23 October, 2009 In the Garden This Week

  • Every vegetable gardener knows that Labour Weekend is a signal for the great plant out. Sensible gardeners in colder areas will be cautious but in most of coastal Taranaki it is now fine to put in the first sowings of corn and to plant out all the summer veg such as tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, pumpkin and melons. Main crop potatatoes and kumara can go in, along with peas and carrots. This just may be the biggest weekend of the vegetable year. It is not critical that these vegetables all get planted this weekend but give priority to melons, kumaras and aubergines, if you like them, because they need long growing seasons.
  • Thin out earlier sowings of vegetable seed. One lesson we have learned from the micro-veg/mesclun fashion is that all these fresh, young thinnings are delicious in salads and stirfrys.
  • We are currently eating our fennel bulbs and yet again we are reminded of just how versatile and easy this vegetable is. Its aniseed taste is very mild when eaten raw (grated in salads or salsas) and all but disappears when roasted or sliced for stir fries. The fennel we are eating at the moment was planted at the end of February this year, but you can sow a crop now.
  • A reminder that it pays to keep an eye on self seeded annual flowers and to pull out inferior specimens before they get too far down the track. I particularly dislike the crosses we get between old fashioned blue pansies and yellow pansies – they show as a yukky blue and brown combination with no merit. If you don’t keep an eye on your self seeders, in time they will become dominated by the lowest common denominator. We saw it happen over a period of years in a planting of beautiful electric blue meconopsis poppies in Dunedin Botanic Gardens. With the red form in the same bed, over time they ended up with an awful lot of murky maroon colours and far too few pure blues.
  • Daffodil bulbs can be protected from the dreaded narcissi fly by removing foliage and piling on a layer of mulch. The flies lay their eggs in the top collar of the bulb and gain access down the foliage stems. Daffodils need 65 days of growth, which is a very precise figure. If you can recall back that far, as long as your daffodils were in growth by mid July, you can safely remove the foliage now and put them to bed for summer.
  • While the Great Vegetable Plant Out takes priority for most people (this is your summer and early autumn harvest you are planting), in the ornamental garden, it is getting perilously close to the last call for planting out woody trees and shrubs and any pruning and shaping. It is also the optimum time for feeding and for getting mulches onto garden beds. No wonder spring is such a busy time in the garden.
  • Writing of the Labour Weekend plantout, I relocated Mark, a good North Taranaki boy, to Dunedin for three years in our early life together. Corn is a very marginal crop there because the growing season is too short and he carefully started his corn plants in baby pots and planted them out at Labour Weekend, as one does. It snowed on the Tuesday and his poor little corn plants all died. We moved back north.