Spring has sprung and gardeners are experiencing a heady rush as growth kicks off, especially around the equinox on September 23.
Even non-gardeners feel the call of the backyard. And with good reason - early spring is a great window of opportunity to set your gardens up for summer. The trick is to find the sunny hours between the spring showers.
Next month is all about the vege patch (if you want to grow from seed get started now, in pots) but while you wait for soil to warm up, September is a good time to pay some attention to the rest of the garden.
Keep one step ahead of the weeds: Weeds are programmed to grow faster and seed earlier than other plants (that’s what makes them weeds.) If you can’t get rid of every last one, at least save yourself work in future by stopping them from seeding.
In vege beds, pull out any weeds that have taken hold over winter, and mulch with compost/straw/the green manure you planted last autumn (right?). You can start planting greens and cool-season crops now, but wait another month or so for soil to warm up for maincrop tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin and beans, unless you have a cloche.
In other beds, follow weeding with a thick layer of mulch (arborists chip is my favourite) to keep weeds away and retain water over summer. If mulch is not in the budget use what you can scrounge – leaves, chopped up prunings, seaweed – but make sure it’s weed-free or you will add to your weeding chores.
Composting: The up side of all the lawn clippings, and an increased supply of fresh weeds, is masses of extra material for soil building. Conditions are great for rotting.
Focus on the soil. The more you add to it now, the better plants will grow over summer. Gather up organic matter of all kinds- weeds, grass clippings, seaweed, manure, compost, wood chip.
- Layer it into compost heaps
- Make mounds or puke, where you can plant pumpkin, kamokamo and zucchini in November.
- Or make a no-dig garden. These can be built on top of lawn or concrete, or within raised beds.
Rengarenga (Arthropodium cirrhatum) are a brilliant ground cover in shady spaces.
Divide and rule: It’s a great time of year to divide and multiply perennials (including herbs) and grasses. If you have something that’s doing well, one clump can be split into three to create more ground cover.
Whether splitting old plants or planting new ones, aim to finish perennial plantings soon and get herbs, flowers and shrubs into the ground while the rain can still water them in. Remember to mulch them!
|Citrus: Now is a good time to plant these (remember they need sun and shelter). Prune out dead wood. Feed citrus if they are looking yellow – dissolve 100g Epsom salts in a watering can and water onto the root zone. Mulch out to the drip line (the edge of the leaves) with compost, seaweed and wood chip.|
Early spring jobs in the edible garden:
- Plant early potatoes (be ready to protect them with frost cloth/old curtains etc, if late frosts strike)
- Weed, weed weed and mulch, mulch, mulch
- Mulch fruit trees. Underplant with herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects.
- Sow and plant spring crops to make the most of the warm, wet months ahead. Plant peas now to be eating them at Christmas. It’s still cold for early courgettes and pumpkins but they can go in under cover (eg a cloche or upside down large plastic bottle).
- Prepare other beds with compost, or start digging in green manure, getting ready for summer crops like tomatoes. Don’t get too carried away and plant out warmth-lovers like tomatoes, beans and corn too early- keep these in a cloche or sunny windowsill until the soil warms up in another month or so.
- Tip from Dave Treadwell of ecoseeds: water seed beds or trays with warm water, 20 degrees C, to speed up germination and growth.
Plant and sow:
Outdoors: Peas, broad beans, carrots and beetroot, onions, spring onions, lettuce, spinach, silver beet, early potatoes, herbs and wildflowers.
Indoors: early zucchini, cucumbers and pumpkins (under cover/cloches), leeks, cabbage. Start early tomatoes under glass about six weeks before you want to plant them out.
Flowers: nasturtium, calendula, alyssum, sweet pea, lupin, hollyhock, cosmos. Also perennial flowers and herbs, and dahlias.