The Back Yard
Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

Gardening: Lusting for lemons

By Justin Newcombe

1 comment

Landscape gardener and Life columnist Justin answers your questions.

Eureka lemons are in season during the summer months. Photo / Supplied
Eureka lemons are in season during the summer months. Photo / Supplied

I have been lusting after a Eureka lemon for years and have utterly failed to find one. I have settled for a dwarf, seedless Lisbon and eagerly await fruit to see if it lives up to the hype, but I really, really want a Eureka. I live in Foxton Beach area. Any ideas where I may source my heart's desire?
- Alexandra

While Lisbon is a great lemon and certainly worth the trouble, Eureka is a whole new ball game. Firstly, it has unusual variegated foliage, and even more unusually, the juvenile fruit is also variegated. And conveniently, Eureka is a summer cropper which is good news for all you G&T drinkers or lemonade makers out there. If you have a Kings Plant Barn branch nearby, give them a call as they can source anything in the country; but if you really get stuck go to and they may be able to help.

We're growing our first watermelon, which is getting bigger by the week but it's now so late in the season we're wondering if we should pick it. How do you know when they're ready? And what happens if you leave them too long?
- Laura

For the most part you can leave your watermelon until the vine dies right back, usually in late summer, but you can also pick the fruit well before this. The main test is to keep tapping the melon. Usually, once it takes on a hollow sound it is ready. This late in the season the vine will be looking the worse for wear but that's as it should be. If you do let the plant die right back, place the melon on a piece of cardboard or some straw to protect it from the ground. This will delay insects from beginning the decomposition process.

I want to give broccoli another go this winter. Last year it had heaps of leaves that took up half my raised garden, but quite small heads. What do I need to do to have more success?
- David

You can expect large foliage from your brassicas and I'm regularly surprised at how big the foliage can be. Even accounting for this it sounds like your plants are getting too much nitrogen, which encourages a lot of leaf growth. Try planting your broccoli after a heavy nitrogen feeder such as spinach. Some crop rotation diagrams show brassicas as a separate group, after alliums, right at the end of the rotation cycle. (Check out my article on crop rotation at The further along this cycle you plant your brassicas, the less nitrogen you will have in your soil.

Dress the soil with low nitrogen material such as leaf mould, seaweed, potash or a combination of the three.

Weekend checklist

* Green-crop with lupins any beds you will leave over winter.

* Keep pruning and dead-heading roses. It's almost time to bed them in for winter.

* Prepare new beds with compost, sheep pellets, lime, blood and bone, seaweed or any other sort of organic matter.

* Sow broccoli, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, broad beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, onions, silverbeet, spinach, spring onion, radish, parsnip, late peas.

* Mulch your veggie garden with pea straw.

* Feed citrus with magnesium sulphate. Mulch the drip line and keep well watered.

* Finish pruning fruit trees.

* Repair damaged lawn areas before winter.

* Dead-head summer flowers such as day lilies.

* Split up cyclamen and get ready for some winter colour.

* Harvest and store pumpkins and potatoes.

* Lightly trim hedges.

* Compost: If it's dry add some water. If it's wet add some dry stuff, but whatever you do make sure you turn it.

* To ask Justin a question, click on the email link below.

- NZ Herald

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