Get your gar­den into con­di­tion

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - RACHEL OLDHAM

GROW MINT IN CON­TAIN­ERS

Mint is a must-have herb for spring and it’s dead easy to grow – so easy in fact, it can be­come a bit of a pest that can take over vege beds.

An easy way around this prob­lem is to grow mint in pots. That way its creep­ing roots are kept con­tained and you can keep the pot close to the house for eas­ier ac­cess and har­vest­ing.

The sim­plest way to grow mint is to buy a young plant from the gar­den cen­tre, but you can also strike cut­tings eas­ily from plants you have al­ready. Place the cut stems into a jar of wa­ter and they will sprout roots within a cou­ple of weeks. They can be planted out soon af­ter­wards. If you’re af­ter a lot of plants, mint can be raised from seed any time from now un­til early au­tumn, but it won’t ma­ture un­til the fol­low­ing sea­son. Raise in trays and trans­plant seedlings to 30cm apart. Es­tab­lished mint plants will also be burst­ing back into leaf now so if you haven’t yet ti­died up your clumps and re­moved the dead or strag­gly win­ter growth, do it now.

SOW & GROW SWEET PEAS FOR LATE SUM­MER

If you didn’t get sweet peas sown in au­tumn or win­ter you can still do it now for a beau­ti­ful show dur­ing late sum­mer. There’s noth­ing quite like the scent or sight of these beau­ti­ful flow­ers wind­ing their way up a trel­lis, cas­cad­ing out of a hang­ing bas­ket or along a fence, and the blooms last ex­tremely well in a vase.

Sweet peas grow best in a sunny po­si­tion in the gar­den, with fer­tile, free-drain­ing soil. Climb­ing va­ri­eties will re­quire some­thing to clam­ber up, like a frame, obelisk or trel­lis, while dwarf va­ri­eties are per­fect for small pots or hang­ing bas­kets.

Sweet peas are best sown di­rectly where you want them to grow but can also be raised in trays. To sow in the gar­den, press a cou­ple of seeds into a shal­low hole, spaced 10-15cm apart. Ger­mi­na­tion (in op­ti­mum con­di­tions) takes up to a fort­night so be pa­tient and wa­ter reg­u­larly to keep them from dry­ing out. Sweet pea seedlings are ir­re­sistible to snails and slugs so keep them well pro­tected with bait to pre­vent them be­ing chewed down to the ground.

To en­cour­age strong side shoots, pinch out the tips when seedlings have grown to around 10cm.

A great tip from the Kings Seeds blog is to add Ep­som salts to the soil which adds a boost of mag­ne­sium that in­creases both the colour in­ten­sity and per­fume of the flow­ers.

Once your sweet peas be­gin flow­er­ing, pick blooms reg­u­larly to en­sure a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply.

KEEP PLANT­ING STRAW­BER­RIES

You can never have too many straw­ber­ries and there’s noth­ing quite like sink­ing your teeth into a per­fectly sun-ripened berry you’ve grown your­self! Straw­berry plants at gar­den cen­tres are al­ready in flower, which means, if you plant them now, you’ll only have about a month to wait be­fore those first fruit will be ripe and ready to har­vest. Grow straw­ber­ries on mounds in fer­tile soil in full sun, spac­ing plants 20-30cm apart. Straw­ber­ries grow very well in con­tain­ers and hang­ing bas­kets too. Use a goodqual­ity straw­berry grow­ing mix which has ev­ery­thing they need to get off to a fly­ing start.

GET SET FOR SUM­MER WA­TER­ING

While the heat of sum­mer is still a long way off, pre­par­ing your­self prop­erly for wa­ter­ing means your gar­den is less likely to suf­fer. Buy a de­cent hose – one that can reach all ar­eas of your gar­den, in­stall an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem, sprin­klers or even just a good size wa­ter­ing can for when the truly hot weather starts. Once plants be­come heat­stressed, they rarely re­cover, and if you grow your veg­eta­bles in con­tain­ers, wa­ter­ing is even more im­por­tant, as mois­ture is lost much faster than in a reg­u­lar gar­den.

KEEP WATCH ON YOUR VEGE SEEDLINGS

Check your spring seedlings daily.If your vege seedlings are grow­ing in trays un­der cover, make sure you let the light each day. Open­ing up the vents of tun­nel houses and cloches will pre­vent young crops from be­ing fried dur­ing the heat of the day.

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