Plenty to plant dur­ing cool sea­son

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - RACHEL OLD­HAM

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

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