What to harvest in the garden
+ Don’t leave your citrus fruit on the ground too long or it will rot. If you can’t eat all the fruit produced by your lemon and other citrus trees, donations are always welcome at food banks and shelters. Another option is to turn them into yummy lemon curd or limoncello, a lovely drink that is very easy to make.
+ Harvest olives by laying a sheet or tarp under trees and giving branches a good shake. Have a go at curing them if you can – there are lots of good tips online.
+ When harvesting rocket always nip out any flower buds as these will quickly form seed and stop the plant producing new leaves. The more leaves you harvest, the more the plants will produce, but never denude completely as they can’t grow without foliage.
+ Kale is still very much the vege du jour due to its high nutritional value. Eat leaves as soon as possible after picking and before they turn bitter. You can pick the outer leaves or the whole plant; young flower buds are also delicious in stir-fries and salads.
+ Harvest kohlrabi when bulbs are around the size of a tennis ball. Any larger and they can become woody and tasteless.
What to sow in the garden
+ Cost-savvy gardeners start sowing vegetable seed indoors or in a tunnel/greenhouse now for planting out when temperatures are higher and the weather more settled. This is a good idea for veges that need a long growing season such as eggplant, capsicum, courgettes and tomato.
+ If planting seedlings directly into the garden, protect them with a cloche to keep slugs and snails at bay as well as provide shelter from wind, frost and heavy rain. Cloches also help to keep soil temperatures more even. You can easily make your own from recycled soft drink bottles – check out podgardening.co.nz for good instructions.
+ If you love the peppery taste of radish, varieties such as ‘Minowase Long White’ are suitable for winter gardens. They take longer to mature than summer radishes but can be left in the ground longer, too. For seed try kingsseeds.co.nz.
+ In warmer areas sow bok choy seed directly into the garden at 3-4 week intervals. Choose your variety carefully as some are more suited to hot weather than winter. You’ll need a sunny spot and watch out for aphids. Pick when leaves are young and tender.
+ Sow spring onion seed directly into the garden around 6mm deep and water regularly. Thin seedlings when they are around 3-5cm high and again at 10cm. Use the thinnings in salads or sandwiches.
What to plant in the garden
+ Apricot and other stone fruit trees should be planted well before buds start to open in spring. Make sure you give them plenty of space (check their ultimate spread at the nursery) and dig in plenty of blood and bone and compost beforehand. Stake for the first season or two if exposed to wind.
+ Remember the rainbow with your food choices and plant silverbeet with coloured stems this year. Red-, yellow- or orange-stemmed silverbeet is not only good for your health, it will brighten up vege gardens (but wait a month or so in cold areas).
+ Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t have salad greens in the garden. Plant easy-to-grow rocket, mizuna, miner’s lettuce, orach and cold-hardy lettuce varieties. Chicory is another winter green with a slightly bitter taste. Plant in a sunny spot in soil that is fertile, moist and well drained. Liquid feed every couple of weeks. Eaten a lot in the Mediterranean, endive likes similar conditions. Use raw in salads or lightly cooked. Choose only young leaves of endive and chicory as older ones can be bitter.
+ Move potted lemongrass to a warm, sunny spot in the garden when new growth starts. Don’t leave pots standing in water during the night in colder areas.
+ If it’s not too frosty in your area, plant seed potatoes of early varieties such as ‘Jersey Bennes’, ‘Liseta’, ‘Karaka’, ‘Rocket’ and ‘Ilam Hardy’. Chitting (allowing potatoes to form sprouts before planting) is a good idea when the soil is still cold as growth will start earlier and they’re less likely to rot. To chit seed potatoes, lay them on newspaper or in an egg carton indoors (not in direct sunlight or they’ll turn green) until 5-10mm sprouts appear.
Words by: Carol Bucknell.