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Gardening diary: Mid-summer

A diligent gardener will spend summer routinely planning and planting, observing and caring, and tidying and tinkering. And the reward? A plentiful harvest.

Monthly sowings of a few lettuces, beetroot, radishes, carrots, leek and silver beet will provide a succession of maturing vegetables from early autumn through to the following spring. Succession planting provides the benefit of on-tap home grown vegies without the hassle of storage.

Autumn and winter root crops such as parsnips, swedes, turnips, celeriac, and main and late-main crop potatoes can be sown now but make sure they are given a deep weekly water during dry spells. Remember to earth-up potatoes as they grow (ie. cover the plant) so that only the top 10-30cm is visible.

Summer crops such as beans, sweet corn, beans, cucumbers, celery, squash and courgettes can still be sown from seed or planted as seedlings.

Seedlings of capsicum, eggplant and tomato are only worth planting at this time if they are at least 30cm tall. Any less and they may not have enough summer sun to grow big enough to give a decent fruit yield.

A glass of wine in hand is an essential component of that early evening stroll around pots, plots and pergolas to have a look at how everything is doing. If any part of your plants look wilted, chewed, soggy, spotty or pallid there is something amiss and reputable gardening centres have websites which may help identify common plant problems whether pest, disease, lack or excess of nutrients — water or minerals. For starters, see this month’s Gardening Q&A (below).

An additional benefit of the glass-of-wine-in-hand technique is that it leaves the other hand free to pinch out tomato laterals, pull weeds, pick peas, beans, lettuce, onions, courgettes or any of dozens of veges now ready for eating. Not that it’s needed but those seemingly endless little gardening tasks provide the most perfect of excuses to be fossicking about in your backyard paradise.

Q. I planted a vegetable garden last spring. Everything was growing and healthy then my cucumbers turned orange and my tomatoes all rotted. Also, my capsicum plants did not survive. Some tips would be good to avoid this happening again.

Chyanne, Auckland

A. There are a number of reasons why you may have had these problems, most of which come down to the soil and environment rather than the plants. Poor drainage could be the culprit, which causes the roots to get ‘wet feet’ and rot when the water doesn’t drain away. When preparing the soil, dig it very deeply and break up any clumps, add some gypsum, a slow- release fertiliser and mix in generous amounts of a good quality compost or garden mix. Alternatively, you can create raised beds and fill with a good quality compost. Make sure also that the garden is in the right position and gets six-plus hours of sunshine a day.

Apply controlled release fertiliser throughout the growing season following the packet guidelines. Using a preventative disease spray on a regular basis will keep your plants in good health. Lastly, mulch well and water consistently and frequently.

Nutty beans and baby corn with currants

First published: Jan 2013



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