Lynda Hal­li­nan’s 100 tips for vege gar­den­ing, grow your own hops, herbal reme­dies for hay fever, and make a self-wa­ter­ing planter.

NZ Gardener - - Letter - Jo McCar­roll

Keep sow­ing and grow­ing like mad.

Novem­ber of­fers warm days and nights and (hope­fully) your plants will still feel the ben­e­fit of spring rain, so if there’s any­thing you plan to grow this sea­son that you haven’t al­ready planted or sown, plant or sow it now! You can sow basil, car­rots, cu­cum­bers, beet­root, dwarf and climb­ing beans, let­tuces, spinach, Asian greens, radishes, squash and pump­kins. I'd sow ev­ery­thing di­rect – with soil so warm, there's not much to be gained from start­ing in trays. You can plant more toma­toes, egg­plants and pep­per seedlings, ku¯mara (if it’s warm enough where you are) and more pota­toes too.

Try some un­usual zuc­chini va­ri­eties.

It’s (fa­mously) easy to grow too many of this pro­lific cu­cur­bit crop, so this year try grow­ing the more un­usual va­ri­eties: the yel­low ’Gold Rush’, the bi­colour ’Ze­phyr’ which has a green bot­tom half like it’s been dipped in paint (both Kings Seeds), or the French heir­loom ‘De Rond Nice’ or the round stripy ’Pic­colo’ (both Eg­mont Seeds). They are all just as easy to grow, but you might find it eas­ier to give the ex­cess away if you have a sur­plus than the bog stan­dard green sort! Give zuc­chini rich, well-drained soil and a spot that gets full sun. Space at least a me­tre apart as they spread out more than you ex­pect and the im­proved air­flow helps re­duce the im­pact of the fun­gal dis­eases such as pow­dery mildew to which they are so prone. Speak­ing of which, sow 3-4 zuc­chini now, and then an­other 3-4 in six weeks. That way you’ll have back-up plants com­ing into pro­duc­tion when the first are struck by (in­evitable) mildew.

Take early ac­tion against mildew.

While it’s true that the fun­gal dis­ease pow­dery mildew is all but a sure thing as soon as the weather be­comes warm and dry, a lit­tle pre­ven­tion will go a long way to slow­ing its spread. Treat cour­gettes, pump­kins, cu­cum­bers and mel­ons with a DIY fungi­cide made with 1 tea­spoon of bak­ing soda, 2 litres of wa­ter and a squirt of dish­wash­ing liq­uid. Spray this on fo­liage in the evening once or twice a week (and more of­ten if it rains).

Sow sweet sum­mer corn di­rect.

Like spuds, corn is split into early va­ri­eties (such as ‘Early Chief’, Yates) and main crop types (such as Kings Seeds’ ‘Florida Su­per­sweet’) which take a lit­tle longer to pro­duce. Sow an early sort and a main crop now to ex­tend your har­vest.

Take steps for a great tomato crop.

If you are grow­ing in­de­ter­mi­nate or vine toma­toes, it’s good prac­tice to re­move the lat­er­als, or the side shoots that grow be­tween the main stem and the fruit­ing branch. Let­ting these grow will use up the en­ergy you want the plant to put into the fruit, and re­duce air­flow. If grow­ing de­ter­mi­nate or bush toma­toes, leave the lat­er­als alone – de­ter­mi­nate toms are go­ing to pro­duce the same num­ber of toma­toes re­gard­less, so you might as well save your­self the trou­ble! On both sorts, re­move leaves that are touch­ing the ground, as they make easy ac­cess points for pests and dis­ease. And give plants a boost with a fer­tiliser de­signed for fruit­ing plants – look for one rich in potas­sium (such as Yates Tomato Food) – ev­ery two or three weeks.

Grow corn.

Don’t stop sow­ing.

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