Late April and May are often both attractive months of the year, especially here in Whanganui. Hopefully the mild weather will continue.
The last couple of weeks has seen the development of rich autumn colour in some of the deciduous trees and we will see more in the coming weeks. I recommend a trip out to Basin Botanical Reserve, in Rapanui Road, if you haven't been for a while as see the colour that is developing on many of the trees.
Now is also the time that a great harvest of produce can be gathered from the garden. Late varieties of apples are now coming ready, passionfruit are continuing to ripen, feijoas are falling, walnuts are dropping and pears are ripening to name a few.
Quinces too, are ripe now and good for use in preserves, jams and jellies. Pick before they are damaged by falling to the ground or from birds. Smyrna is the most common variety and is the largest and most striking in appearance with its rich yellow skinned fruit.
If you haven't got any of these fruits in your garden and would like to grow some, then get planning now. Many of these trees can be ordered at the garden centre now and thus will ensure you do not miss out when the trees arrive into store during June and July.
Some more cold sensitive plants don't embrace the falling temperatures so well and will need protection from frost in the coming months. Now is the time to make some preparations and take sensible precautions such as gathering or picking crops and moving tender container plants into a sheltered spot, before it is too late.
Read more: Gareth Carter: Time to plant winter vegetables
Gareth Carter: Fresh fruit one of gardening's pleasures
Gareth Carter: How to have a lovely lawn
Gareth Carter: Autumn's here and it's garden renovation time
Tamarillos, Passionfruit, Cherimoyas, Casimiroa and Avocado trees that are under two years old will need to be covered with frost cloth on nights when frost may occur. Have frost cloth on hand ready to cover on clear nights when the temperature looks to be heading below 5C. If you are not likely to be able to do this then building a simple frame around such plants is a good idea. This can have frost cloth secured permanently over it, ensuring it is not sitting on the plant. The frame with cloth on can be left over the plants until frost danger has past, usually in September.
Your first crops of winter greens such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, silver beet, beetroot and lettuce should now all be coming on nicely. Now is the time to plant successive crops and get some growth on before the winter chill arrives and the super market vegetable prices skyrocket.
Tomatoes, for many have to come to an end, but some still have plants that have fruit still to ripen. The last fruit can be picked before they are fully ripe and ripened indoors if necessary. Any who still have cucumbers and courgettes will find they too will also now succumb to the cooler nights if they have not already.
Continue to harvest potatoes, if the tops are dying down they will keep well if they are lifted and stored in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation.
Pumpkins are best harvested when the vine dies and the fruit stalk is dry and brittle. At this stage the pumpkins will be fully mature and have their best flavour. Dry well in the sun before storing away. Mature pumpkins will store well for many months as long as there are no blemishes through which rots can invade. Beans; dwarf and climbing need to be picked every two or three days to avoid getting so long and stringy that they become tough and not so nice to eat.
Lettuce crops continue to grow quickly, but watch out for slugs and snails which can leave behind holes and slimy trails. Slug bait comes in many forms and are very effective against these. Alternatively go out with a torch & bucket one evening- which is their feeding time - and they can be easily hand picked off your plants.
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre