In the garden this week: April 8, 2011

Time to gather swan plant seed

Time to gather swan plant seed

• If you had swan plants which were large enough to set seed, gather the seed and hold it over for planting in early spring. A row of plants in the vegetable garden is a satisfying summer entertainment.

• The walnuts are starting to fall. If you have trees, you need to gather the nuts frequently or you will find the wildlife beats you there at night – particularly rats. Nuts need to be dried before they can be eaten and stored. We spread them in a single layer on trays for a couple of weeks and try and fight off the vermin which will conduct raiding parties until we can get them stored away. Mark sometimes resorts to putting the dried nuts in tightly tied onion bags hanging from the shed roof.

• Pumpkins store better if they are dried out first. Eat any thin skinned varieties of pumpkin first (the green buttercup type along with squash) and keep the tough iron grey ones for last. However, if you plan on storing pumpkins, make sure that their outer casing is undamaged or they will just rot.

• Onions also store better if they are first dried in warm, light conditions.

• You are running out of time for planting vegetables to harvest during winter. Soon it will be time to plant for spring. Get in peas, brassicas and winter leafy greens (silver beet, spinach and winter lettuce) without delay.

• Sow down bare areas of the vegetable patch with green crops such as oats, lupin, vetch, phaecelia, mustard or rye grass. They will germinate and grow, reduce weed infestations and when you dig them into the ground in early spring, they will add goodness and structure to the soil. Leguminous green crops like lupin and vetch also fix nitrogen in the soil.

• You are not likely to ripen tomatoes on old vines now. Gather any perfect fruit, green or not, because they can be ripened off the vine and are less likely rot.

• If you have areas in the ornamental garden which are looking scruffy, past it and generally unappealing, lifting perennials and dividing them can make a big difference. These plants appreciate frequent handling and will respond with renewed vigour, especially if you dig over the area before replanting, water them back in and add a scattering of fertiliser. Perennial plants include all the clumping types of plants, as well as flaxes and grasses.