When Labour Day weekend comes gardeners get excited, and with good reason, says RNZ gardening expert Xanthe White.
“We have more settled weather, it moves in our favour and the likelihood of frosts is unusual.”
Xanthe has tips, tricks and suggestions to get your garden growing this spring, including seeds, rotation and how to establish healthy watering patterns now that will make your garden robust for the dry season.
Spring is a time of year when gardeners, capricious weather notwithstanding, have a pretty free rein, she says.
“The wonderful thing about this time of year is you can start planting just about anything you want you’ve still got time to plant things that are later, things that are earlier – you can just go for it.”
Now is the time to get the toms and the potatoes in, and the more you get in now the more for you’ll have for mid-summer, she says
But there are some things to be aware of before you plant.
Think ahead 2 months
“How big are these plants going to get, but not just how big and over what growing period?”
“Think about how plants might shade other plants in the garden to benefit or not to benefit them. When my tomatoes are full and tall and covered in fruit what are they going to be casting shade on?
“Always think about the direction of the sun.”
“Think about what you planted last year, particularly if you had diseases, don’t put things in the same spot.”
Tomatoes tend to be hungry so they take a huge amount out of the soil moving those around can give you can enrich the soil, she says.
Where you’ve had your tomatoes the year before Xanthe suggests planting beans there instead.
Some guaranteed winners for the novice
“Begin with your greens and your herbs they are almost guaranteed to do well at this time of year.”
But don’t be afraid to experiment. When you’ve tasted your first homegrown tomato you won’t want to go back to the supermarket.
“Take some risks. That’s often what hooks us as gardeners; tomatoes they do not taste the same from the supermarket. From the moment they are picked sugars break down.”
Let’s talk about water
People often water too generously, Xanthe says.
“What you can do by overwatering at this time of the year, while they’re growing and getting bigger and beautiful, you are actually making them dependent.
“Resist the urge to over care for your plants. It’s not too warm at the moment, your plants don’t need watering every single day. Keep an eye on them, if you see them wilting give them a good drink - but try and be stingy. As gardeners, we overwater our plants.”
Just like a human diet, plants need balance, Xanthe says. Don’t forget the fibre - the bigger, structural twiggy matter.
“If you just put nutrient in it’s a bit like just putting sugar in. What you want is soil quality. You don’t just want energy you want fibre.
“Mulching helps introduce those top layers into a garden
Mulch doesn’t just protect the plants, it protects the soil because soil is also a living thing, she says.
“If you leave your soil bare you have a desert; we want our soil to be buzzing with life.”