Preparing potatoes for planting
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
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.