Time to pre­pare win­ter crops

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - LYNDA HALLINAN

SOW­ING BRASSICAS FOR WIN­TER

Most brassicas – from cab­bages to broc­coli and Brussels sprouts – take 120 days from seed to har­vest, so start sow­ing win­ter crops now. Sow the large seeds in deep trays (to in­su­late them from the dry­ing sun), or if you have a seed bed you can cover, sow di­rect and gen­tly trans­plant your seedlings when they’re the same size as those in gar­den cen­tre pun­nets.

Bras­sica seedlings sprout in seven to 10 days while it’s warm, although they won’t ap­pre­ci­ate dry­ing out in full sun, so keep the trays moist by stand­ing them in a shal­low dish of wa­ter un­til the seeds ger­mi­nate.

Cover seed trays with very fine mesh net­ting or a poly­tun­nel or cloche to stop them be­ing eaten by white cab­bage but­ter­fly cater­pil­lars. Once trans­planted, con­tinue to pro­tect your seedlings with loosely draped mesh or Ki­wicare’s Or­ganic Caterpillar Bio Con­trol, an

eco-friendly al­ter­na­tive to chem­i­cal in­sec­ti­cides (it’s made from a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring soil bac­te­ria and has no with­hold­ing pe­riod).

FROM PLOT TO PLATE... OR TO PIGGY BANK?

I had to chuckle at a story in the Guardian news­pa­per this week about brib­ing kids to eat cour­gettes – with cash. Bri­tish obe­sity cam­paigner Tam Fry has sug­gested that cough­ing up a few coins per mouth­ful of healthy veg­eta­bles could help win the war against child­hood obe­sity. It fol­lows an­other study last year pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Health Eco­nom­ics that found that the num­ber of chil­dren who ate at least one serv­ing of fruit or veges dou­bled when they were re­warded with 25 cents each time.

My chil­dren, Lu­cas (5) and Lachie (3), love muck­ing about in my gar­den, sow­ing seeds and pulling car­rots, but it’s still a bat­tle to get them to eat any veg­eta­bles other than French fries with tomato sauce (that still counts, surely?) They like freshly pod­ded peas, corn on the cob and pota­toes, and will eat car­rots un­der duress. But they flat out refuse to eat any sort of salad green and they seem to de­velop an in­stant case of lock­jaw if I serve them cau­li­flower. Like many par­ents, I’m pretty crafty at con­ceal­ing veg­eta­bles in bak­ing, casseroles and pasta sauces: our spaghetti bolog­nese al­ways con­tains onion, fresh toma­toes, cap­sicums, finely grated car­rots and cour­gettes, though I’ve given up adding pars­ley, basil or any other herbs, hav­ing been forced to pick out ev­ery vis­i­ble shred of green stuff be­fore ei­ther of my boys would eat it!

How do you get your chil­dren (or grand­chil­dren) to eat veges? Email in­box@get­grow­ing.co.nz to share your sneaky tips and tricks.

PROP­A­GATE STRAW­BER­RIES

When your berries have fin­ished fruiting for the sea­son, they’ll send out long ten­ta­cles from the crown, with a tuft of green­ery at the end. Peg down these run­ners in loose soil around your plants and they’ll soon de­velop roots. Or bury re­cy­cled plant pots around your straw­berry patch and peg run­ners into the pots, so that when they’re es­tab­lished you can sim­ply snip off the um­bil­i­cal cord-like run­ners and grow the rooted plants on prior to trans­plant­ing early next spring. Prop­a­gat­ing straw­ber­ries from run­ners means you can re­ju­ve­nate your berry beds at no cost; re­place a third of your older plants each year.

WREST CON­TROL OVER THE SEEDY AND THE NEEDY

Sum­mer’s no time for pam­per­ing weak­lings, or turn­ing your back on the overly en­thu­si­as­tic. When re­sources – wa­ter, fer­tiliser and your mo­ti­va­tion to work hard in hot sun – are lim­ited, save your ef­fort for crops that will ac­tu­ally feed you. If you have crops such as rocket, sil­ver­beet, dill and cele­riac that have gone to seed, pull them out now (if not sav­ing their seed to re­sow), es­pe­cially in ar­eas with wa­ter­ing re­stric­tions. Don’t waste a pre­cious drop on weeds ei­ther. Cover bare soil with news­pa­per, then pile grass clip­pings and com­post on top as eco-friendly weed­mat.

PRUNE FRUITING GRAPE VINES & NET OUT BIRDS

Most grape va­ri­eties are still a good month or so away from ripen­ing, but now’s the time to put some ef­fort into tidy­ing and ty­ing up vines, and pro­tect­ing the de­vel­op­ing bunches of fruit from sun scald, botry­tis, mildew and thirsty birds.

Cut back ex­cess fo­liage – that’s any leafy growth 20-30cm from the last bunch of fruit on each trail­ing vine. This pre­vents the plants wast­ing their en­ergy on un­nec­es­sary ex­tra leaf growth, and also lifts some of the load (it’s so dis­heart­en­ing when fully laden vines snap). Add ex­tra ties too. You can also trim off large leaves un­der the hanging bunches, to im­prove air flow and re­duce the risk of fun­gal dis­eases. But don’t hack too much of the top growth off, as this shades the fruit as it ripens.

If you’ve lost your grapes to botry­tis or bunch rot in the past (these fun­gal dis­eases cause the al­most-ripe bunches to wither and shrink on the vine), it’s worth ap­ply­ing a pre­ven­tive spray of fungi­cide, such as liq­uid cop­per or Yates Fun­gus Fighter now. Don’t leave it any longer how­ever, as many sprays can’t be used within a month of har­vest. 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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