What to do in the garden this week – Stuff.co.nz


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SHERYN DEAN/GET GROWING/StuffConcrete troughs provide warm conditions where Mediterranean herbs thrive.Homes for herbs Fresh herbs are essential for cooking and the best place to grow them is near the kitchen where it is quick and easy to harvest handfuls as you need them. Group herbs together according to their growing requirements. Mediterranean heat lovers oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage like warm roots on the dry side, so an old concrete trough is ideal. Alternatively, place large stones between the herbs to act as a heat sink or mulch with stone chips or gravel. If herbs have become straggly over winter give them a haircut to stimulate fresh new growth. Grow mint in a large, well-watered pot of its own, as it can take over. Under the outside tap where it will catch any drips is a good place. Partial shade in summer also helps keep mint looking fresh. Plant annual herbs with your veges. Heat-loving basil needs the warmest spot in the garden. I’m not convinced by its reputed abilities to keep bugs away from tomatoes or improve their flavour. However, it’s still handy to plant tomatoes and basil side-by-side anyway, because they are so often used together in recipes. Although coriander is associated with hot countries and summer salsas, it tends to bolt to seed in summer. It’s best grown from seed as transplanting induces bolting. Plant it where it gets shaded by taller plants like tomatoes or sweetcorn during the hottest time of the day. Chives, which may have disappeared over winter, should be appearing again now or start some from seed. Sow dill now too. Biennial parsley is also best grown in the vege garden rather than a pot as it has deep roots and bolts if it dries out. A hedge of parsley looks nice along the edge of a garden bed and curbs the annoying habit of blackbirds tossing mulch all over the path. READ MORE: Taewa: get to know the Māori potatoes fast becoming the foodies' favourite Growing vegetables in pots and small spaces Plan to pick fruit year-round in your home orchard Fresh parsley has many uses in the kitchen. Here's how to grow it. Liquid lunches for fruiting plants Capsicums, chillies, eggplants, melons and tomatoes have insatiable appetites right now while they are actively growing, flowering and fruiting. Compost and organic matter are great at providing the nutrients your soil needs, but many plants need regular feeds over the spring and summer months to perform well. General-purpose fertilisers tend to be high in nitrogen, which is great for getting fruiting plants off to a good start and for salad greens, but can result in lots of leafy growth at the expense of fruit. Once your fruiting crops – strawberries, beans, chillies, cucumbers, passionfruit etc – are flowering and have set fruit switch to either a liquid or granular fertiliser for fruit and flowers, or feed them with a tomato-specific fertiliser. Don’t overdo it. Regular feeds every week or so are better than a highly-concentrated dose all in one go. Liquid fertilisers are brews of seaweed, fish scraps, weeds, comfrey, compost or manure teas and the run-off from worm farms. There are loads of great liquid fertilisers on the market or you can make your own. Steep your ingredients of choice in water for a few weeks to several months. A lidded container with a tap is ideal, but a bucket will do. It’ll be whiffy, so place away from your outdoor living areas – and the neighbours! Drain off some liquid and dilute to the colour of weak tea before using. For a quicker, more direct method, try this easy trick. When planting out young plants, fill the pot they were growing in with sheep pellets. Bury this beside the plant. Water into the plant pot so the roots get a rich drink of nutrients at every watering.BARBARA SMITH/GET GROWING/StuffWhen planting out young seedlings, fill the pot they were growing in with sheep pellets. Bury this beside the plant. Water into the plant pot so the roots get a rich drink of nutrients at every watering. Feed garlic and shallots Increasing day length pushes up the growth rate of these hungry plants so give them a good feed. The bulbs start to form during November and December and the faster the plants grow now the fatter the bulbs will be come harvest time. Sheep pellets, general vegetable fertiliser, blood and bone or liquid feeds purchased or home-brewed will all be lapped up. Garlic and shallots are shallow rooted so spread fertiliser around the plants. Don’t dig it in as this would damage the feeder roots near the soil surface. Avoid letting mulch or compost pile up right against the stems as this could lead to rot. Garlic needs to be kept evenly watered to fatten up the bulbs. Well-fed and watered plants are less likely to succumb to pests or diseases like aphids and rust. As with spring onions, wash off aphids with soapy water or spray with Grosafe Enspray 99. Rust starts as orange spots on the leaves which go yellow and wither. Water the soil not the leaves to reduce the chances of transferring rust spores to the leaves. Remove infected leaves and give a protective sulphur spray. Rusty plants can still produce edible bulbs but they need to be used straight away as they won’t store well.RACHEL CLARE/GET GROWING/StuffBefore thinning 'Golden Queen' peach fruitlets. Allow 5cm spaces between stone fruit. Thin baby fruitlets When the blossom has blown from your pip and stone fruit trees, have a look to see how many fruitlets are developing. If there are closely-packed clusters of baby fruit, harden your heart and thin them out. It’s really hard to do, especially if it’s the first time your tree has set fruit, but it is worth it for a better crop in the long run. Not only does removing excess fruit lighten a fruit tree’s load, preventing broken branches and stems, it also stops a tree from getting burnout from pumping all its energy into growing a massive crop of fruit. If you don’t thin, you may get a bumper crop this year followed by a stingy crop next year or no crop at all because your tree has gone on strike. However, remember that some trees, particularly certain varieties of pipfruit, are biennial bearers. Thinning also provides space so the fruit isn’t crowded and has room to grow to its maximum size. It increases air flow too, which is particularly important if your trees have had issues with fungal disease and you want to prevent it from spreading. Thin fruit now or in the next month, when it’s about marble-sized. For stonefruit – peaches, plums and nectarines – allow 5–10cm spacing between fruit. Apple and pears set clusters of four or five fruit, so leave one or two fruits per cluster.RACHEL CLARE/GET GROWING/StuffAfter thinning 'Golden Queen' peach fruitlets. Allow 5cm spaces between stone fruit. Warm beds for subtropical fruit trees The threat of the last frost has passed and the soil is still moist, making it the ideal time to get frost-tender plants established before the summer dry. Just about all of our fruiting subtropicals – avocado, babaco, banana, tamarillo, cherimoya, pepino and more – are hungry plants that like a lot of nutrients, so take the opportunity to give their roots a good feed while planting. Digging a deep hole and filling it with composting materials gives off heat that warms their roots. You can’t put it directly against the roots as you can burn them, meaning they receive an excessive amount of nutrients, as opposed to actual heat, which can clog their intake system, seriously damaging the plant. However, by protecting the plant with 100mm of protective dirt you will warm their root zone (and many plants react to soil temperature as much if not more than air temperature) and provide food at the same time. Dig a nice deep hole, backfill it with fresh manure, a sprinkle of dolomite lime if your soil needs more magnesium or calcium, a handful of hay, sawdust or leaves for carbon, the grass or weeds from the top of the hole and about 100mm of topsoil. Plant, stake, label, water and wait. Read more: Gardening by the moon The fertile period continues until November 17. Sow lettuce, cauliflower and cabbage, spinach and sweetcorn outside, and transplant seedlings of tomatoes, courgettes, chillies and eggplants. On November 18 and 19 feed plants with generous but dilute doses of liquid fertiliser. Gardening by the maramataka We are coming to the end of kōanga (spring), the digging season, so we should be reading the tohu to determine when to plant the last key crops which should all be in before summer. Tohu or signs differ between regions. In the northern half of the Te Ika a Maui (North Island) old-time growers would read the kūmarahou (Pomaderris kumeraho) to determine when to plant kūmara tipū. When kūmarahou start flowering, plant early kūmara (September in the very north), and as flowering finishes (November) the last of the kūmara should be planted. Further south new growth on tī kōuka or early flowering of shrubs (rather than trees) such as ngutu-kākā (kākā beak or Clianthus maximus) also provide a lead for planting food crops. The new moon (Whiro) is on the 5th with the Rākaunui season (full moon) beginning on the 19th. The 7th and 8th suit the planting of most crops, especially if early summer flowering plants have begun to show, and the third week from the 19th is also a good planting period. Kanga (Māori corn), kamokamo and hue (gourds) need to be directly sown into raised mounds for best establishment and can follow the kūmara timing. Taewa are often the last of the kōanga crops as they are the most variable – but all these crops need to be in with time to emerge prior to the summer season which is close by. Dr Nick Roskruge
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