One of my favourite parts of the garden is edible plants. Vegetables, stone fruit, berry fruit, citrus to name a fraction of what is available and what we are lucky enough to be able to grow in Whanganui's temperate climate.
Many people share the ideology that it would be great to be able to eat off the land and know what goes into your food.
Living in Whanganui, touted as the fourth most temperate climate in the world, climatically we can grow and harvest fresh fruit every month of the year. If one was to be living in a colder climate this would not be possible, but it would be possible to grow, harvest and store fruit for use every month of the year.
Now is a great time to plant fruit trees in your garden. Many varieties that are only available in the garden centre seasonally are in store now, with limited stocks. So take advantage of the moist soils, make your selection in store and you too can have a year-round fruit harvest at your place.
Stonefruit pest watch – time to spray for curly leaf protection
With a great run of warmer days in July, the buds on peaches and nectarines are certainly looking close to swelling so keep an eye on them. The moment they start to move apply Freeflo copper and Enspray 99 oil to prevent curly leaf and get rid of any residual insect problems. These two products can be mixed together.
These certified organic oil and copper sprays can be used on all fruit trees as a winter clean-up which will remove overwintering insect larvae and kill fungus spores. This will reduce pest and disease incidence in the coming summer. We recommend doing this spray combination twice, two weeks apart.
Time soon to spray for protection against brown rot that destroys peaches, nectarines and sometimes apricots and plums, just as they ripen. Many come looking for a remedy each year when their fruit is rotting – the only fix for this is preventative spraying soon. Make sure you have Yates Fungus Fighter on hand to spray once at commencement of flowering, once in full bloom, once at petal fall and once at shuck fall.
Growing food indoors
Did you know you can grow your own food indoors?
Growing your own microgreens or sprouts is a great activity to undertake. Both are very easy to do and have a fast turnaround time from seed to plate. A wide variety of people grow their own microgreens and sprouts as they tick the boxes for many people for many reasons.
These vegetables can be grown inside on the kitchen bench or another suitable spot, which is great if you are renting or you don't have space for a garden. Microgreens and sprout growing is a great introduction to growing your own food for those who have never gardened or don't like getting their hands dirty. Then for those who love all things gardening and growing, this provides a wet day plant-growing activity.
With the use of sprouts and microgreens prevalent in fine dining restaurants around the world and shown on cooking shows, there is a lot of interest in growing your own at home.
In the home they are great as a garnish to soups, stir-fry, added to a salad or alongside a meal. They are also great in a sandwich.
These are vegetable seedlings that are grown and then harvested when they are small and leafy. The seed itself is not eaten.
Growing microgreens from seed is relatively straightforward. Simply select your seed, fill a tray with seed raising mix and ensure it is spread out evenly and firmly. Sprinkle the seeds across the mix and then cover with a thin layer of seed raising mix as per depth indicated on the seed packet (this may vary depending on the variety). Water the mix thoroughly and then place the tray in a warm, dark place or cover with newspaper in a warm place. Check your seedlings regularly. As they are germinating, remove the newspaper and shift the tray to a light, warm area. Water as necessary and in 10-14 days from germination you should be harvesting your own microgreens.
For ease of harvesting, microgreens are best sown in seedling trays, ensuring that the seed raising mix fills the tray nearly to the brim. It is far easier to trim your harvest off just above soil level in a tray than if seedlings are sown in pots that are only part filled with mix.
Unfortunately, microgreens do not regrow after harvesting. The tray filled with seed raising mix, along with the base and roots of the microgreen, should be emptied into the compost bin.
Four easy to grow varieties from Mr Fothergills are:
Microgreens Flavours of the Orient: a blend of mustard ruby streaks, garland chrysanthemum and coriander.
Microgreens Flavours of Eastern Europe: a blend of pink kale, red cabbage and peas. Microgreens Flavours of Western Europe: a blend of cress, amaranth red garnet and peas. Microgreens Flavours of the Mediterranean: a blend of Italian mixed basil varieties, rocket and sunflowers.
In reality, you can grow any vegetable seedling as a microgreen by harvesting them at this stage of development. A microgreen can range in size from 2.5cm to 7.5cm, including the stem and leaves. This usually includes a central stem, fully developed cotyledon leaves (baby leaves) and one pair of small true leaves. At this point they should be harvested with scissors just above the soil.
Microgreens, being so quick to grow from sowing to harvest, are great for kids' gardening, a neat project for the classroom or the school holidays. They grow well indoors as long as they are given good light so make a good vegetable for growing and harvesting during winter months.
Sprouts can be grown all year round and have a wide variety of uses, including as a garnish, salad topping, healthy snack, in sandwiches or stir fries. Often regarded as a "superfood", they are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals.
They are grown from seeds, as with microgreens, but are harvested at the "sprout" stage before they have developed sets of leaves. That means the seed is eaten along with the developing stems and initial sprout. It is important to use seeds specifically recommended for sprouts to ensure they have not been chemically treated in any way.
Sprouts need to be grown in a sprouter. These can be bought at the garden centre and consist of four growing trays and a bottom tray that collects water that has filtered down from the layers above.
Each layer can be used to grow different varieties of sprouts or started on different days to give a continuous harvest - as one layer finishes, another is starting. Mr Fothergills Kitchen Seed Sprouters can be bought in-store along with sprout seed packets including mung bean, alfalfa, hot & spicy mix, stir fry mix, Asian mix, wheatgrass and snow pea.
• Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre.