November is the last month of spring and this year it seems to be the marker for the later than usual arrival of warmer and hopefully settled weather.
Many vegetable plantings that did not get done in October, or have failed with the cold soil temperatures and inclement weather, should be planted ASAP to ensure a successful harvest during summer. The late arrival of warmer weather this spring has shown the value of a greenhouse for vegetable growing. During the past week I have seen two different greenhouse-grown tomatoes showing multiple trusses of well-formed fruit. My own, planted at the same time, have been grown in a very sheltered spot but still outdoors and are well behind, with no fruit yet formed.
With the warmer weather now upon us, this is the month for planting corn and beans. These cold averse, warm season vegetables have sizable seeds that can be sown direct into the spot where you would like them to grow. If you are not comfortable sowing seeds, plants can also be purchased in punnets from the garden centre.
Beans come in both dwarf bush and climber form.
Dwarf beans form a self-supporting bushy plant growing about 25cm tall and wide. They are quick to reach harvest, ready for eating around seven to eight weeks from sowing. Planted now they will be ready for Christmas dinner. A highly recommended top-producing bean variety is Supreme in the Ican Chefs Best Seed Range. It is high yielding, with strong disease resistance and has straight 14cm long beans set high on the plant for easy picking. The pods are distinctively glossy, very fleshy and have excellent flavour. The bean Supreme comes ready over a two to three week period so sowings every three weeks will give a consecutive harvest through the summer months. As a small-growing plant, they are an ideal vegetable to grow in containers if you are limited for space, as well as in the garden.
Climbing beans form a larger plant and need some support. A structure of about 1.8-2m high is recommended with trellis, wires or string being ideal for the tendrils to climb around. Climbing beans take about 10-12 weeks to start cropping from sowing but will keep flowering and producing beans for as long as the temperatures remain warm. Some climbing bean varieties will form a tuberous root system that, if left in the soil, will regrow in future years. To leave your root systems to grow again the next year, the vines should be cut off above ground level as the plants die off in the autumn rather than being pulled out roots and all.
A good climbing variety is Yates Shiny Fardenlosa which is renowned for long straight, stringless, flat glossy dark green pods. It is prolific.
Another popular and top-performing climbing bean variety is Yates Scarlet Runner which produces very long pods for a long period through the summer months. It's known for continuous picking and heavy cropping. Picking the beans young will give you more tender produce that hasn't had time to get stringy. An added bonus is the attractive flowers before they set pod. Scarlet Runner is also a perennial and will come up again each year.
Corn is an easy to grow and productive crop that grows well in Whanganui. Seeds should be sown now directly into the soil; they will be ready for harvest between mid-February and March. Corn are heavy feeding plants. Before planting I recommend mixing Ican Organic Vegetable Food into the soil and then side dress again regularly as the plants are growing. Corn is best planted in blocks rather than rows as this significantly improves the rate of pollination.
A highly recommended corn variety is Tender Sweet, part of the Ican Chefs Best Seed Range.
Its reviews live up well to its description: "Extra tender, and full flavour. Very tender husks that do not get stuck in your teeth. Strong germination and vigour, high disease tolerance and early maturing. The best corn variety available."
The Ican Chefs Best Seed Range has been developed by a group of independent garden centres with the aim to put quality and value first. It addresses the issue that we are in an age where price is often pushed lower at the compromise of quality. This range had garden experts carry out extensive trials, as well as getting advice from vegetable seed specialists in New Zealand and overseas, to find the very best varieties for the New Zealand home gardener. The group of independent garden centres have chosen 15 of the very best vegetable varieties for home gardeners.
The varieties have been selected for the following characteristics: superior taste, improved pest and disease resistance, increased vigour and yield. They are also consistent and reliable. As well as Bean Supreme and Corn Tender Sweet, other seeds from this range which can be sown now include beetroot, buttercup pumpkin, carrot, cucumber, courgette, lettuce, tomato, radish, spinach and tomato.
If you haven't yet planted any potatoes or want a later crop, then it is not too late; potatoes planted now will be ready for harvest in February.
If you have potatoes growing, regular mounding needs to be maintained as this increases the length of stem covered on which the potato tubers form. A side dressing of Tui Potato Food around the plants before they are mounded will be beneficial to growth and tuber development.
It is important to now start spraying your potato crop with Yates Mavrik or Yates Success to protect against potato psyllid. The potato psyllid 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 potatoes develop a scorched appearance and plants collapse prematurely. Potato plants that are infected at an early stage end up with small underdeveloped tubers.
The same psyllid affects all plants in the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes and tamarillo. Using the same spray treatment as for potatoes is effective.
Protect apple trees from codling moth
Codling moth caterpillars burrow into the fruit of apples and make holes in them. They can also affect pears, quince, English walnuts and sometimes plums.
Once inside the fruit, the insect is relatively safe and will burrow towards the pip cavity and consume the seeds.
The insect 'over-winters' as a fully fed caterpillar in a silken cocoon beneath pieces of loose bark on trees or in other sheltered positions it can reach. In the late winter or early spring the over-wintered caterpillars transform to pupae and the first moths generally appear during October-November and can occur into January and February.
The best method for control is an integrated pest management approach. This involves using pheromone traps hung in a tree. Closely follow the instructions given. Check weekly for population numbers caught in the trap and when larger numbers are recorded, a spray with Yates Success is recommended to provide a reasonably complete control.
Have a great week.
Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre.