It’s not too late to sow courgettes for summer, plus now’s the time to plant your annual herbs – a kitchen staple. See more garden tasks below
Salad greens: For the freshest salads, pick rocket, lettuce, radicchio and mesclun in the morning when leaves are fully hydrated. Do the same for leafy greens such as kale, spinach and silverbeet.
Take heart: Hearting lettuces taste best if picked when firm and solid. By the time the heart starts to extend upwards the leaves will be bitter.
New potatoes: If there’s room for some carbs on your plate it’s hard to beat the taste and nutritional levels of homegrown spuds. Early varieties will be ready to harvest now in warmer areas. If you carefully scrape away soil around plants, you can remove larger tubers and re-cover tiny ones with soil so they keep growing. For maximum yields, keep mounding up soil around plants, covering new shoots and lower leaves, every 2 weeks.
Small fry: Super-nutritious microgreens are the perfect solution for time- or space-poor gardeners. Harvest when they have 2 sets of leaves (ie slightly more mature than sprouts); snip off with scissors and add to salads, stir-fries or green smoothies. Many seed retailers sell microgreen mixes or you can make your own using the seeds of radish, lettuce, kale, onion, peas and virtually any other vegetable. Sow in small pots on window ledges or any sunny spot indoors or out.
Tip: For better-sized fruit at harvest time, thin out fruit clusters on apple and pear trees once blossoms are finished. Do the same with plums to avoid branches breaking with their heavy fruit load. Other stone fruit such as cherries, peaches and nectarines do not generally overburden their trees.
It’s not too late to sow courgette seed if you live in an area with a good long summer period. Sow into individual pots so they can be easily transplanted into the garden without their roots being disturbed. Keep the pots in a warm spot for faster germination. Soil temperatures need to be around 15°C on a continuous basis for seedlings to go into the garden.
Salad greens are among the easiest edibles to grow. Check out seed catalogues for interesting mixes such as ‘Lettuce Hint of Red’ from Kings Seeds which is a blend of nutritious red-leaved lettuces.
If you’re keen to encourage young vege gardeners and eaters try sowing baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and peas which are easy to grow and delicious straight from the garden.
You can never have too many herbs – they’ll make even the dullest dish more interesting. It’s not too late to sow annual herbs such as parsley, coriander and basil. Avoid very hot spots for coriander and parsley as they can turn to seed quickly in summer.
Get those tomato plants in the ground now, ideally in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind, with well-drained, fertile soil. Make sure you stake tall varieties and feed with high-potash fertiliser. For something a little different try planting one of the heritage tomato varieties with striped, black, yellow, orange, green or purple skins. Remember tomatoes need feeding once fruit starts to set.
Plant spinach seedlings in cooler areas before weather becomes too warm and plants bolt; or choose varieties that are resistant to bolting, or try New Zealand spinach, also known as kokihi.
Many veges need pollinators to produce crops so plant as many attractants as you can near your kitchen garden – eg borage, nasturtium, calendula, alyssum, lobelia and marigolds.
Plant watermelon when the soil is warm in your area. If it’s still a little cool, cover soil with black polythene to warm the root zone, just like growers do with strawberries. Avoid overwatering or fruit will turn squishy.
Try these top tips for the month
Hedge it: Remember to keep newly planted hedges watered for the first 2-3 months or until established. Mature hedges look much smarter if given some TLC such as a spring feed of sheep pellets or blood and bone and a mulch of well-rotted compost or manure.
Green wise: Raising the height of your mower a notch during the warmer months gives more shade to the root zone of grass plants. Dig out invasive weeds like couch grass and dock in lawns, too, removing every bit of the root so weeds won’t resprout.
High stakes: Before tall perennials such as dahlias, delphinium, salvia and gladioli grow too tall, position supports such as obelisks, stakes or steel frames around them. For best impact choose those which will add a structural element to flower beds.
Water world: In dry areas it may be time to get out the hose or start the irrigation system. Check they are in good order; especially the latter as leaks can mean costly water wastage. Always water early in the morning to avoid fungal disease and evaporation.
For great, low-cost Christmas presents, pot up flowering annuals and shrubs. Buy them now and liquid feed and water regularly so they’ll look lush and lovely come December. Try scented gardenia and lavender or easy-care alyssum, lobelia, petunia, carpet rose, fuchsia, zinnia and hydrangea. For smaller gifts, pop succulents into cute little pots.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: James Knowler.