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Gardening diary: Late spring

Late spring  is a time of great growth in your garden. David Haynes explains.

Increasing sunshine hours, rain and warming soils create a real spurt of growth in November and it’s time to plant potatoes, beans, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, courgettes, broccoli, spinach, beetroot, radish, more carrots and leeks, tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants. You can also plant basil and parsley in pots.

All this green growth needs fertilising with nitrogen-rich food. Sprinkle blood and bone, sheep droppings or a general commercial fertiliser around the ‘drip line’ (also known as a ‘side dressing’) of all your green veges. And don’t forget to re-mulch the garden, too, to suppress weeds.

Pea flowers are appearing along with honey bees so expect to pick the first pods in about six weeks. Sparrows can be a real nuisance as they eat the pea plant, flowers and pods and short of tying your cat to the pea trellis, covering the plants with netting offers the best protection. Don’t feed these plants nitrogen fertiliser, as pea roots fix their own from the air.

Coriander seeds have all sprouted and will need to be continually thinned as you need it in the kitchen.

Last month’s sowings of lettuce, carrot and leek can be ‘hardened off’ (taken outdoors each day) for a week and then transplanted. Thin carrots with nail scissors to leave only two per toilet roll. Separate leeks by gently washing the roots in a bowl of water and water into holes in the vege bed.

Keep tender capsicums indoors for at least another month until summer weather persists.

Onions that have been ‘nipped out’ should have responded well, cabbages will be forming heads to be ready before the onslaught of caterpillars in January, silver beet will be vigorous and garlic sprouts have become plants.

Despite the fact that many seeds can be directly sown in the garden, I still prefer to raise them all indoor as the germination rate is better and they are less likely to be eaten by bugs.

Q. Do small amounts of edibles do better sown between garden plants or in a bed of their own?

Rose, Timaru

A. A lot of plants are believed to grow better together, known as ‘companion planting’. But you’ll need to research the plants you have. For a thorough exploration into companion planting, I would recommend Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte.

Important considerations when inter-planting vegetables with garden plants are:

  • Plants share similar soil nutrients, moisture, drainage and pH (acidity/alkalinity) requirements.
  • Making sure large plants don’t shade smaller vegetables.
  • Disturbance to other plants’ roots when planting or harvesting veges — digging up potatoes destroys all adjacent vegetation.
  • Some plants exude growth inhibitors — many vegetables struggle to grow near black walnut trees, for example.
First published: Nov 2013



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