With another week of calm settled weather we are now past the shortest day.
Sometimes this is referred to as the start of the gardening year.
Light levels along with temperature are two of the key factors above the ground that determine plant growth.
It is light levels from which plants photosynthesise, turning sunlight into food.
Day length, called photoperiodism, is also used by plants to determine when to flower.
'Short day' plants wait until the night length is long enough to initiate flowering, 'long day' plants when the night length is short and the flowering of 'day neutral' plants is unaffected by day length.
As the days lengthen after the shortest day, many plants will initiate spring blossoms which will start to show in the coming 6-8 weeks.
So where are things at in your vegetable garden?
If you managed to make plantings in March then right now your vegetable garden should be full of green growth including harvests of spinach, silverbeet, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts and other vegetables for winter harvest.
If they are nearing maturity they will benefit from a liquid feed of Ican Fast Food or similar so that the nutrients are immediately available.
Lockdown plantings made in April are looking large and leafy and getting closer to maturity.
These vegetables are heavy feeders and a fertiliser application at this time will increase their size and maintain good health. Slugs and snails are likely to be active on young seedlings so lay pellets to protect plants from attack.
If you have areas of bare soil, lime can be added to improve soil structure.
Test your soil and if the pH is less than 6.5 add lime to the soil and mix in. pH testers are available at garden centres. Do not add any compost or manure when you lime.
Liming can be done at any time but June is one of the most suitable months. If drainage is poor in your vegetable patch then consider creating raised beds which offers a simple remedy.
The use of cloches at this time of year can greatly enhance growth rates. Any such methods where soil temperature can be increased during these cooler months will increase growth.
Planting lettuce plants on a small mound of compost or mulched with straw, or even black plastic mounding as for strawberry plantings, can help to give a good winter lettuce crop.
Frost covers should be brought out of the shed and kept handy. On clear nights where the temperature looks set to drop below 4C, tender plants should be covered.
What to plant now
Early potatoes: There are a few varieties such as Jersey Benne, Ilam Hardy and Agria available now in garden centres. If they are planted now you should be digging new potatoes before or around Labour weekend in October.
The full range of seed potatoes is due into the garden centres in a few weeks in early July. It is not absolutely necessary to sprout potatoes before planting but it is a good gardening practice to do so as it pays good dividends in the resulting crop.
Potatoes planted now will require vigilant mounding of new growth through the winter to prevent frost damage. As with later potato crops, applications of Tui Potato Food will be beneficial.
June is a good month to plant out garlic, shallots and onions.
These are all excellent vegetables for healthy living, they are not difficult and take up so little room.
Before planting sprinkle the ground with ICan Organic Vegetable Fertiliser and fork in.
Onions need the ground to be firm so tramp first and plant the root only after having trimmed the root and cut the tops. Both Red California and Pukekohe Longkeeper are available now as transplants in punnets or alternatively grow some from seed.
Strawberry plants perform best if they are planted during the winter months. Plants will produce best in their first two years. It is recommended that you replace plants after the third year.
Carrots and beetroot seeds can be sown again now we are past the shortest day. Carrots perform best when the soil has been deeply worked and sulphate of potash added. They do not like soil that has been fertilised with nitrogen as this will cause forking so avoid using rich animal manures and the like.
Time to sow seeds of broad beans. Try Chefs Best Ican Broad Bean called Mr Green Seed.
It will produce a great crop of beans that look good and taste good. Mr Green Seed produces beans that remain green after cooking. Rich in minerals, vitamins A and C, and dietary fibre, broad beans sown now will give you heavy crops of delicious beans in late winter and spring.
Gareth Carter is the general manager of Springvale Garden Centre.