Spring this year has given us many fine weekends and rain at the right times as we needed it.
We are now enjoying a settled period of seemingly consistent warm weather as we move closer to December.
This is a period of vigorous growth; trees, shrubs and plants make more rapid progress now than at any other time of the year.
The home gardener can also take advantage by sowing seeds, planting out all the plants that are frost tender and taking cuttings to increase the numbers of favourites.
It is a great time to plant out summer bedding plants as well as vegetables such as cucumbers, melons, zucchini, tomatoes, sweet corn and more.
Keep an eye on the weather, be prepared to protect young plants with temporary covers from unseasonable late frost (fairly unlikely and hopefully not!) or hail storm, strong and cold wind or torrential rain.
As we are moving into drier months ensure that all newly planted trees and shrubs are well watered and use mulch to conserve soil moisture. Note that all newly planted trees and shrubs can be severely retarded in their growth if starved of water in their first year or two.
Time to plant salads
Mesclun mixes are very popular and consist of leafy ingredients for a flavour filled salad. Blends may vary but many have a mix of endive, corn salad, rocket, chicory, baby beet leaves, herbs and colourful lettuces.
They can be harvested by using clean sharp scissors and cutting approximately 15mm above the soil when leaves are about 100mm long, then fertilise with a liquid fertiliser such as 'Ican Fast Food' and allow to regrow.
Continue until all regrowth is spent, usually after 5-6 cuttings. They are best grown from seed.
In the lettuce range there are a couple of not so well known types; COS is a small barrel shaped lettuce with dark green wrapper leaves and a very sweet flavour. It may be grown in containers and harvested one leaf at a time.
It is great for salads, garnishes and sandwiches. Tom Thumb is an heirloom variety introduced around 1860. This butter head type is tasty and quick to mature. The small solid hearts and compact size make it ideal for gardens with limited space.
Many enjoy Watermelon and Rockmelon. They are great summer favourites and can be easily grown in the home garden.
The Watermelon has a thick dark green skin and bright red flesh and is ready to harvest when the fruit sounds hollow when tapped.
The Rockmelon fruit has a rough, thick skin and has bright orange flesh and is ready to harvest when the fruit pulls easily from the stem. Both fruits can be eaten chilled for desserts, used in salads and as a garnish.
Time to treat for Tomato/Potato Psyllid
It is important to now start spraying your potato and tomato plants with Bee Friendly 'Yates Mavrik' or 'Yates Success Ultra' to protect against potato psylid.
Prevention is really the key with this critter, as the generally unseen psylid lands on plants and injects a bacterial pathogen into the plant.
This can go undetected for a while but will later show up, with plants showing a stunting and yellowing of the growing tip.
The edges of the curled leaves often have a pink blush. The stem may have swollen nodes and show a browning of the vascular tissue.
After a while, infected plants develop a scorched appearance and plants can collapse prematurely.
Potatoes that are infected at an early stage develop numerous small tubers and on tomatoes the flowers often fall off the trusses and fruit that does develop can be small and misshapen. With the use of these sprays, it can be effectively controlled.
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre