We are now coming towards the end of spring and the official start of summer is a couple of weeks away. Reflecting on the spring of 2022, it started off wet in September and then turned windy.
From a vegetable gardening perspective, this has influenced planting times for many crops pushing the planting season later. For the second year in a row, November has become a major planting month for New Zealand gardeners.
With warm weather looking like it has finally settled in, now is a great time to make plantings of cold-sensitive vegetables.
The curcubit family encompassing; cucumber, zucchini, scallopini, pumpkins, kumo kumo, melons etc, are the most cold-sensitive of the summer vegetables.
These tender plants dislike lower temperatures and tend to collapse when it drops much below 10C. However, with warmer temperatures (15C+) they romp away growing at a rapid rate with cucumbers and zucchini producing their first harvest within six weeks.
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.
One of my children has a great interest in growing plants and growing a watermelon in a pot the last few years has been a rewarding experience.
Eggplants, capsicum, chillis and tomato plants all need heat to thrive. Although they will survive in temperatures above 5C they tend to sulk and prefer like the curcubit family to be in 15C+. Now is a great time to plant.
If you want to get a jump start on your crops then many of these plants are available in stores now in larger sizes. This week I spotted both capsicum and chilli plants covered in flowers with fruit already set on them.
Two warm summer crops that are best planted as seeds direct into the garden bed that they will grow in are beans and corn. Beans come as dwarf and climbing.
Dwarf beans form a self-supporting bushy plant growing approximately 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 in the “Ican Chefs Best Seed Range” called “Supreme”.
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 making a number of 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 approximately 1.8-2m high is recommended with trellis, wires or string being ideal for the tendrils to climb around.
Climbing beans take approximately 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 couple of good climbing varieties are; “Yates Shiny Fardenlosa” which is renowned for long straight, stringless, flat glossy dark green pods. It is highly prolific.
Another popular and top-performing climbing bean variety is “Yates Scarlet Runner” which produces very long pods for a good 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.
My grandmother, a great gardener has always said you need to make sure that your corn seed is sown before Christmas if you want to get a crop.
Corn is an easy to grow and productive crop that grows well in Whanganui. Seeds should be sown now directly into the soil and to spread the harvest time a second crop can be planted in mid-December; these 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 to grow is “Tender Sweet” which is part of the “Ican Chefs Best Seed Range”.
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 psyllid.
Prevention is really the key with this critter, as the generally unseen psyllid 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