September 25, 2009 In the Garden

  • It is an early spring this year and as yet the season is showing no sign that it will slow down and average out. For gardeners this means heeding the warnings. Summer may arrive correspondingly early. Don’t delay on getting woody trees and shrubs planted. Get mulches onto garden beds to protect against drying out. Get any lifting and dividing of clumping plants done as soon as you can. Plant hedges without delay so the plants can settle in and get some fresh roots out before summer. Get fruit trees planted.
  • If you use hormone sprays (Tordon Gold for lawns is a common one, as is Grazon in the farming sector) put them away for the next month. Plants coming into growth are vulnerable to hormone sprays, particularly magnolias, grapes and kiwifruit. It is bad enough to affect your own plants but when your spray drift invisibly and imperceptibly descends upon your neighbours, most will be too polite to tell you what they think of you, but it won’t be good.
  • If you are growing strawberries, pinch off the first white flowers of the season which may be appearing. You want the plant to put its energy into growing larger and getting stronger before it exhausts itself setting fruit for you to eat.
  • Kumaras are one vegetable which needs maximum growing time to get a good crop. It is too early to put them in the ground yet, but you can be laying out the tubers in a warm, dark place to encourage them to start sprouting.
  • Yams can also be prepared now for planting soon. You can usually get away with using tubers from the fruit and veg section of the supermarket but sprout them first. What we grow as a yam in this country is a member of the dreaded oxalis family but they are not too keen on dry, sandy soil which heats up and burns the fleshy stems. Plant yams where they have some space to clump and spread a little and do not expect to confine them to tidy rows and get a good harvest.
  • We have been gently harvesting sapotes (the near tropical fruit from Central America with soft white flesh resembling warm icecream) and bamboo shoots. The latter we assume to be phyllostachys edulis and once they have been blanched in boiling salted water, they are pretty much identical to the ones you buy tinned. We are still eating our Hass avocados, as we have been since January. Unlike the hard avocado fruit you currently see in the supermarket where the coppery sheen tells you it has been picked too early and it will never ripen properly, ours are still from last season and taste just as they should. If you like avos, you live in a coastal area and are warm enough, this is a tree that will pay for itself as soon as it starts cropping. Just buy a grafted, named variety and don’t waste your time with a seedling.