Time ripe for seed harvesting
COLLECT SEEDS FROM BIENNIAL PLANTS
Biennial vegetables and flowers that have finished their displays and are presenting dried seeds can be harvested now. Parsnips, carrots, celery, alexanders, Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) and perennials such as parcel, lovage and fennel all have an umbrellashaped flower structure that makes collecting and drying out their seeds easy.
Pick the seeds into a bowl and bring them inside for a final drying in the shade and out of the wind. Aim to do this when the day has warmed up and dried the seeds naturally and there will be few problems with storage. Fungus can grow where seeds are still a little damp and that can spoil the collection.
Once the unnecessary bits and pieces have been removed, the clean and dry seed can be stored in labelled jars and kept somewhere dry and dark.
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR BEEHIVES
If you keep bees, check on them regularly to see if they’ve been getting out often enough to have built up a good supply of honey for the coming cooler seasons. If they’ve been struggling against the wind or confined to their barracks by rough weather, they’ll likely be behind in their production and may require help from you in the form of dispensation from harvesting their honey – they might need it all to survive. Another thing to check is that their hive is sheltered from the wind and no long grass or shrubs are shading the boxes during the day. It’s already shady enough for them this season, without having that to contend with as well.
HARDEN OFF TUNNEL HOUSE SEEDLINGS
Move seedlings out from your tunnel house where they were sown as seeds last month and harden them off in a sheltered space in preparation for planting out into the open garden. The rough conditions we’ve had lately will pass and the temperatures will rise to normal levels as soon, as they say, as school starts again! I don’t know if that’ really true, but I hope it is, as we’ve been very patient. If we are blessed with a long, hot, late summer and autumn, veges that are planted now will catch up and produce good crops – well, perhaps it’s too late for sweetcorn and pumpkins, but southern gardeners never give up and are ever hopeful of pleasant surprises. Another thing to remember is to water your outdoor seedlings as well. Although it may seem wetter than usual, the wind dries out soil very quickly, so any water the plants may have received can be lost to the air and they won’t do well as a result of the dryness.
GET A LITTLE SUN ON YOUR SKIN
There’s been a lack of sunny days this summer and, like plants, people need sunlight too, so when a patch of blue does appear, it pays to drop everything and sneak outside for a quick bask. Productivity in plants falls when light levels are low, and the same thing happens with us. A cheerful outlook makes all the difference, and a sunny, cloudless day certainly helps.
TIDY UP BROKEN STEMS, FLOWERS AND BRANCHES
It’s been a remarkably blustery season, thanks to warmer-thanusual sea temperatures over in Australia. Climate change and the much-heralded over-energised atmosphere is a reality for us on our exposed, skinny islands and wind is what we’re getting as a result. Plants that have had to put up with extra pressure and more movement than they’re usually exposed to break, and when they do, it’s unwise (and unattractive)
to leave them hanging or scattered about. I’m pruning damaged branches off some of my more brittle native trees and shrubs, and picking up the tall flower spikes of the echiums that were towering so spectacularly until the wind flattened them to the ground. It all makes for excellent mulch and firewood, though, so I have no real complaints.
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