Happy new year!
To sow this month: Basil, Beans, Beetroot, Carrots, Cucumbers, Fennel, Lettuce, Mustard, Rocket, Spring Onion, Parsnips, Zucchini
To plant from punnets: Basil, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Fennel, Leeks, Lettuce, Spring Onion, Zucchini
This month you will be kept busy with a lot of harvesting. Beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, chilis and tomatoes will be appearing quickly and it is a good idea to harvest them as soon as they’re ripe to let the plant put energy into producing more new flowers and more produce.
Sow in the gaps
As you are harvesting, don’t forget to resow in the empty spaces! It can be easy to get caught up in picking produce now and not thinking about the future months. Sow some more lettuce, beans, carrots, beets, another zucchini… In the cooler areas of NZ, you can start sowing early varieties of turnips now too. Baby turnips don’t take long to grow and you’ll have something new for your salads!
Prepare beds for leeks and brassicas
I started my winter broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds last month. If you haven’t done so yet, start your seeds as soon as possible, especially if you lose the sun in winter. Prepare the beds that they’ll in with plenty of compost and organic matter.
Remember crop rotation. If in the previous season you had planted brassicas in a certain place, don’t plant them there again the following season. This will deplete the soil of nutrients and if there are brassica diseases present, they will infect the next crop too.
Leeks can be planted this month too. They need summer’s warmth to do their main growing so that they’re nice and fat in winter. Prepare leek beds with plenty of organic matter.
Check for bugs and diseases
The tomato/potato psyllid is out now and can wreak havoc on your toms and spuds! They’re a sap sucker and can infect plants in the nightshade family with Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum. This will reduce yield and stunt plant growth.
If you potato greens look like they’re dying back before they’re ready, or your tomato leaves are browning off and curling, check the leaves carefully. Psyllid leave a light dusting of sugars on the leaves, and the larvae are tiny and orange and look a little like scale.
Any late planted potatoes are best covered with a fine mesh to avoid psyllid.
Blight, particularly on tomatoes is another problem, especially late blight. Telltale signs of early blight are ring like lesions on the leaves. Early blight doesn’t usually affect the fruit, unless it affects too many leaves which can stunt plant growth. Late blight signs are black spots that appear on the leaves and then eventually travel towards the stem. Late blight can heavily affect fruits in all the nightshade family, including potatoes underground.
If your plants get late blight, it’s best to destroy the plants and make sure not to plant the same plant there again for a few years. Early blight spores can survive in the soil for about 3 years. Late blight spores need living plant tissue to survive on. Overwintered potatoes or tomatoes are how it is spread and kept alive.
Blossom end rot is a problem often confused with blight. The bottom end of the fruit (where the blossom is) rots. This usually caused by erratic watering or sometimes a too acidic soil. Unlike blight, this isn’t a plant disease.
You can help to avoid blight by keeping your tomatoes well staked and trimmed to allow better air circulation. A spray of 1 tbsp baking soda per litre of water is effective too, at the first sign of blight or as a precautionary measure.
This spray also works well for powdery mildew, another fungal disease that can affect many plants but is common on squash and pumpkin plants. Signs of this are a white powdery looking dusting on top of the leaves. Powdery mildew will usually appear later in the season. Don’t get it confused with the permament white veining some varieties of squash and pumpkin have
Net your fruit
Lots of stone fruits, apples, and pears are ready or very close to being ready and the birds are just waiting patiently to attack. Net your trees and berry bushes now to avoid your trees being stripped bare. It is amazing how fast birds can work.
Keep on top of liquid feeding! A bi-weekly or weekly dose of a good liquid fertiliser will have your vegetables thanking you. Try some homemade ones here.