March 13, 2009 In the Garden

  • This week’s cold snap is a reminder that summer really has gone for this season and you mustn’t delay on getting the winter vegetables into the ground. You have missed the boat on brussels and main crop carrots, parsnips and leeks but you can still plant all the brassica family, Florence fennel, spinach, peas and winter salad vegies.
  • Make sure you get around to collecting your harvest of onions, pumpkins and anything else that is ready. It doesn’t do them any good left lying in the open, especially with the rains.
  • If you have spare ground in the vegetable garden, sow down a green crop for winter – lupins, oats or rye. Continually cropping the same ground strips out the goodness from the soil and digging in a green crop later is a much better approach to replenishing the fertility and improving the soil texture than relying on artificial fertilisers.
  • Sow annuals for winter and early spring flowering into trays now, if you want an early start. It is much cheaper to buy seed than plants. Annuals such as pansies, poppies and cornflowers are easy to grow from seed but you need to get them started in trays and then transplant them into the garden when they have a bit of size and a good root system.
  • It is very close to your last chance to prune cherry trees and plum trees this season. Don’t leave it any longer because winter pruning makes them vulnerable to disease, particularly silver blight.
  • It is a good time for taking cuttings of easy to root plants such as fuchsias, vireya rhododendrons, many perennials (ones like pinks and carnations which don’t clump) and even hydrangeas. All these can be rooted without special facilities. Select new growth which is firm and doesn’t snap when flexed, make a clean cut at the base, take a sliver off the bottom 2cm of the cutting (two slivers either side for a vireya) and put into potting mix, preferably one without fertiliser added. Not all plants are easy to root. In fact some are extremely difficult and without a home propagation unit (a hotbed) you are unlikely to succeed with most trees, rhododendrons, camellias and the like. Sadly, most fruit trees are budded or grafted and those that are done from cutting are not likely to root easily for the home gardener.
  • Readers who recall the story last year on the local importers of Italian heirloom vegetable seed may be interested to know that their website is now up and running at http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz. It is the wrong season for all those delectable tomatoes, basil, aubergines and the like (these are crops to sow in spring) but they do have some interesting brassicas, radicchio and finocchio (the latter being fennel bulbs).

The quote for the week comes from the late, great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright:

A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.