It’s not quite spring and not quite winter: On fine August days, it’s a pleasure to be out in the garden. The sap is rising but we all know there are still storms to come. Late winter is all about preparation: getting seeds ready, building up soil and making plans so you can hit the ground running next month.
Set your garden up for the rest of the year; gather as much organic material as you can find - straw, leaves, grass clippings, seaweed, manure – and either lay it directly on your beds or pile it up, to rot into compost. The more organic matter in your soil, the better it will hold water over the summer, meaning healthier plants and less watering for you.
This is the season for all things green and crispy; lettuce, peas, parsley, coriander, spinach and silver beet all love moist, cool conditions.
|It’s also the time I wish I had a glasshouse to start off seeds. Instead, you can make a simple cold frame using an old window (even better if it’s hinged off a frame), and building a wooden box for it to sit on. Cloches can be made by bending wire into tunnel shapes and covering with heavy duty clear plastic. A wooden frame will make them sturdier. Cloches can be put on your beds to warm up the soil underneath for early sowings of zucchini and beans, carrots and beetroot (make sure the soil doesn’t dry out underneath though.)|
- Prepare potato beds for early plantings. Planting in August/September will help avoid the psyllid bug which reached Kāpiti last summer – and also give you spuds for Christmas.
- Spray fruit trees with copper before they blossom, if you had leaf curl last year.
- Finish pruning grapes, roses and pipfruit. Plant fruit trees.
- Mulch up around the stems of brassicas (eg broccoli, cabbage) with compost, especially if they’re rocking around in the wind
- Mulch citrus and feijoas with good compost or seaweed.
- Look around for any gaps in your shelter, and plant now. Small plants (20-30cm) soon catch up in growth with larger specimens, which experience more transplant shock.
- Moving: soil is moist, so plants that for any reason are in the wrong place can be moved without causing too much shock. Stake and mulch them well afterwards.
Weeding: One reason weeds are so successful is they start growing a wee bit ahead of many garden plants. Staying on top of weeds saves a lot of work later in the summer; catch them before they seed and you’ll also notice fewer weeds each year. (Also, baby weeds without seeds are better material for the compost heap). At the moment soil is moist, releasing roots easily, and the gaps where weeds are pulled out heal quickly (in my gardens, 'good weeds’ - other self-sowers like calendula - will rapidly grow to fill in any bare patches, forming a live mulch.)
Sow: Prepare seeds for spring sowings. You can start seeds off this month if you have shelter (a cold frame or greenhouse): peas, any greens, early tomatoes and beans. Start carrots and beets under a cloche. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
Plant: Garlic, borage, calendula, greens- bok choy, silver beet, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet.
Crop of the month: Peas
It’s a rare person who doesn’t like fresh-picked peas. Sow now to enjoy them at Christmas.
When: Cool, moist spring conditions are ideal for the juiciest peas.
Where: Roots like to be moist but not wet (or they will rot). Leaves and flowers need sun. Peas don’t need rich soil but compost and light mulch helps hold moisture. Give beds a dusting of lime.
How: Make the support before planting- wire netting is ideal, or bamboo and string. Make it taller than you think you’ll need to.
Peas don’t like their roots disturbed so sow directly where they are to grow, or into egg cartons or toilet rolls which can be planted whole. Some people sow into a piece of guttering then slide the whole row into the ground once seedlings are established.
What: Try a few different types. Sugar snap can be eaten pods and all- snow peas are the flatter ones and handle colder temperatures.