We had a minor triumph here with the first bowl of home grown strawberries this week. It is necessary to cover your strawberries with netting if you want a harvest. The birds are willing to eat them as soon as a small amount of red shows so will beat you to the fruit pretty well every time. We need a little more warmth and sun to bring up the sugar levels but the first fruit of the season are pretty special when you grow them yourself.
- Limes have a much shorter season than lemons but are excellent to use if, like ours, they are thin skinned and full of juice. A gin drinking friend tells me that you can freeze slices of fresh lime and use them instead of ice cubes in your G & T. A Chinese garden visitor told us it is common practice in Asia to freeze fresh lime slices for use in cooking. And the fresh new leaves are excellent to use in Asian cooking over the next couple of months. They are tender and very aromatic at this time of the year. If you have the space and are in a warmish area, it is worth growing both a lime and a lemon tree.
- We grow quite a bit of citrus fruit in our garden and have fresh oranges all year round. Mark’s parents discovered 40 years ago that having citrus grafted onto trifoliata stock is the secret to growing them successfully this far south.
- This is the worst time of the year for weed growth. Stop this first crop of weeds going to seed or you will rue your failure for years to come. Push hoeing is very effective on a sunny day when the sun will frazzle the weeds but you have to push hoe before the seed heads have formed or rake up the weeds to prevent spreading the seeds.
- Do not delay any longer on getting woody trees and shrubs into the ground so they can get settled in before drier and warmer conditions come (which they will). If you are in an area which dries out quickly (coastal areas like Pukearuhe and Patea), you can heel plants into the vegetable garden for summer and relocate to their final position in autumn.
- Getting the vegetable garden producing for summer and autumn should be a priority. Aubergines, melons, tomatoes, all the members of the cucurbit family (cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins and the like), main crop potatoes, sweetcorn and kumara can go in now.
- For a fun activity with children, plant sunflower seeds. There is little to rival a giant sunflower for a sense of achievement though you do need to think ahead on how you plan to stake a 2 to 3 metre triffid because the achievement is equalled by the disappointment when littlies find their giant has fallen over or bent and snapped. Dwarf sunflowers are for adults. Give children the real McCoy at least once in their life.
- Start deadheading rhodos as they finish flowering. Apparently if you oil your fingers (olive oil is fine), you don’t get the sticky residue on your fingers.