These are frantic months for growth in the garden. The days and nights are warmer, flowers and fruit trees are blooming. This is the time to get summer crops in the garden and growing.

Ripe for the picking

Asparagus, broad beans, cabbage, carrots leeks and peas are ready to pick.

In the vege garden
Cool spells can be expected but the hottest months of summer are fast approaching. Expect perhaps in the central north island and the south island all threat of frosts has passed. Outdoor soil temperatures will have risen to that magic number of sixteen. This is the temperature in Celsius which summer seeds require to germinate readily. Labour weekend is generally seen as the weekend to plant tomatoes and other summer plants such as eggplant, sweet corn, and French beans. The lawn will be going berserk with its growth rate. If you have dandelions and clover on your lawn take a step back and let these flower for a time as they are such important food sources for honey bees. When you can't stand looking at a 'paddock' any longer ensure you place the grass clippings as mulch in and around your vegetables beds.


Why not try growing some globe artichokes this summer. These stately grey arching leaves and large purple thistle light flowers these plants make a real statement in any garden. As these plants grow quite large I don't grow them in the vegetable garden but rather dot them amongst my other plants in my ornamental garden. They would make a real statement in any modern minimalist garden or planted on both sides of an entrance way. They are tough as old boots and require sunny well drained conditions. The artichokes can be harvested and bottled in summer and enjoyed year round. When they are flowering they are covered in butterflies, bees and other beneficial pollinators. Globe artichokes are a much better choice for tough sun drenched banks and mass planting instead of the outlawed agapanthus.

Plant your French and climbing beans from seed now. If you are using seed from last year and are concerned about its viability a good trick is to place the seeds between some old damp tea towels and place in the hot water cupboard or in a warm place. Check in a day or so and plant the seeds which show early signs of germination.

Plant out seedlings of eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. Space them out around 40 -50cms apart. Place stakes in position at time of planting to prevent any risk of injuring the delicate growing roots.

Urban orchard
It is pollination time for your pip fruit trees. Warm sunny still days are needed for the bees to work and pollinate the blossoms. Fire blight can be a real issue in some areas for pear trees. If you experience cool wet weather conditions spray these trees with some copper. If dead branches are evident then remove these down to healthy growth. My Hawkes Bay garden has had a hard time with fire blight and I have had to fell all of my ornamental pears which had just finally matured. Heart-breaking, but by doing this hopefully I have stopped this bacterial infection spreading to my culinary pears and apples.

Top bar beekeeping
This month is the start of swarming. Swarming is a colonies natural way of increasing and dividing its population. The old queen will lay a new queen cell and just before this new queen is about to hatch the old queen will leave the hive with half the population of worker bees and fly off to look for a new hive. A swarm of bees will hand in a tree, on a fence or anywhere else it chooses while scout bees are off looking for a new place to reside. When a place is found these scout bees will return to the hanging swarm and the whole swarm will take to flight again and move to its new location.

Bees are at their most docile whilst they are in a swarm formation. They have no brood to protect and they have filled their bellies with honey in preparation for flight.

A swarm is, I think, the best way to populate a new top bar hive. Catching a swarm looks daunting but is actually fairly easy. While wearing your bee suit place a box under the swarm cluster and then gently shake or cut the branch so the bulk of the bees fall into the box. As long as the queen is in there the bees will follow. Once everything has settled down you can transport this box to your new top bar hive.

If you see a swarm and are not a beekeeper the best course of action is to phone your local beekeeping club. They can send someone around to collect the bees and give them a safe home. Don't call pest control for obvious reasons. If you leave them alone the swarm will eventfully take flight and leave on their own accord. The only issue then is that they could take up residence in the wall linings of a house or under someone's BBQ hood which then becomes a little more problematic.

Top tip
After removing the broccoli flower slice the stems thinly and toss in a salad or stir fry for extra crunch and food value.

Like what you see? For weekly Element news sign up to our newsletter. We're also on Facebook and Twitter.