Life & Style
Now is the time to dig and plant to get your vegetables, herbs and fruit off to a good start.
A is for asparagus peas.
If you like the taste of asparagus but don't have the room, try asparagus pea instead. This fast-growing annual produces pretty red, sweet pea-like flowers followed by winged pods that taste similar to asparagus. The pods are picked when they're three centimetres long, and cooked and eaten whole. From Kings Seeds.
B is for blueberries
Freshly picked berries are a summer treat, so plant now for a delicious serve. Blueberries like a free-draining, acid soil. Dig compost and a little peat into your soil or potting mix before planting. Keep plants well watered. At first, blueberries require only a light feed.
C is for capsicums
Capsicum plants grow best when day temperatures are at least 18 to 21 degrees C and night temperatures are above 15C. If temperatures drop below 12C, the plants won't be harmed, but they may become stunted. Start plants off in pots and mollycoddle them in a warm spot until the weather is warm enough to plant them outside.
D is for daikon
Daikon, aka Japanese radish, is a large, cylindrical root that looks like a giant white carrot. It's a little milder-tasting than an ordinary radish; peel off the skin and it will be even less spicy. Sow seeds directly in the soil.
E is for eggplants
Eggplants won't set fruit until daytime temperatures are consistently above 23C and night-time temperatures reach 13C. Sow seeds in pots for transplanting later. Plant in a sunny, well-drained spot and feed regularly.
F is for feijoas
These relatively hardy plants stand their ground in temperatures down to at least -5C, and possibly 10C. Give them a sunny position in well-drained soil, and plant at least two different varieties. Most feijoas require cross-pollination to produce ample fruit. Even self-fertile varieties produce better with another variety nearby.
G is for gherkins
A gherkin is essentially a small cucumber with few seeds. But like the larger, slicing cucumbers, it's deep-rooted, so dig the soil deep and add compost before planting. Seeds can be sown directly or in pots for transplanting later.
H is for herbs
Spring is a time to go mad in the herb garden. Both annual and perennial herbs can be sown or planted now. Basil, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme are just a few.
I is for Indian curry tree
This small tree (Murraya koenegii) has pungent leaves that are frequently used in Indian and Asian cuisine. When bruised, the leaves emit a spicy fragrance and a curry flavour. Plant in a sunny, sheltered spot away from frosts. Can be grown in containers.
J is for Japanese raisin tree
Hovenia dulcis is a hardy tree that withstands temperatures down to -30C. Sprays of creamy white flowers appear in late spring, followed by drupes at the ends of fleshy fruit stalks, which can be eaten fresh or cooked. In their dried state, they taste and look just like raisins. Available in the Incredible Edibles range at garden centres.
K is for kumara
Kumara require a long growing season, so plant in September or October. Bury a supermarket-bought kumara just below the surface of a container filled with sand or potting mix and place in a warm, sunny spot. Keep it moist, and in a week or so shoots will start to appear. When the shoots are about 20cm high, cut off the top two-thirds and use these as cuttings to plant in your garden.
L is for lettuce
Grow lettuce quickly to avoid bitter leaves. Liquid feed once a fortnight. Slow-growing lettuce often becomes coarse. High summer temperatures may also result in bitter leaves, so some shade may be beneficial.
M is for melons
Melons need lots of warmth to produce well. They grow similar to pumpkins, sending out runners which can be grown along the ground, or trained and tied vertically up trellises. Swelling fruit needs support when grown vertically, however. A mini-hammock made of bird netting or pantyhose is ideal for supporting the fruit.
N is for nasturtiums
I love the peppery flavour of the leaves and flowers in salads and sandwiches. Sow seeds directly in the garden.
O is for okra
Okra is a warm-season annual that's grown for its immature pods. It is popular in southern areas of the United States (used in the soup-like stew called gumbo) and Indian cuisine. Seedlings are planted out in the garden in late spring in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. From Kings Seeds.
P is for persimmons
Persimmon trees make an attractive addition to the garden. The leaves turn a lovely golden yellow in autumn, and the golden-orange fruit ripens in late autumn to early winter on bare stems. Plant in a spot sheltered from wind.
Q is for quince
Quince trees take about five years to produce their golden, fragrant fruit, but once they do, you'll be swimming in jams, preserves and cooked desserts. Quinces produce on the current season's growth, so be careful not to prune off new wood.
R is for rhubarb
Plant rhubarb in a sunny spot with good drainage. Before planting, dig deep and compost, and use a high-nitrogen fertiliser such as fishmeal or blood and bone. Don't harvest your plants in the first year, as they need the energy to develop strong root systems.
S is for sweetcorn
Sweetcorn is a long-term investment. It can take up to 90 days after germination to ripen. As corn is pollinated by wind-borne pollen, it's best to plant your seedlings in blocks to ensure proper pollination.
T is for tomatoes
Go for your life. Sow seeds of cherry tomatoes, beefsteak and Roma-type tomatoes, acid-free and heirloom tomatoes.
U is for ugli fruit
Believed to be a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit, these evergreen trees produce large, sweet, juicy, easy-peel fruits between September and November. The pitted, dented skin gives the fruit its name.
V is for Vietnamese mint
This Asian herb (Persicaria odorata) has a peppery flavour reminiscent of coriander with a hint of lemon. Famously used in Singaporean laksa, it's also added to raw salads or Vietnamese spring rolls. It grows best in moist soil.
W is for watercress
As Kings Seeds puts it, watercress is “a hardy aquatic plant found in its natural state along gently running streams, but can be grown with success in gardens or pots, provided the soil is kept moist in a shaded spot”. Worth a try for watercress lovers.
X is for xigua
OK, a bit of a cheat here. Xigua (pronounced she-gwah) is the Chinese name for watermelon. Grow as for melons above, with plenty of sun and warmth.
Y is for yams
Still plenty of time to plant yams. Sprout the tubers first, then plant in well-drained soil 5-8cm deep and 30cm apart.
Z is for zucchini
Sow zucchini seed now for a bumper summer harvest. Try the ball-shaped zucchini "Eight Ball" from Egmont Seeds.
- © Fairfax NZ News