Down in the patch

Last updated 08:53 20/07/2012

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Seedlings of cauliflowers, broccoli and other brassicas can be planted now, along with early peas. In warmer areas, you can also plant lettuce, baby spinach and silverbeet.

Seeds of peas, onions and broad beans can go straight into the ground and seeds of leafy greens, such as lettuce, are likely to do better if they are planted in trays, ready for planting out as the weather warms up.

Onions aren't difficult to grow, but they take a while to be ready for eating. A dedicated spot in the garden is best, until late summer, when they're ready to harvest.

A good onion for storing is 'Pukekohe Longkeeper', while for red onions try 'California Early Red' or 'Red Amposta'.

White onions or cute cocktail varieties are also an option.

Spring onions are different. They can be sown now and are a good beginner's crop.

Lay your potatoes out in a tray and get them sprouted in preparation for planting next month.

If you've planted broad beans, stake them as they grow. Broad beans are a legume, so even if you don't like eating them, grow and dig them into the soil before they get too big and unwieldy, as they will provide free fertiliser.

While you're thinking about stakes, check those around trees that may have been planted, to ensure they are not rubbing against the trunk. There are lots of soft tie options available at garden centres.

Bare root and potted fruit trees are available, so now's the time to stock up if you hanker after an apricot, peach, apple, pear - or anything you can pluck from a branch and savour in summer and autumn.

Asparagus crowns are now available and can be planted out in a well-composted and fertilised bed (no animal manure, though).

Don't forget to feed your indoor plants, because they are still growing. Take caution not to overwater them.

Daphnes are in flower this month, along with hellebores, polyanthuses and primroses. All make a pretty, fragrant winter display. Polyanthuses benefit from an application of dried blood to increase plant vigor and flowering. Hellebores can also be fed now with blood and bone.

They are delightful in the garden, although don't last long in a vase - try dipping the stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds, making sure the flowers don't get near steam, and place in cool water for several hours before arranging. This should prolong their indoor life.

Sasanqua camellias are still going, but japonica and hybrids are coming into flower. They are also available to plant now. The benefit of that is you pick your choices while they're in flower. Plant with sheep pellets mixed into the soil.

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When bulb flowers have finished, and some of the early jonquils will already have bloomed, water with soluble plant food. For other bulbs getting ready to flower, apply some bulb food.

The plants are active, so will receive the benefit of the nourishment.

Be careful not to get among leaves, because they can be burnt.

Plant gladioli corns for early summer flowering.

Rake up the last of the winter leaves and place in large rubbish bags, sprinkle with water and leave to rot. Next season, you will have composted leaf mulch.

Continue to prune roses. Don't be scared to try if you have never done it before. There's not too much that can go wrong, as long as tools are sharp and branches are cut just above a tiny bud. Spray afterwards to reduce overwintering pests and treat fungal diseases. Feed the plant as well and remove all the dead leaves before you fertilise, to ensure bugs and infections don't have somewhere to hide.

Information from Vince Naus at Big Jim's Garden Centre, as well as garden-nz.co.nz and NZ Gardener.

- Taranaki Daily News

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