Welcome to spring!
The daffodils are out. Spring blossom is abundant. The days are brighter and warmer and I just can’t wait to venture into the garden. There is a bit of preparation required in the garden, but nothing too taxing, as we shed the winter coat and embrace the spring season.
As I walk through the garden centre I can’t help getting a whiff of the beautiful daphne. These highly fragrant plants have a powerful sweet scent and are available in pink or white flowers – a must have for every garden and can be grown in a pot!
Another fragrant beauty at this time of year is the brown boronia (boronia megastigma). One of the most loved fragrances of spring and always a winner. Though they have a reputation of being a short lived shrub it is important to know that they are an Australian bog plant and enjoy a cooler semi-shaded place in the garden. Many of us kill them with kindness by planting them in the warmest sunniest spot in the garden and their roots frizzle in the all-day sun.
If the scent of sweet peas matter to you we have an enchanting selection of Dr Hammet perfumed sweet pea plants as well as old fashioned favourites.
Prepare the vegetable garden by digging in plenty of compost, rake the ground level then leave for a few days to allow the sun to warm the soil before planting.
Plant a few early potatoes such as jersey benne, liseta, rocket or swift and you will be enjoying new potatoes at Christmas. Plant them in a row approximately 15cm in depth and about 25cm apart with sprouts pointing upwards. As the potato grows it is important to mound the soil up over the emerging leaves for as long as you can, because the new potatoes are produced on their stems.
Plant lettuce plants every three or four weeks from spring to late summer. Regular watering is needed during the summer months for a sweet mild flavour because dryness will give them a bitter taste. Lettuces are the slugs and snails favourite snack so don’t forget to scatter some Tui Quash Slug and Slug Control.
Carrots and parsnips need to be sown in soil that is deep and well drained then thinned to 10cm apart when quite small.
Onions grow best in well worked soil that has been firmed down before the seed is sown. Sow onions in a position that receives all day sunshine to give them the best chance to bulb up and ripen while there is plenty of heat in the autumn soil.
In the green house complete changing of the soil should not be an issue unless over time disease has become more of a problem. Soil can become depleted of nutrients so plenty of Nichol’s Compost and Tui Tomato Mix worked into the soil can boost it back into life. Soil, like us, can get tired and sick but if it is fed regularly it will keep healthy and produce healthy plants.
Tomato plants are now available so those with a greenhouse get a head start! Choose tomato plants that have a short space between leaf joints. Plants that are tall and puny have been grown in overcrowded conditions stretching for light and will never thrive or fruit well.
Rhys, Nichol’s Dunedin
The days warm up and we prepare for the growth spurt of spring
The very best thing you can be doing is looking after your soil.
Just at the moment there is quite a lot exposed, with the veg garden not yet planted and so many perennials and shrubs in the garden still dormant. There is an opportunity to spread compost and turn over the veg beds. The green house will be calling for attention too.
I have a bigger garden with lots of deciduous trees and find a composting system of three bins works well for me. I have one currently in use, another decomposing and a third on the receiving end of the kitchen waste and garden rubbish. A cool dry spring day is an ideal opportunity to get stuck into turning compost and shifting it out in the beds. Turning it over helps break it down quicker, and if you have a smaller garden, a Tumbleweed Composter will do the turning for you, Magic!
My compost was alive with worms doing their thing, and plenty of industrious little slaters munching their way through the tough dry stuff. I often have queries about slaters in the glass house, people mistaking them for pests because they are quite prolific in that warm dry environment, but they are part of the composting chain, doing a vital job disposing of the woody material.
Compost is not a heavy source of nutrient, except if you have added animal manure to it. It benefits the soil by building up the structure, giving you soft friable tilth that will be able to hold any nutrient for the season. Add Blood & Bone, Sheep Pellets or Super Sheep Pellets for added nutrient, when you are preparing the soil. Healthy soil means healthy plants.
There is a lot of activity in healthy soil, the earthworms continue to work, turning organic matter into elements that the plants can absorb, they are assisted in this by a heap of microorganisms doing the same thing. The more compost, the more activity. Once you have done your soil preparation you can cover it with pea straw. This keeps the temperature more even and keeps the weeds down. It will also contribute to the nutrients as it breaks down. Marvellous stuff! Good soil takes time to build, you have to persevere. Over the years you will notice it gets darker and darker as the humus builds up. Humus is the nutrient rich ‘gloop’ that remains when compost breaks down. It holds the grains together, giving it a soft crumbly texture, easy to cultivate and easy for roots to penetrate. Your cabbages will be eager to get going… you are ready for spring.
Sue, Nichol’s Invercargill
Flowering Trees for smaller Gardens
We shouldn’t feel limited in choice just because our garden isn’t in acreage, there is a great selection of interesting trees for small gardens. Trees add all year round interest and everyone needs somewhere to hang the bird feeder.
Amongst springs best flowering specimens are the dogwoods or with a much nicer sounding name, the ‘cornus’. Showy bracts in colours of pink, red, green and white are set off against glossy slightly creased foliage. Cherokee chief only grows 3 metres tall, showing off deep rose bracts and lighting up the garden again in autumn with yellow scarlet tonings. Another popular choice for spring flowering are the flowering cherries. With many being quite large trees, a better option is to select a weeping variety e.g. falling snow or pendula rosea (pink flower pictured above). Elegant branches covered in blossom are hard to resist. Blossom time also includes the less well known flowering almonds and apricots, no fruit on these – just delightful truly dwarf trees. Prunus glandilosa ‘alba plena’ (white flower pictured above) has masses of double pure white blooms that crowd the stems making a brilliant show, they are great for picking also.
The star magnolia ‘stellata’ fit the bill for a smaller garden also, these can be pruned after flowering to keep in check. The furry buds are held on the tree for months before unfurling into pretty starry shaped blooms in shades of deep pink through to icy white. Varieties include Jane Platte, Waterlily and Royal Star.
Coming in this month:
- Lavender Pink Princess (pictured to the right), the best Lavender for the longest display. Pretty pink bracts cover the entire plant for months and the bees love it!( See photo in barrel)
- Dianthus Memories, superb fragrance so you’ll want to pick to enjoy this one.
- Gladioli, they’re back in style and in store now. Plant in drifts for a great late summer display.
Karen, Nichol’s Dunedin
Salad days are nearly here: join the Fast Food Revolution!
Grow natures own superfood – microgreens, easy and quick to achieve in a few simple steps. Microgreens can be grown in containers on a sunny windowsill at this time of year or outside in containers or garden beds when the weather warms up.
Microgreens are grown in potting mix or soil, which boosts their nutrient value and flavour. These young seedlings are harvested smaller than baby salad leaves and can be picked as you need them.
One of the main benefits of growing microgreens (apart from the fact they are easy to grow) is that they are super fresh therefore retaining a lot more goodness than their store bought counterparts.
According to studies in general, microgreens contain much higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than similar mature vegetables.
Harvesting can begin on average two weeks after planting, when they are cut at the stage of their first true leaves appearing.
Microgreens are also a great way to encourage children to become involved with gardening and growing their own good.
We have a comprehensive range of seeds and products available for successful microgreen growing and our friendly staff can help with advice and selection.
Rose, Nichol’s Cromwell