Pre­par­ing pota­toes for plant­ing

Upper Hutt Leader - - MOTORING - BAR­BARA SMITH

reusing pot­ting mix that has al­ready grown a pre­vi­ous crop.

SEEDS AND SOIL TEM­PER­A­TURES

af­fect the tem­per­a­ture too. Light, aer­ated pot­ting mix that’s well drained warms up much faster than dense, wa­ter­logged clay. In­ter­est­ingly, the soil tem­per­a­ture is much more sta­ble than the air tem­per­a­ture. Early the fol­low­ing morn­ing, the air tem­per­a­ture was 11C, the raised bed and the cop­per were 12C and the clay soil was still at 10C. So why does it mat­ter? Seeds need spe­cific tem­per­a­tures for ger­mi­na­tion.

You’ll have much bet­ter re­sults if you wait un­til the tem­per­a­ture is in the right range be­fore sow­ing spring and sum­mer crops. Beans, for ex­am­ple, need soil tem­per­a­tures of 18-25C for re­li­able ger­mi­na­tion. There are some soil warm­ing tech­niques to speed things up. Try cover­ing a gar­den bed with a cloche or a sheet of plas­tic to warm up the soil for a cou­ple of weeks be­fore plant­ing. I’m us­ing the poly­car­bon­ate sheets to warm up my sog­gi­est gar­den bed.

MADE TO MEA­SURE

Plant la­bels and seed pack­ets usu­ally in­clude in­struc­tions for how far apart seedlings or seeds should be spaced so they can grow to their full po­ten­tial. In dis­play gar­dens like the Lost Gar­dens of Heli­gan in Corn­wall, Eng­land, where Vic­to­rian walled gar­dens are metic­u­lous recre­ated, they use marked mea­sur­ing tapes to line up the veg­eta­bles in reg­i­men­tal ranks.I don’t bother to use a ruler as I went ‘‘dig­i­tal’’ long ago. Noth­ing elec­tronic, just my fin­gers, thumbs and whole gum­booted foot. My handspan is 18cm so I al­low a tad over a handspan be­tween seedlings that need to be 20cm apart. The width of my hand in­clud­ing the thumb is 10cm and that of my in­dex fin­ger is 1cm. From the tip of my in­dex fin­ger to the sec­ond joint is 5cm and my gum­boot is 27cm long. Learn the mea­sure­ments of your own hands and feet as a guide when sow­ing seeds or thin­ning out seedlings. When di­lut­ing fer­tiliser, it’s handy to know that a stan­dard plas­tic bucket is 10 litres. For me, one hand­ful is 75g, so I can work out how many hand­fuls of fer­tiliser or gyp­sum to spread.

CHOP DOWN GREEN CROPS FOR MULCH

If you’ve grown green ma­nure crops over win­ter, chop them down be­fore the stalks get woody or they flower and set seed. It’s usu­ally rec­om­mended to dig them in so they’ll break down over 5-6

GET GROW­ING

This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from NewZealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ing.co.nz. weeks in time for plant­ing spring crops. But soils are of­ten too wet and puggy to dig. Al­ter­na­tively you can chop and drop – just let the cut fo­liage lie on the sur­face as mulch. I avoid dig­ging al­to­gether so the soil pro­file isn’t dis­turbed and I don’t have the space to let beds lie empty while the green crop breaks down. In­stead I shred my green crop with what­ever prun­ings are on hand and spread the lot as mulch around the next crop that’s planted.

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