January and a New Year arrives on Monday. It is an exciting time in the vegetable garden as the efforts of preparation and planting come into fruition.
It is the time of the year when even a casual approach to vegetable production can mean almost all vegetable requirements can be sourced from ones own garden.
Zucchini start producing faster than they can be consumed, cucumbers come ready for harvest, tomatoes will be ripening, lettuce can be planted and harvested in a matter of weeks, beans will hang in abundance from the vines they grow on, freshly dug potatoes taste great, and as summer continues the gherkin and corn can be added to dinner plate.
It is important to harvest fruit daily as it is ready, even if you are still eating the previous harvest as this ensures that the plants will continue to produce. The warmer season we have had this far has bought many crops on earlier than other years.
Tomato maintenance; trim or carefully snap off the bottom few sets of leaves as the fruit ripens to help encourage better air circulation around the base of the plant. This minimizes water getting into the leaves when irrigating, reducing the risk of mildew.
Continue to remove unwanted laterals and tie up stems of tall growing varieties. Grafted tomatoes do not require their laterals removed but require regular tying up to provide support. Continue to feed with tomato fertiliser at fortnightly intervals to keep plants in optimum health.
Spray fortnightly with 'Yates Mavrik' or 'Yates Success Ultra' to protect plants from being infected by tomato/potato psylid. This will also control whitefly and other insect pests too.
Garlic are just about ready for harvest. Garlic plants should be dug up and left to dry on the soil surface, even if they are still green and growing. Onions that were planted in late winter will be coming ready soon. Harvest when the stems of onions are bent over, they should be pulled and left to lie in the sun to dry and cure. Pick your time carefully as most need 10 to 14 days to dry out sufficiently before storing.
New potatoes can be harvested as required once flowering is complete. Early varieties are ready to harvest when the flowers are fully opened (except for Nadine, Rocket and Swift which may have very few or no flowers), about 80-90 days after planting.
Main and late cropping varieties are ready when the foliage dies off. To check for storability, if you can rub the skin off easily with your thumb, they will not store, so eat these first and allow the rest to mature further.
Early varieties have skins unsuitable for storing, so they must be eaten as soon as possible. To harvest, move the soil away and then use a garden fork and lift the tubers carefully from under the plant. Take care not to damage tubers, as once damaged, they will not keep for long.
Once dug up, the plants can be chopped up and buried in the soil as compost providing they were not infected with blight. If infected with blight, it is better to burn or throw away plants to keep from infecting future crops.
For potato crops that are actively growing and not yet ready for harvest should be sprayed 2-3 weekly to prevent against attack of psylid. As with tomatoes use 'Yates Mavrik' or 'Yates Success Ultra'.
To ensure the summer harvest continues regular plantings of lettuce should be made, a sowing of butter beans or other dwarf beans can be sown till the end of January for a late crop, radishes can be sown and harvested in 6 weeks. It is getting late for sowing corn seed, but plants purchased now will still give a harvest before the frosts come.
Winter cropping vegetables with a longer growing season such as brussel sprouts & leeks are best planted out during January and February to get enough size before winter.
Summer pruning should now be made on grapes, with canes that are non producing removed back to the main stem. Stems that have bunches should be trimmed back to two leaves beyond a bunch of fruit.
Spray vines if needed with 'Grosafe Freeflow Copper' spray for prevention & control of downy mildew and blackspot control. Happy New Year and have a great week.
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre