In the Garden: Friday August 6, 2010

We are harvesting our white sapotes now

  • If you can grow orange trees or avocados, you may like to try the white sapote or casimiroa edulis – an exotic taste of Mexico whose fruit ripens at this time of the year. I would describe it as a cross between vanilla icecream and creamy custard in flavour and texture. It will tolerate light frosts only but you can get a good crop in our coastal areas and it is an attractive plant, tropical in appearance.
  • In case you are wondering after looking at our Outdoor Classroom this week, Mark sowed a rye and fescue grass seed mix for our lawn. He also added microlina – a fine native grass which he tries to encourage, for which he harvests his own seed. There are experts in grass seed mixes around if you wish to seek out good advice. Turf rye appears to be a good option for shady lawns but sandy lawns (which turn brown in summer) remain problematic if you don’t want to use kikuya.
  • Esteemed colleague Glyn Church advised last year that all winter pruning should be finished by the time birds start nesting. Some readers may need to start panicking – it is clear that the birds are gathering nesting materials here and our first clutch of ducklings is imminent. Give grape vines and kiwifruit priority if you have them. Their sap starts to run early.
  • If the tastes of Italy are what you covet, you can get Franchi seeds mailorder from Italian Seeds Pronto – the catalogue is available at or you can buy seeds off the shelf at Vetro or Fresha. These are large packets of seed with plenty to share and a range of Italianate goodies which go beyond the common tomato, capsicum and lettuce varieties.
  • Keen veg gardeners will be champing at the bit to prepare the ground for planting out (dig in green crops and start cultivating the ground) and sowing seed in trays or pots to keep under cover in order to get an early start in a few weeks time. You don’t gain anything by trying to get summer seed sown or plants out before the soils have had a chance to start warming up and the risk of frost is past. If you really want to try and push the pace, get a cloche or build a cold frame from old windows. However, carrots, onions, parsnip, beetroot, peas and brassicas don’t mind the cold if you want to be out sowing and planting. Get early crop potatoes in now – by the time they come through in three weeks time, you can mound them over to protect them from late frosts.
  • We gave the All Round Bad Idea of the Week Award to the recommendation in a national gardening publication that your wheelie bin makes a great container for growing potatoes (just drill holes in the bottom first, we are advised). Not only do few of us actually own our wheelie bin, as a container for growing potatoes it is miles too deep, will take far too much dirt or potting mix and that doesn’t address how one is supposed to get the harvest out from the bottom later in the season. If you can’t grow them in the ground, try stacks of tyres though why anybody would prefer to fiddle with potatoes in containers eludes us.