Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring is finally here this month!

Though it’s a very exciting thought to start planting everything in the garden RIGHT NOW! Try hold off a little longer with planting any summer crops as New Zealand spring can be very unpredictable and a rogue frost could ruin all your hard work. Now is a good time to really ensure your soil is in top-notch condition, pack it full with lovely organic materials so your garden is ready for when it is planting time.

Sow from seed this month: Beetroot, broccoli, radishes, coriander, celery, carrots, silver beet, spring onions, radish, peas, broad beans, spinach, turnips

Sow from seedlings this month: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, potatoes, silverbeet, spinach, kohl rabi, kale

Prepare your soil

Winter is tough on the old soil, so add in lost nutrients by piling on more organic matter and mulch. This can be aged manure, dead leaves, chopped seaweed, spent plants (chopped up). Adding on a thick layer of mulch will help keep those nutrients in your soil, and as spring warms into summer, it will help conserve water.

Spring Clean around the garden

Pick up any dead leaves or plant debris and chuck them in the compost. Take this time to do some weeding too as the soft spring soil should make it a bit easier to pull them out. If your compost isn’t a hot compost, invasive weeds might grow back if put in there. Fix that problem by making a weedy tea with them instead. Chuck them in a bucket, fill with water and let them steep for a couple of weeks. Then, you’ll have a lovely liquid fertiliser to use on your spring plants.

Quick Sow Spring Seeds 

September/October can be a little bit of a lull period in the garden, food wise. There’s not an awful lot to harvest from winter as you’ll be emptying your garden beds for summer crops. I like to use this time to direct sow quick growers like radishes, baby turnips, and beetroot (where I use the leaves in salads as I wait for the actual root to grow). Some of these can be harvested in as little as 30 days so you can at least have something fresh to harvest while you wait.

Feed existing plants

Feed your garlic and your rhubarb now, both are heavy feeders! For rhubarb, apply some compost and well-rotted manure around the crown of the plant to feed it and retain moisture. Feed your garlic with a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as aged manure. Add some to a watering can and water around the roots of your garlic so your garlic can take up the nutrients quickly.

Strawberries and all other berries can be fed now too in preparation for a summer full of berries. Aged, well-rotted manure is such a helpful friend in the garden to do this job. Then mulch!

Check the soil around your deciduous trees and see if it needs attention. The rough winter weather can play havoc with the earth. Add compost if you need to around the base of the tree (make sure it doesn’t touch the trunk). Mulch your fruit trees.

Let your plants bloom

Some of your winter crops may be flowering now. If you want to give the bees a treat or you want to save seeds for next year, let them flower away. Let the flowers of whatever plant you’re seed saving from, dry out on the plant and then remove them and place in a brown paper bag. After drying them out further for another week or so, inside, give the bag a good shake to remove the seeds from the seed head. Label the bag and store in an airtight bag until you want to plant.

Some plants like parsley or coriander are excellent self-seeders so you can just the let the plant do its thing and new plants will pop up next season.

Attract Bees

Have your broad beans been flowering but there are no beans in sight? Each little flower needs to be pollinated and because of the cooler weather, the honeybees aren’t as active and it’s a big job for the bumble bees! We can try and attract more bees to our garden by planting beneficial flowers that bees love. Read more here –> Beneficial flowers in the garden.

Start Seedlings Inside

Tomatoes, eggplants, chilis… these can all be started inside now so you can get ahead when it’s time to plant them out. Traditionally labour weekend is a safe bet to plant them out as the risk of frost is gone. For help starting seedlings inside, read more here—> Starting seedlings indoor.

Potatoes

Plant potatoes now so you have fresh spuds for Christmas! Generally, you can harvest potatoes after they have flowered and died back but not all potatoes flower so this is not a sure-fire method. Keep dates of when you planted your potatoes and what variety and then go from there.

I have listed a few common types and their harvesting times.

  • Rocket- 60-70 days, this a quick growing variety
  • Cliff Kidney- 60-90 days (depending on baby potatoes or if you want bigger ones)
  • Agria- 150 days for fully matured potatoes
  • Jersey Benne- 60-70 days, another quick growing variety
  • Highlander- 80-90 days
  • Red rascal- 90 days
  • Swift- 70 days
  • Liseta- 90 days
  • Purple Passion- 70-80 days

Happy Gardening!

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

One of the best ways to get ahead in the vegetable garden and save money is to start your own seedlings inside, from scratch.

In the garden centre, the seedling punnets can be pretty expensive at $2-$3 for only 6 or so seedlings. A packet of seeds is that price but for 100 seeds! What you are really paying for is the time that was spent growing the seedlings.

A little preparation and planning now can mean a full vegetable garden for only a little money.

Spring Seedlings

I start some of my spring seedlings nice and early but I won’t physically plant most of the seedlings into the garden until mid/late October when the ground is much warmer. Even if the air feels warmer as the weather warms up, the cold ground takes a lot longer to warm.

In the meantime, while the weather is warming, my seedlings will get moved to bigger containers as they outgrow their starting ones, and a glasshouse when they get bigger. If you don’t have a glasshouse or much room in the sunniest spot of your house, then don’t plant too many seedlings all at once. Some seeds such as pumpkins and zucchini do muc better being direct sown in the garden when the soil has warmed up but as in my own garden I have a very short growing season because of lack of sun, I start mine earlier. Assess your own garden and space before deciding when to start.

Everything in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum and, chili can all be started inside late winter/early spring as they need a long growing season. They can be transplanted to bigger pots as they grow and keep them in a sunny space.

If you have access to a glasshouse you can start cucurbits such as melons and cucumbers early spring too if they will end up in there. If you don’t have one of those, it would be best to wait 4-6 weeks before your last frost date before sowing those inside.

Depending on where you are situated and the chance of frost in your area, the date of planting in the garden may have to be pushed out later.

What you need:

  1. A warm and light space. Warmth is most important as the seed germinates, but light becomes vital when the seed pops through the soil. If your seedlings don’t get enough sunlight they’ll become thin and ‘leggy’ as they search for the sun. If you don’t have a sunny window, invest in a grow light like this one. They aren’t too expensive and the LED red and blue lights mimic the sun.
  2. Seed Trays- There are many different sorts you can get, including biodegradable ones like jiffy pellets that can be planted straight in the ground.
  3. Seed raising mix- If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, an organic seed raising mix will give your seeds a great start. If you’re on a tight budget you can make your own seed raising mix, here.
  4. Labels (for what you planted and the date)- As much as you think you’ll remember, trust me, you end up forgetting what you planted and where and when. Labels are essential!
  5. Watering- Something that waters gently, like a spray bottle, so the soil doesn’t move around too much and disturb the seed.
  6. Seeds- of course, you need seeds.

Soaking Seeds

This part isn’t compulsory but you can soak larger seeds, like beans and pumpkin before planting. It shaves off even more time as it will soften the protective seed coat and let the seedling emerge quicker. This is especially helpful if you’re starting your seedlings off later and you need to catch up on time!

Seedlings

Place them in a bowl of water for 8-12 hours. After soaking, take care when handling the seeds as they’ll be more delicate and plant them in your seed trays straight away.

Seed Trays

There are many different seed trays available, including using what you have at home.

A plastic container with a few holes punched at the bottom will work fine, but I definitely prefer biodegrading containers that can be planted in the garden without disturbing the seedling roots. This is especially important if you’re starting seedlings like beans, beetroot or artichokes inside which don’t transplant particularly well.

Biodegradable seed trays could include cups made from newspaper, egg cartons, cardboard boxes or Jiffy pellets They are little, compressed pellets made from peat. They expand as you add water and provide all the nutrients your growing seed needs until it is time to transplant in the garden. Once it is time, you can pop the whole thing in and it will decompose in the soil

Seedlings

To keep things extra warm, you can place your seedlings in mini greenhouses.

You can buy them like the one pictured above, or make your own.

D.I.Y Greenhouse

Place your seedling trays in a large container that can that has higher sides than the seedling trays. Cover that container with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in it for aeration. 

If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, fill your seed trays with seed raising mix and use a spray bottle to moisten the soil. Sprinkle your seeds over this moistened soil and gently press the seeds into the soil. You can add a small layer of soil over the top of the large seeds but for the smaller ones, you won’t need to cover them. Pressing them down will suffice.

Keep your soil moistened daily or as it dries out, but don’t wet it too much that it gets waterlogged.

Make sure to label what you have planted and include the date that you planted the seeds. This is so you can keep a record of how it is growing and know when it should be ready.

Transplanting and hardening off

As your seedlings emerge, the first set of leaves it grows are the seed leaves and aren’t considered the ‘true leaves’, the next set of leaves it grows however are. Once your seedling grows two sets of true leaves, you can start hardening it off to prepare it for life outside.

Place your seed trays outside on a calm day for 3-4 hours so they get used to the sunlight and outside temperatures. Decrease your watering to every second or third day. Slowly increase their exposure to cooler temperatures.

As the ground warms and there is no risk of frost anymore, your hardened plants can be transplanted. Don’t rush this step though, it’s not worth the risk transplanting them too soon only to lose them to a cold snap.

After transplanting your seedlings, water them well with Seasol to avoid transplant shock.

Happy Gardening!

Winter in the Garden- August To Do List

Winter in the Garden- August To Do List

Buds on deciduous trees are swelling, there’s an abundance of citrus and spring bulbs are standing tall ready to show their faces (or in many cases, they already have!)  August is just so close to spring that you can practically smell it.

What to sow this month from seed: broad beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbages, onions, peas, rocket, lettuce, radishes, silverbeet, spinach

What to plant this month from seedlings: asparagus, onions, broccoli, cabbages, garlic, silverbeet, lettuce, Chinese cabbages, spinach, silverbeet

August in the Garden

Prepare garden beds for spring planting

With the wet winter weather nearly behind us, we can asses the damage it has done to the soil. The pounding of the rain will have compacted it as well as people stepping on it when it’s wet.

Take time this month to prepare your vegetable beds and return them to their former glory by adding organic matter to the soil in the form of things such as compost, aged and well-rotted manure, chopped seaweed,  leaf mould and lots of mulch to keep all those nutrients locked in there.

I like to collect as much as I can from my nearby beaches and forests in August, so I can lay it on thickly in all my empty spaces in the garden. By the time I plant spring seedlings (in October/November), it will be amazing soil.

Enjoy your citrus

Homegrown citrus is at its best right now. If you’re overloaded with fruit, there are an overload of recipes out there to make sure it’s all put to good use. Try middle eastern preserved lemons to add a citrus kick to roast chicken, salad dressing or pasta. Tui Garden Products has a great recipe on their website. You can find it here.

August in the Garden

Plant salad greens in containers

Things can still take a little longer to grow as the sun doesn’t stay up as long as it will in spring and summer. Growing salad greens such as rocket in containers mean you can place them in the sunniest spots and move them around if need be. They grow quickly and offer a ‘cut and come again’ harvest so you can be eating fresh salad greens as you please.

August in the Garden

Start a compost bin

If you haven’t got one already, setting up a compost bin will help you get rid of all the fallen leaves and plant debris as well as kitchen scraps, vacuum dust, pet hair, and newspaper. You don’t actually need a physical bin if you have room to make a compost heap do so, as the bins do fill up quickly.

A compost heap needs a mix of ‘brown layers’ and ‘green layers’. The brown provide the carbon and are things like twigs, dead leaves, straw, hay, cardboard, and newspaper. The green provide the nitrogen and are your fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, eggshells etc.

You want to layer your compost like a lasagna. For each layer of brown, add a layer of green. Try to make sure no pieces are too big in your compost as they’ll take longer to break down. Then you wait as the worms do their thing and break it down for you. To speed things up, cover the compost to keep it warm (with a lid if it’s a bin or a burlap sack if it’s a heap) and turn it once a week.

Start seedlings inside

You can get well ahead in your spring planting by starting seedlings inside. Here’s some more info on starting seedlings inside.

Plant Fruit Trees 

It’s still a good time to plant deciduous fruit trees right now but do so before they start to blossom. Garden centers should have them on special now which is an added bonus.

Treat Leaf curl 

If your trees were affected by leaf curl, treat them now with an organic copper spray, do it before the buds on the trees burst. If you don’t, it’s most likely that your trees will get affected again by the fungal spores left over winter. If you had a thrip problem, use a horticultural oil* to smother over-wintering thrip eggs.

*If you are using a sulphur spray instead of copper to treat any tree diseases, do not use the horticultural oil.

Happy gardening!

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