blue and pale pink, but I love perennial geums for their racy and reliable shades of orange, yellow and red. Look for them in garden centres across the country now.