Too wet to sow pick-your-own vegetables for Palmerston North grower

Neville Dickey of Delta Gardens, in the Manawatu, checks flowers in a greenhouse.

Neville Dickey of Delta Gardens, in the Manawatu, checks flowers in a greenhouse.

A pick-your-own garden is running to crunch point to get some vegetables planted so they're ready for the week before Christmas, when everybody wants fresh potatoes, peas and berries.

Neville Dickey from Delta Gardens near Palmerston North said he was feeling the pinch of continual wet weather after 34 years of vegetable growing and meeting the Christmas market.

The 12 hectare block was on river silt, gravel and sand, and would dry out soon if there was a break in the weather, he said.

"There are not many years that have we have seen so much rain. We have had rain on and off since September last year."

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He said luckily he had 1.5ha of greenhouses, which were used to grow flowers and some early vegetables for family and friends.

"But we need two fine days to plant outside, and looking at the weather, it could be a few weeks before we get that. Looking at the calendar, I am not stressing, I have until the end of the month to get potatoes in."

Dickey said Christmas lilies, gladioli and berries were already in the ground. He had no knowledge of when they might be ready.

"But the berries have loved the rain. I think they will be alright."

He said on the bright side, day length was getting longer and it had not been really cold through winter, just wet, so the growing season was moving in the right direction.

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"If we knew what the weather held, we'd all be happy. But I do rely on the weather forecast, and it is usually good. Sometimes the weather forecasted comes later than expected, but it does arrive."

Dickey said he had hardly used irrigation outside, but had to water several times in the greenhouses.

"We can decide to pick under shelter in the greenhouses. The people who wander around in the mud, with outdoor vegetables, are the people who are facing hardship. No wonder cauliflowers are $5."

Dickey had flowers including carnations, ranunculus and gypsophila under cover as well as some foliage plants.

His daughter has a flower shop in Palmerston North and some flowers were destined for her place, while other flowers and foliage went to the market.

He grew vegetables, berries and flowers for the busy pick-your-own market, with hundreds of people chasing fresh vegetables for Christmas.

Early maturing varieties were planted in the hope they will be ready for Christmas.

Dickey said there had been cloud cover most days which had helped keep the cold out.

"It has really been quite warm.  We have only had a tinge of a frost here, but we have not had the wind to dry things out."

Growing vegetables for the Christmas market was a balance of cloud and rain, and longer days with sunshine which made them grow and mature.

"Most people are conscious only of the past few days, not the season, which they forget.  And they seem surprised when some things are not ready for Christmas week."

 - Stuff


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