Make the most of your summer garden with these hints and tricks from gardens editor Carol Bucknell
– Pick the baby leaves of spinach or the entire plant to thin out crowded crops.
– Harvest regularly to avoid plants turning to seed as the weather warms up.
– Thin out fruit clusters on apple and pear trees once blossoms are finished for better-sized fruit at harvest time.
– Do the same with plums to avoid over-laden branches snapping. No need to thin out cherries, peaches and nectarines.
– When harvesting radishes, cut the tops off before washing and place in a plastic bag in the fridge where they’ll last 3-4 weeks.
– For cleaner and bug free strawberries, try mulching with pea straw or similar to keep fruit off the ground.
– You know your onions are ready for harvest when the leaves turn yellow and floppy. Lift them out carefully and lay them on their sides to dry. They’ll need to be turned a few times so they dry evenly, particularly if you are storing them to use later on in the year. To store, place in a dark, dry and well-ventilated area.
– Sow runner beans and sweet peas on the same frame. Once sweet peas are finished, your runner beans will be ready
to start cropping.
French beans and salad greens should be sown at regular intervals so you have plenty to pick throughout the summer.
– Sow sweetcorn into punnets for planting out in December, when it’s warmer.
– Thin out young seedlings of early carrots, radish, parsnips, kohlrabi and spring onions when they are a usable size for salads or stir fries. Thinning is essential to avoid over crowding.
– Fast-growing radishes are great crops for impatient young gardeners as they mature within a month of sowing. Sow every 7-10 days for repeat harvests.
– Newbie gardeners should give courgettes a try as they are one of the easiest veges to grow, and they produce masses of crops. Sow into small pots first and plant out when seedlings are easy to handle and soil temperatures are around the 15°C mark.
– Prune plants once frosts are over, taking out diseased or old wood, then thinning and shortening branches.
– Make new strawberry plants by layering the runners from the parent plant. Pin the runner into a pot of compost. Once it takes root, cut if off from the parent and replant.
– Early potato varieties such as Summer Delight are ideal for breaking up hard ground for later crops of beans and peas or leafy greens
– Never plant tomatoes after potatoes as they attract the same pests and use up the same soil nutrients. Planting veges from a different family (crop rotation) successively avoids this.
– If you’re a spud fan, try growing purple antioxidant-rich Maori potatoes this year. Urenika and Kowiniwini are recommended varieties. Water them regularly.
– Short of space for tomatoes? Try planting smaller varieties such as Minibelle in pots, troughs or even hanging baskets.
– Espaliering (training branches to grow horizontally) is a great solution for small spaces.
Apples are ideal trees for this method as they produce fruit on short spurs. Initial and Belle de Boskoop are recommended varieties to espalier.
Plant watermelon when the soil is warm in your area. Avoid overwatering as this causes them to become mushy.
– Rosemary cuttings can be taken now and planted into half sand/half potting compost. Cuttings take about six week to take root.
Words by: Carol Bucknell.