Early spring, as usual, has given us a roller-coaster ride with the weather. September gave us several balmy days with temperatures in the high teens and gentle breezes that had us thinking that summer is just around the corner but then it hit us with gale force winds and horizontal rain. That is why I resist the temptation to plant out tender summer vegetables until mid to late October but, in the meantime I like to grow on potted seedlings in a warm, sheltered spot so that I have advanced plants to go in the garden when conditions have settled down.
SEEDS TO SOW
Into pots, punnets and trays under cover in a glasshouse, sun porch or sunny window sill :
Tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, zucchini, cucumber, dwarf beans, climbing beans, butternut squash, basil, egg plant, melons and sweet corn. A trigger spray bottle is a good way to keep them watered without splashing and washing out the seeds.
Carrots, peas, rocket, radishes, beetroot, onions and parsnips can be sown directly into the garden. Covering seeds with a layer of seed-raising potting mix helps to prevent soil from forming a hard crust that can hinder germination. I prefer to sow perpetual spinach, spring onions, and lettuce in pots to provide strong seedlings for planting later.
With a bit of luck, potatoes planted in early October will provide plenty of new potatoes for Christmas dinner. Earth-up potatoes as they grow by drawing soil up and around the plants until only the top of the foliage is showing. This provides protection from the weather and insect pests as well as preventing ‘greening’ of any exposed tubers. The same principal applies to potatoes in containers, just top up the growing mix as the plants grow.
VEGETABLES TO PLANT
Labour Weekend is the traditional time to plant out summer varieties such as tomato, capsicum, egg plant, beans, pumpkin, squash, cucumber, kumera, sweet corn and zucchini. Any time from mid-October should be fine but if the weather is unsettled delay planting. Warmth and shelter from strong winds are necessary for success with these crops. Winter standbys such as cabbage, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, perpetual spinach, lettuce, spring onions, snow peas and silver beet can still be planted though I choose not to grow cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower through the warmer months as, without protection, cabbage white caterpillars will ruin these crops and I prefer to fill the garden with seasonal summer vegetables.
Most herbs can be planted this month. Thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, lemon grass, chives and dill can be grown in pots or can be planted directly into the garden. Coriander likes cool conditions so it prefers somewhere with a bit of shade in summer. Mint is best grown in a pot as it can easily take over a garden bed with its underground runners. Tarragon is a perennial herb that dies down in winter and pops up again in spring. There are two varieties, Russian, which is almost tasteless or French which is delicious. Make sure you get the right one.
Contributed by Chris Green, SuperGrans Volunteer
Want to know more? Come along to our monthly (1st Wednesday of the month) Growing Food with SuperGrans on the 2nd October, 10-11am at the SuperGrans Offices, 14 Jocelyn St, Katikati and meet our volunteer gardening gurus! Free event, just drop in.
Photo: Growing Food with SuperGrans at SuperGrans Western Bay of Plenty.