Asparagus, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, snow peas, spinach, spring onions and zucchini can all be sown now, ready for harvesting in spring and summer.
Asparagus should be planted out as crowns, while they are still dormant. They require deep, rich soil for optimum production. At planting time, the crowns can be placed into furrows about 20cm deep and 30cm wide.
The crowns should be placed onto a small mound so that the roots can be spread out evenly, pointing downwards. Compost, to a depth of 7.5cm can then be applied. Plants should be spaced about 45cm apart, leaving just over a metre between each row, if multiple rows are being planted out.
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As the plants begin to shoot and growth occurs, the trench can then be gradually filled in. Spears produced by the plant in the first year should be allowed to go to seed, rather than be harvested, as this will strengthen the plant and allow it to be much more productive in subsequent seasons.
Potatoes can be planted as seed potatoes, smaller potatoes which have an "eye". The eye is a part that will shoot and form stems that reach to the soil's surface. It is preferable to purchase seed potatoes from a reliable supplier as these will be disease-free.
New potatoes form underneath the potato seed. Prior to planting out the potatoes, the garden bed should be dug deeply and blood and bone or manure added to the soil. Adding phosphorus will help the plants form a good crop, while nitrogen will only encourage the production of leaves.
The potatoes can be planted about 15cm deep, ensuring they are away from sunlight, as this will result in the formation of toxic green areas on the potatoes. Once the potatoes have been placed into their holes they can be covered with soil, although using composted leaves, lucerne hay or well-dried lawn clippings should give better results.
Extra layers of potatoes will be obtained if the new shoots have extra soil added to them as they emerge from the surface of the soil. If the original planting takes place in a more confined structure, with a type of wall used, then it is easy to add more soil, leaving the uppermost several centimetres of the shoots above the surface.
At harvest time, the soil should be full of potatoes. This will occur after the plants have flowered and the flowers have then died down.
Azalea plants add areas of bright colour to winter and early spring gardens. However, weather conditions during winter are often ideal for the development of petal blight in azalea plants.
Frequent rainfalls and misty weather that coincide with the plant's flowering time cause a fungal disease that forms small spots on the flower buds. The spots appear similar to damage caused by the flowers being soaked with water.
Within several days the flowers become limp and slimy, and then turn light brown. The damaged flowers often become stuck to the foliage, where they remain for many weeks.
Azalea petal blight survives in diseased flowers remaining from the previous season or in leaf litter on the soil's surface under the plant. Just prior to flowering time, spores of the fungus are released.
Control of petal blight includes the removal of diseased flowers remaining from the previous season, as well as removing leaf litter from under affected plants.
If spots have not yet appeared on the new flowers, an application of fungicide will give protection to the flowers. It must be applied prior to the flower buds starting to open, before the colour has become evident. A second application of fungicide to the plant in a fortnight will assist in control.
Grafting has been a technique used for many years to produce selected varieties on stronger plants. In plant terms, grafting means physically combining the desirable properties of two or more plants to form one plant.
A fusion is formed between the upper parts (flowering or fruiting) of a plant and the lower parts, or rootstock, of another plant. The rootstock is selected because it usually is a stronger grower and may be resistant to diseases that attack the scion, or upper part.
Grafted plants have become much more common in garden centres and nurseries. Apart from flowering shrubs, citrus and other fruiting trees have become popular subjects for grafting.
Multigrafts, as the name suggests, have multiple scions grafted onto a single scion. One of the main advantages of multigrafted fruit trees is that a much larger, and more varied yield can be obtained from a smaller garden space.
This is particularly attractive for today's trend towards more compact yards and garden spaces. Another advantage is that fruiting varieties that require cross pollination for the formation of fruit to take place can have the necessary varieties included on the one plant.
However, it is important for the home gardener to realise that multigrafted plants often require extra vigilance as one of the grafts is often more vigorous than the other one or two grafts.
This will mean that the stronger graft will require more regular and heavier pruning, in order to keep its size relative to the other grafts. If this is not done, the strongest graft will eventually dominate the other graft(s), eventually causing them to die out.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Bare rooted roses, such as those from retail outlets, should have the plastic removed and then placed in a bucket of water, ensuring all the roots are covered.
- Zinnia Lilliput seeds can be sown now, producing compact, dome-shaped bright flowers in about 4 months.
- Salad vegetables, including baby spinach, silverbeet, Italian parsley, and Asian greens will grow well in large pots.
Maitland and District Garden Club