Time to get se­ri­ous about sow­ing seeds



It’s time to get your sum­mer-grow­ing veg­eta­bles un­der­way, how­ever be aware that there is still the chance of cold weather and late frosts in south­ern and cen­tral ar­eas.

Di­rect sow in gar­den beds seeds of dwarf and climb­ing beans, beet­root, car­rots, parsnips, let­tuces, peas, radishes and sil­ver­beet. Sow cu­cum­ber, leeks, sweet­corn, zuc­chini, egg­plants, pump­kins and toma­toes un­der cover

in seed trays. Don’t rush to plant out seedlings of heat-lovers like egg­plants, toma­toes and chill­ies. Early trans­plants will of­ten just sit and sulk un­til the weather warms up. Seedlings trans­planted in Novem­ber tend to do bet­ter and over­take those early ones. It’s tempt­ing to fill up ev­ery inch of the vege bed, but leave space for plants to grow to their full po­ten­tial and al­low for air­flow. Stressed and crowded plants are more likely to suc­cumb to dis­ease. Leave room for suc­ces­sion plant­ing too so your crops don’t all ma­ture at the same time.


Early straw­ber­ries are flow­er­ing and start­ing to ripen, so make sure there is mulch in place to help keep the berries up off the soil. Pea straw is the clas­sic mulch but may be in short sup­ply due to the pea wee­vil in­fes­ta­tion in the Wairarapa.

In July, the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) placed a ban on grow­ing peas within a spec­i­fied area and placed con­trols on mov­ing pea ma­te­rial (both seed and un­treated pea straw) within, in and out of this area for the next two years.

An al­ter­na­tive to pea straw is Straw­berry Mulch which is made from sphag­num moss that has been im­preg­nated with ac­ti­vated sea­weed. The chopped, semi-dried moss can be dug into the plant­ing hole and used as mulch around the base of plants. Not only will it re­duce evap­o­ra­tion from the soil, sphag­num moss also has nat­u­ral fungi­ci­dal prop­er­ties so will help pro­tect berries from fun­gal in­fec­tions. Last year an ear­wig pop­u­la­tion erupted in the pea straw around my straw­ber­ries. Ap­ply­ing di­atoma­ceous earth (from DENZ – www.denz.co.nz) kept them at bay, but I will be very in­ter­ested to see if a mossy mulch af­fects them at all. You will also need to de­fend your berries from birds. I use bird mesh pinned over wire hoops which works well but there are more elab­o­rate berry bar­ri­cades and fruit fortresses out there.


These spec­tac­u­lar reed-stemmed epidendrums – grown by Lee and Roy Neale at Leroy Or­chids – are descen­dants of those com­monly found in Auck­land gar­dens but they have tennis-ball sized flow­ers that look like colour­ful fire­works. Roy se­lects for sturdy, mul­ti­stemmed plants with flow­ers held erect. They need a lit­tle more cos­set­ing than the orig­i­nals but are still easy to care for. Epidendrums pre­fer bright fil­tered light and tem­per­a­tures from 10-27°C. They need pro­tec­tion from frost and should be moved in­doors dur­ing win­ter. In sum­mer, al­low them to al­most dry out be­fore wa­ter­ing and don’t leave them stand­ing in wa­ter. Feed with a half-strength fer­tiliser at ev­ery sum­mer wa­ter­ing. Don’t feed them in win­ter and only wa­ter when the plants are dry – ev­ery 1-2 weeks is enough. Wa­ter in the morn­ing but not if a frost is ex­pected that night.

Re­pot when their con­tain­ers are full of roots and the plants are look­ing top-heavy. Once a stem has flow­ered, prune it to half its length to en­cour­age mul­ti­ple shoots from the base of the plants. More in­for­ma­tion and plants from lee­an­droy@ihug.co.nz.


Win­dow sills all over the coun­try should be lined with hope­ful pun­nets of seedlings al­most ready to be planted out­side in the gar­den. Pre­par­ing those seedlings for the harsh re­al­ity of life out­doors is a process known as hard­en­ing-off. Spring weather can be in­cred­i­bly change­able – balmy and still one day and freez­ing wind and rain the next, so seedlings need to be tough enough to cope so their growth isn’t halted. Shift pun­nets to a shel­tered spot out­side or open cloches so the plants are ex­posed

to sun­light and air move­ment. Start with just a few hours each day, then pop them back un­der cover. Grad­u­ally in­crease the ex­po­sure time each day un­til they’re ready for trans­plant­ing. Keep in­side if there’s an es­pe­cially cold or stormy pe­riod. Even af­ter hard­en­ing-off, seedlings still need some form of pro­tec­tion – per­haps a cloche in stormy weather or a lit­tle shade in par­tic­u­larly hot or windy con­di­tions.


Tall sum­mer bulbs and sprawl­ing peren­ni­als need sup­port to dis­play their blooms to best ad­van­tage. Put props in place early and let the new stems and leaves grow up to hide them. There are ad­van­tages to in­stalling supports at plant­ing time. Firstly the root­balls, corms or bulbs won’t be dam­aged by a stake if the sup­port is al­ready in place be­side the plant­ing hole. Sec­ondly, it’s less likely that fo­liage will be dam­aged while ty­ing in the stems. Thirdly, it’s a lot less work. Many plants will look af­ter them­selves if the sup­port is the right size and shape. An up­turned hang­ing bas­ket (pic­tured) makes an al­most in­vis­i­ble frame for a small peren­nial. Plas­tic trel­lis mesh and metal sheep mesh work well as DIY frames, as do pruned branches and grape vines.

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

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