Sow from seed this month: basil, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, melons, corn, eggplant, chilli, capsicum, lettuce, radishes
Sow from punnets this month: potatoes, kumara, tomatoes, onions, capsicums, eggplants, melons, chili, capsicums
It’s the last month of spring and the weather is going to really start warming up which means it’s extra important to mulch our gardens! You guys know I’m a huge fan of mulch. Mulch keeps the ground cool and protected. I have my vegetable patches covered in a thick layer of straw and hay. While the sun beats down hard on the top, underneath is cool, dark and damp.
Get that ground covered! Straw, hay, dead leaves, spent plants, grass clippings… If you decide to use hay like I do, bear in mind there are weed seeds in there. I keep my mulch piled on thick and top it up with 10-20cm more hay every 2-3 weeks. This helps stop the weed seeds germinating as I continuously block out the sunlight.
When the weather is hot and the ground dries up, it can take longer for water to seep through and reach your plant’s roots. Get in the habit of giving your plants a good long soak every two-three days as opposed to a quick watering every day. When watering, aim your hose or watering can around the roots of your plants, not the leaves.
Feeding your plants
Feeding your plants is very important right now as they are actively growing. Applying liquid fertilisers, alongside slower release ones is a great way to get plants their nutrients quickly.
A tomato liquid fertiliser is high in potassium which promotes fruit growth. This type of fertiliser is also good for eggplants, beans, chillis, capsicum, cucumbers and pumpkins. Basically, a vegetable where you are harvesting the fruit, not the leaves. You can buy a tomato fertiliser or make your own using comfrey leaves as comfrey tea is also high in potassium.
Corn, potatoes and kumara can be fertilised with a liquid seaweed fertiliser such as Seasol, or make your own.
Practice succession planting to ensure a long harvest time. Sow carrots, beans, beetroot, radishes, spinach and lettuce every 2-3 weeks so you don’t run out. I also direct sow zucchini seed every few weeks, all throughout summer, for an extra large harvest!
When planting from punnets, avoid planting in the middle of the day if it’s a hot day. Soak the seedlings in Seasol first to avoid transplant shock and water them well once they are in.
Keep an eye out for bugs that plague your plants! The white butterfly is out in full force now, its little caterpillar offspring ready to annihilate your brassicas.
Checking your leaves manually and squishing the teeny yellow eggs and the green caterpillar is one way to combat this pest. Otherwise, use a net to cover your brassicas, sprinkle with Diatomaceous earth or use Kiwicare organic caterpillar bio control.
Aphids can also be a problem, on any of your vegetables or fruit trees. If you catch them quick enough you can squish the few there are with your finger (check the undersides of leaves too). If it’s a big infestation, spray the aphids directly with a mixture of unscented liquid soap and water (1 tablespoon soap to 1 litre of water.)
Other pests and diseases to watch for:
Mealybugs, Thrips, whiteflies and mites. The simple soap spray used for the aphids will work on a lot of these pests too. The fatty acids in the soap will dissolve the exoskeletons of the bugs.
Shield Bugs. Look for the eggs and scrape them off as you see them. They are laid in a pretty cluster but are anything but pretty if let loose in the garden!
Passionvine hoppers. Once adults, these buggers are hard to catch. Control them by vacuuming up their larvae before they have a chance to grow.
Psyllids. Dust the infected plant with diatomaceous earth or spray with neem oil.
Powdery Mildew. A fungal infection that can infect nearly any plant. Spray with a mixture of baking soda, soap and water. ( 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1/2 tsp unscented liquid soap to 3.5 litres of water.)
Blight. Treat early signs of blight with the baking soda spray above, or an organic copper spray. Late-onset blight or sever blight is harder to treat and it is best to remove the plant and dispose of it in the bin or burn it. Don’t compost it as you may spread it to other plants and don’t plant the same kind of plant in the same spot. The soil should then be well cultivated to stop the remaining blight spores overwintering and covered with a thick layer of compost and mulch.
A daily little wander in your garden can be extremely helpful in catching what’s wrong before it gets out of hand. It’s also a nice way to connect with your garden and see the changes happening each day!