Plenty to plant during cool season
GROW SILVERBEET & SWISS CHARD
Make life a little easier by growing cool season stalwarts Swiss chard and silverbeet. Both of these greens are full of goodness as well as being versatile in the kitchen. I use the leaves in soups, omelettes, quiches, lasagne, pies, pasta dishes or simply steamed with salt and pepper on top.
They are also frost-hardy, easy to grow and care for, and untroubled by disease during winter. In the supermarket, silverbeet bunches sell for around $5 so it makes sense to grow your own.
Plant punnets of seedlings now and lay down snail bait to protect them while they are establishing themselves.
You can also sow seed now, although in the dead of winter, it’s best to raise the seeds in trays undercover – or grow in a glasshouse if you have one. Space the seeds a few centimetres apart and cover lightly with seed-raising mix. Once the seedlings are up, give them a boost with liquid fertiliser diluted in tepid water. Silverbeet grows well in pots too, just ensure they have adequate water and regular feeding with liquid fertiliser.
TURN YOUR COMPOST HEAP
While the composting process slows down to a crawl during winter, it doesn’t stop completely. To keep things ticking over, turn your heap over with a garden fork and keep it insulated and protected from the rain with a piece of carpet or a tarpaulin over the top. Tips for troublesome compost: • If your compost isn’t breaking down, the heap might not be in the ideal spot. The best place for compost heaps is a warm, sunny space to aid decomposition.
• Slimy compost is often a sign that your heap is out of balance and has too much nitrogen-rich material. The most common culprit is grass clippings which get compacted and become a smelly mess. To combat this, add smaller amounts of clippings or alternate in layers with carbonrich material such as dry leaves, twigs, straw, cardboard and shredded paper to allow more air to circulate.
• Ensure your garden hose is long enough to reach your compost heap. Too much water isn’t good for compost, but neither is allowing it to become too dry. Dig down a little to check the moisture levels and give a spray with the hose if required.
BUY & PLANT NEWSEASON STRAWBERRIES
New season strawberry plants will be in garden centres from now until spring. As a general rule, aim for 6-8 plants for each person to enjoy these delicious berries all summer. Plant in a sunny spot with free-draining, fertile soil. During winter, crowns can rot if they get too wet so dig in plenty of compost at planting time. If you grow strawberries in pots or berry towers (pictured), an easy option is to plant them into Daltons Strawberry Mix – it has all the nutrients they need. Summer is still a long way off, but if you plant strawberries now, they will be in flower by the middle of August and you should get your first taste around mid-October.
KEEP PLANTING CORIANDER
I’ve been in love with coriander for a while and it’s by far my favourite herb. Luckily, I can grow it year-round in my Auckland garden, however that doesn’t mean I always have it on hand. Coriander is a relatively fast-growing plant, so in order to have a constant supply, you need to be sowing seeds every month or so. Sow seeds direct (coriander has a delicate taproot that doesn’t transplant well) into a sunny part of the garden – or grow in containers or under cover. Thin to 5cm apart once established and expect to start harvesting leaves from 40 days.
GROW WINTER SALAD GREENS
Enjoy homegrown salads by filling a few containers with winter-friendly salad greens. While growth won’t be as rapid as spring or summer, pots placed on a sunny, sheltered deck, patio or in a tunnel house will ensure they grow and mature as fast as possible.
Plant loose leaf lettuces, rather than hearting types which will save time. Grow baby spinach and kale, and in frost-free areas, beetroot for its red leaves. Perennial arugula – similar to rocket, as well as cold-hardy corn salad (Valerianella locusta), miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) can all be sown or raised in trays now too.
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