Handy hints for bed prepa­ra­tions

Wairarapa News - - CONVERSATIONS - RACHEL CLARE

PRE­PARE YOUR BEDS FOR SPRING CROPS

While you’re wait­ing for the ground to warm up enough to plant out vege seedlings, turbo boost your soil by adding a gen­er­ous amount of com­post (ap­prox­i­mately 40 litres per 2 square me­tres) and some well­rot­ted ma­nure, such as sheep pel­lets. Top this with a thick layer of mulch, such as peas­traw or bark. This helps to re­tain wa­ter and sup­press weeds. My in-laws, who grow all their own veges, place lay­ers of news­pa­pers (not the glossy stuff) over their gar­den beds. This cre­ates a nat­u­ral weed mat, which grad­u­ally breaks down over the com­ing months and is eaten by fungi, bac­te­ria and worms. Be­cause we have a heavy clay soil which will take time to im­prove, we’re tak­ing the easy route and grow­ing crops in raised beds with or­ganic veg­etable mix. How­ever, a fre­quently touted tip is that grow­ing a crop of pota­toes can help break up heavy clay soils. I’m cu­ri­ous to see if this works and am go­ing to give it a go. It’s im­por­tant to work in plenty of or­ganic mat­ter be­fore plant­ing them.

GROW A TOMATO RAINBOW

Where does one start when it comes to choos­ing toma­toes? There are so many to choose from (more than 20,000 va­ri­eties world­wide, and at least 15 dif­fer­ent types at your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre) that it can be over­whelm­ing. I like to grow a range of toma­toes of vary­ing colours and flavours, so I usu­ally buy a range of well-es­tab­lished plants at the gar­den cen­tre, or mix your toma­toes up a bit by grow­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties, then swap­ping seedlings with friends. An ideal tomato for be­gin­ner gar­den­ers is ‘Sweet 100’. True to its name, it pro­duces hun­dreds of sweet-tast­ing toma­toes for months on end. If you want some drama on your plate, ‘Black Krim’ is a dark-skinned heir­loom tomato with lots of flavour, which orig­i­nates from the Black Sea area. An­other dressed-to-im­press heir­loom va­ri­ety which re­ally shows its stripes of orange-yel­low is the heir­loom va­ri­ety ‘Tigerella’. When it comes to yel­low toma­toes, ‘Sun­gold F1’, a sweet­tast­ing yel­low-orange cherry tomato, is an ideal lunch­box filler. Toma­toes need steady warmth to grow so re­mem­ber that the golden rule is not to plant your toma­toes out un­til Labour Week­end or un­til the last frost is well over.

PLANT FOOD FOR MONARCH CATERPILLARS

Swan plants are to monarch but­ter­fly caterpillars what bam­boo is to pan­das so sow swan plant seeds now. These black and yel­low crawlers have mas­sive ap­petites so you’ll need quite a few plants if you want them to stick around long enough to meta­mor­phose. Raise seeds in seedrais­ing mix or sow di­rect out­side if frosts are over in your area. Swan plants like freedrain­ing soil and a shel­tered site, and will grow up to 2 me­tres. For find out more about monarch but­ter­flies, visit www.monarch.org.nz. Rachel Clare

PLANT PASSIONFRUIT

I know they only have a few good years in them be­fore they turn up their toes, but who can re­sist these tangy sub­trop­i­cal beau­ties? Passionfruit like free-drain­ing,

GET GROW­ING

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 light soil and a shel­tered spot and can be trained along fences, trel­lises and up ve­ran­das.Make sure you dig in plenty of com­post when plant­ing, and feed them with a gen­eral bal­anced fer­tiliser when plant­ing and then twice through­out the grow­ing sea­son. Vines planted now should fruit within 9-18 months.

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