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Gardening diary: December

Gardening diary: December

A bit of forward planning will benefit future harvests. David Haynes explains.

As winter crops near harvest, planning what to grow for the rest of summer through to autumn is now the task at hand. And when it comes to decide what to grow, the size of your vege garden plot is one factor that can dictate your choice.

  • Prior to planting dig in a little well-rotted compost to renew the soil. An additional generous sprinkling of blood and bone around the plants will provide slow-release nutrients for that important early green growth.
     
  • Neighbouring plants should have similar soil, water and sunshine requirements. For example, cauliflowers tend to prefer alkaline soil around pH7.5.
     
  • Brassicas should only be grown over summer where there is either an absence of, or protection available against cabbage white butterflies.
     
  • Inter-planting where one plant benefits the other. For example, sweet corn or tomato can provide partial shading for summer lettuces.
     
  • Adjacent plants should be companionable. The onion (allium) is said to inhibit growth of legumes such as beans, whereas carrots and tomatoes grow well together.
     
  • The time the plant is in the ground, from planting to harvest, will dictate how much you can plant. Summer plantings of leeks and celery will occupy a space until late winter, for example.
     
  • Small spaces can be used for ‘catch-crops’, a term for those vegetables that can be planted in between other crops and which mature relatively quickly, such as lettuces, radishes and some varieties of carrot if picked when young.
     
  • Now soils are warm and the weather starts to become drier, mulching your vege bed is a must to suppress the weeds and retard water-loss through evaporation.

The diagrams (see PDF attachment, below) show a typical plan of a summer-autumn vegetable garden plot.

Q. What are the earliest and latest times for planting potatoes?

Leonard, Auckland

A. As always, the answer relies on a number of factors:

  • likelihood for frosts
  • the local microclimate
  • the potato variety

Potatoes are sensitive to frosts so should be planted and harvested in between the last (early spring) and first (early autumn) frosts respectively. Generally, the further north and/or nearer the coast you live, the longer the growing season for potatoes. Potato varieties are classified according to the season in which they are ready for harvest. Here are a few examples:

TYPE VARIETY SOW TO HARVEST TIME (in days, approx.)
Extra early Rocket 60
Early Jersey Benne 90
Second early Purple Passion 75-100
Early / main Agria 90-100
Main Van Rosa 100-120
Late main Rua 120-140

From The Beginner’s Garden by David Haynes (Penguin Publishing 2012)

Typically potato planting is anywhere between September and February. By working out your first and last frost dates and referring to the rough growing time in the table above, this should help you to work out when to plant each type and variety of potato.




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