It’s nearly Labour weekend when those in warmer parts of New Zealand will go out and start planting summer seedlings. The chance of a late frost has lessened (though it’s definitely not ruled out!) and the weather will be warming up.
However NZ weather is so unpredictable so if you’re planting out your summer seedlings this month, it may pay to plant a few but also save some for some even later planting in November and December. Even when the weather seems warm, it doesn’t mean the ground is yet. I like to plant a few this month to please the impatient child in me, but logical me saves the bulk of my seedlings tucked away in my glasshouse til next month.
You will probably find that even if there is no rogue frost and your seedlings survive fine, heat lovers like tomatoes planted early will not grow faster than those planted a month later when the ground is warmer.
Direct sow or seedlings before Labour day: broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, carrot, lettuce, spinach, radish, turnips, peas, broad beans, coriander, silverbeet
Direct sow or seedlings after Labour weekend: Beans, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes
Christmas potatoes planted in the last two months will be showing their big leafy tops and they’ll need compost or mulch mounded around them. This will keep their long stalks from breaking in the wind and will stop the potatoes popping through and turning green in the sun.
This month and early next month is a good time to plant out main crop potatoes which can then happily grow until next year March when the leafy greens die back.
In a well-fed and prepped bed, space your potatoes about 25-30cm apart to give them lots of room to grow big, in trenches about 15 cm deep. Keep well mulched and consistently watered and fed throughout the hot summer months. As the green leafy shoots pop through, mound up compost or mulch around them to stop the potatoes coming up.
Prepare beds for heavy feeders
Corn and pumpkin are two prime examples of heavy feeders. They need extra compost and manure in their beds to get them to grow big and tasty. You can use this month to prep those beds extra well, before direct sowing the seeds or planting seedlings at the end of the month.
Work in things like well-rotted manure or sheep pellets, chopped up seaweed, compost and worm castings. Cover the bed with mulch and let the worms and microbes have a feast until it’s time for planting.
As the weather is warming up, did you notice your broad beans are finally carrying little beans? We have the bees to thank for that.
We are heading to the months where pollination is vital for our fresh produce. Let’s get those bees in our garden by planting flowers wherever we can! Borage, phacelia, lavender, poppies, lupins, sunflowers… these are all flowers bees and other beneficial insects (like those that eat aphids!) love.
If codling moth has been an issue for your pip fruits, spring is a good time to try and minimise their attack this coming summer by hanging traps
Hanging a pheromone trap on your trees now won’t stop always the codling moth but it’s a good indication of when they are most active and how bad the infestation is. The affected trees can be sprayed with Yates success ultra or diluted neem oil though restrict spraying to evening time when there are no bees around.
Feed your berries
Homegrown berries are hard to beat. You can feed your blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries with Strawberry Food, or aged manure, to ensure a bumper crop. Keep the soil for the berries consistently moist but don’t over water. Applying a thick layer of mulch will help conserve the water, especially as the weather warms, as well as keeping nutrients locked in there to feed the soil.
Fill your gaps (and your plate)
Direct sow baby turnips, radishes and beetroot anywhere you have gaps. They’ll grow quickly and you can have fresh produce while you wait for your main summer crops to grow. Start lettuce seeds off inside, a few seeds every week for a staggered harvest throughout the spring and summer. There are so many different and exciting types to try to keep colour and interest on your plate.
Slugs and snails
Keep on top of slugs and snails before they demolish your seedlings! Snail bait, beer traps or my personal favourite, late night snail hunts! Whichever method works for you.
Fashion a frame
If you’re planting climbing beans, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers this year, a climbing frame may be what you need to save on space.
Pinterest is full of fantastic ideas on what you could use. It can be made from stakes and string, an old spring bed base, a clothes horse… the possibilities are endless!