Tomato planting time is here again. At Nichols we have a wonderful selection of tomato plants to choose from. There are the ever faithful Money Maker and Potentate, giant fruits such as Beef Steak, Big Beef and Grosse Lisse, along with the newer varieties Antarctica, Red Rocket, Taupo, Top Tom, Trussy Tom as well as my favourite, Tasty Tom that produces fruit that is exactly the right size for a snax biscuit and ever so sweet.
Who can resist the temptation to eat sweet cherry tomatoes picked straight from the plant and still sunshine warm? Sweet 100 has long been a favourite cocktail tomato and there are orange and yellow cocktail varieties that are just as sweet. Acid free tomatoes such as Roma, Conqueror, Dr Walter and Mama Mia May appeal to customers who suffer from gout.
Hardy tomato plants to grow outdoors are Russian Red, Outdoor pride and Patio Prize.
Sweet Caroline is a new medium yellow tomato for us this season and there are many heritage varieties which are usually big and fleshy and full of flavour. Who can walk past a tomato called Delicious!
Always select sturdy plants that have a short space between the leaf joints and measure nearly the same across from leaf tip to leaf tip as it is high. Resist choosing tall puny plants because they have been growing in over crowded conditions stretching for light and will never thrive or fruit as well as that nice strong chunky plant.
Plant each tomato plant deeper than they were in the punnet into fresh clean soil. Tui Tomato Mix is ideal. Remove the bottom two sets of leaves from your chunky plant and bury the plant deep enough to bury those two leafless joints in the ground which will send out two more sets of roots and this will produce a much more robust plant. A strong healthy plant will resist disease.
Space the plants for good air circulation and resist the temptation to cram in a few extra plants and create an overcrowding situation of thin puny plants reaching for sunlight, which will only produce a poor crop after all your hard work. Good ventilation is essential to avoid fungal attacks.
Laterals, those side shoots that sprout at the junction of leaf and stem, need to be pinched our as they appear otherwise much energy will be used growing more and more greenery, when the aim is to produce fruit. Begin liquid feeding the tomato plants with Nichols Super Crop when the first truss has formed and to pollinate the flowers simply shake the first truss and pollination is done.
Potatoes planted now will be ready to eat at Christmas. Potatoes thrive in a warm sunny place with fertile soil, plenty of Nichols Compost and a dusting of Tui Potato Food. Don’t overdo the fertilisers as too much will reduce the flavour.
Plant potatoes in a trench 15cm deep and about 45cm apart and cover with soil. As the potato grows it is important to keep mounding soil over the plants burying the emerging leaves for as long as you can. Mounding is essential to produce abundant crops because the new potatoes form on the underground stem, just above the ‘mother’ potato that you planted. If the new potatoes peek out the sides of the mound cover them with soil. Potatoes exposed to the light will turn green and may be toxic when eaten. Early varieties such as Jersey Benne, Rocket, Swift and Liseta tolerate cooler spring temperatures and can mature in sixty five to ninety days where as main crop potatoes take about a hundred days.
In the vegetable garden it is time to sow vegetable seeds. Leafy vegetables thrive in rich soil helped along with plenty of Nichol Compost which encourages quick and robust growth with all those soil nutrients turned into healthy natural sugars.
Labour Weekend has always been considered the best time, here in the south, to sow the small seeds in the vegetable garden. Make shallow drills 2cm – 3cm deep in a continuous row and dust lightly with Tui Vegetable Food.
Sprinkle the seeds evenly along in the drill, gently rake the soil back over the top and pat down lightly with the head of the rake. After two or three weeks the seeds will appear and in another three weeks thin out the seedlings to about 10cm apart.
Carrots and parsnips need to be sown in soil that is deep and well drained. Sow peas scattered thinly in a 15cm wide shallow trench 3cm – 4cm deep.
Plant lettuces every three weeks and don’t forget to sprinkle Slug Slam because nice new lettuce and silverbeet plants are the slugs and snails favourite snack.
Plant a few herbs for ongoing flavour during summer. Herbs used most often in my kitchen are Rosemary, thyme, mint, bay, chives and parsley and they are so very easy to grow. However basil is a bit tender for outdoors and is grown in the greenhouse with blushing tomatoes.
Annuals are colourful happy summer plants that cheer the whole neighbourhood. Annuals are plants that flower quickly producing a riot of colour with the minimum of work and they pep up the perennial border by adding sparkle to the summer show. All they require is sunshine and very little fertiliser.
Cornflower, Nigella[love-in- the-mist], and larkspur provide airy sprays, Salpiglossis has stunning combinations of colours, and stock emit delicious fragrances morning and evening. Nicotiana is sweet smelling and pest free and Cosmos dances in the borders in of shades pink, crimson and sparkling white. Lobelia’s neat mounds of sparkly intense blue, dynamic Livingstone Daisies and Sweet Alyssum are happy front-of-border plants. Gentle luxurious petunias make a stunning show in gardens, window boxes and hanging baskets.
Perennials are flowers that re-sprout back again each spring/summer after a dormant winter rest. In store now is the new perennial Nemesia collection ‘Berry Delight’ that include colours of Berries and Cream, Strawberry Ripple and Blueberry Ripple all promising a breathtaking sheer mass of flowers over a long time.
The Dianthus tribe have flowers of gorgeous mulberry purples, cherry pinks and now the new ‘Meories’ dianthus is stealing the limelight with pure crystalline double flowers.
Osteospermums display masses of daisy blooms, Felicia has wedgewood blue daisy flowers that are irresistible and Penstemon are back in fashion with their fabulous trumpets of flowers. Electric blue Salvias will brighten your garden and the Scabiosa gang make wonderful long flowering gap fillers.
Thalictrum Provide tall fluffy clusters of violet/ purple and sweet smelling lavenders have a beauty and aroma that captivates gardeners and cooks as well as art and craft people.
New Lavender ‘Princess’, the princess of the lavender family will be in store this month.
Dahlias are living the high life after being banished from society gardens for being loud and brash with their intense and vibrant colours but they lift our spirits during the last days of summer when other plants are past their best. Colour is their trump card.
Happy Gardening Everyone