Spring pro­vides a steady work­load



Can you ever plant too much beet­root? I don’t think so. It’s such a ver­sa­tile vege, be­ing use­ful (and de­li­cious) at ev­ery growth stage. Beets can be sown thickly for snip­ping as mi­cro­greens or gourmet salad leaves, or plucked af­ter 8–10 weeks to roast whole or grate raw into sal­ads. Or you can leave them in the ground all sum­mer then boil, peel, slice and pre­serve ham­burger-sized slabs in jars.

To pre­serve beet­root, make a sim­ple pick­ling so­lu­tion from 1 cup malt vine­gar, 1 cup wa­ter and cup white or brown su­gar. Sim­mer for 5 min­utes then pour over the hot beet­root in jars and seal. Pick­led beets keep for at least a year.

Sow beet­root di­rect, or trans­plant pun­nets of seedlings, be­ing care­ful to han­dle their roots gen­tly. Plant in rich, freedrain­ing, well-cul­ti­vated soil (to at least 20cm deep). Beets pre­fer to keep their roots cool so, if pos­si­ble, choose a spot that gets a lit­tle respite from the hottest sun in mid­sum­mer, or they can pre­ma­turely bolt to seed.


If you haven’t put in any spuds yet, don’t panic: you’re not alone. It has been too wet at my place to plant any­thing this spring.

Last year I learned that pa­tience is a virtue when it comes to plant­ing pota­toes, for all my seed spuds rot­ted in the sod­den soil be­fore they had a chance to sprout. And this year has been even wet­ter, so I’m glad I waited, but now time is run­ning out if I’m go­ing to get a de­cent crop to dig by Christ­mas.

If, like me, you’re run­ning late, stick to the va­ri­eties ‘Rocket’ and ‘Swift’. These are among the fastest of the waxy early spuds, tak­ing 70–90 days from plant­ing to pro­duce tu­bers.

Both va­ri­eties are vig­or­ous and gen­er­ous pro­duc­ers. Don’t wait for them to flower, as they of­ten don’t. To judge their readi­ness, just fos­sick un­der a plant af­ter 70 days to feel for their size.

For the quick­est potato crop, don’t bury them deep. In­stead, mound up the soil in rows run­ning north to south (so the soil is warmed all day by the sun) and slip your seed pota­toes into the mid­dle of the mound. Once they’re up, feed with sheep pel­lets, chook ma­nure or gen­eral gar­den fer­tiliser and wa­ter it in well.


Peren­nial chives will be pop­ping back up af­ter their win­ter dor­mancy. Make sure the soil around them is weeded and cleared of mulch, fallen leaves or win­ter de­bris, so they don’t hit any ma­jor ob­struc­tions as they emerge.

If you keep chooks, grow­ing your own chives is a must, as no omelette or egg may­on­naise sand­wich is the same with­out them.

Chives – both the tra­di­tional slender va­ri­ety and its broadleafed gar­lic-flavoured sib­ling – are easy to grow in moist soil in a sunny spot. Give them a help­ing hand with liq­uid fer­tiliser early in the sea­son.


Got gaps? Fill them with flow­ers. Most spring vege gar­dens look a bit bar­ren so, while you wait for the soil to warm up suf­fi­ciently for beans, toma­toes, cour­gettes, pump­kins and their space-hog­ging sib­lings, whack in some cheap and cheer­ful pot­ted colour. Most spring flow­ers come in pas­tel shades of lemon, baby blue and pale pink, but I love peren­nial geums for their racy and re­li­able shades of orange, yel­low and red. Look for them in gar­den cen­tres across the coun­try now.

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