June 20, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

The good news is that with the shortest day looming, our day length has reached its minimum. The bad news is that the full force of winter does not usually hit until after that date so do not be lulled into a false sense of hope that winter may miss us this year. Be prepared for frosts which are bound to strike even coastal areas soon.

  • Continue the autumn/winter clean up around the garden and as you finish each area, lay a cover of organic mulch to suppress weed growth and add humus to the soil. Don’t waste the autumn leaves. These will rot down quickly in damp, dark conditions and form an attractive and reasonably nutritious mulch.
  • If you have not yet planted your garlic, do not delay. We remind you again to keep to New Zealand garlic and to avoid the cheap imported crops which can carry virus and will give poor yields.
  • Seed potatoes are in the shops now. The usual advice is to chit them, in other words to spread them on a tray and leave for a few weeks in a dark place to encourage the eyes to sprout. Potato enthusiasts in mild areas will be planting their early potatoes now in frost free areas. Compost will give an added blanket of protection from the cold.
  • Continue sowing vegetables such as winter spinach, brassicas and winter lettuce. It is better to sow seed into individual pots at this time of the year (egg cartons can be used for this) and to plant out the seedlings as they get a little size.
  • Broad beans can still be sown.
  • Dig yams now to avoid feeding the slugs. Yams are a member of the oxalis family. Store the harvest in cool, dark conditions.
  • Deciduous fruit trees can be pruned from now on.
  • Mark is pleased to report that he is still harvesting sweet corn and tomatoes. Those who followed his regular advice to put in late crops earlier in the season may also be enjoying summer and autumn bounty well into winter.

A quote this week from Sir Simon Hornby, a past president of the Royal Horticultural Society:

I hate rose gardens. I never know why people have them – they don’t have weigela gardens or philadelphus gardens.