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NZ Gardener - 2021-10-01

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Frequently asked questions

THAMES

The best way to sustain a year-round harvest is to focus on planting new successions during most of the year. Once a plant has finished or nearly finished producing, remove it and sow or plant something else in its place. Sometimes you can even plant the next succession under your existing plants, so they act as a nursery crop and create a protective environment. The other advantage to this is reducing the time it will take for the successive crops to reach the harvest stage. QWhere I live, I have little or no water available to grow vegetables in the summer. How can I get the most out of my garden in this situation? AFocus on establishing your main summer crops early to mid-spring. Early sowing and planting allows annual crops to develop an extensive root system before the dry weather kicks in. Unless the summer is exceptionally wet, it is best to avoid introducing new plants during the summer. We are pretty fortunate here in Aotearoa New Zealand, that there is generally enough rain events over late spring and early summer to support already established plants. It might still mean that your limiting factor to yield will be water, but you will still be able to harvest lots of veges. Some vegetable varieties tend to do better with less water. If you are a committed seed saver, you can select plants that do better in dry conditions. Another essential aspect to concentrate on is mulching the ground to reduce evaporation and soil moisture fluctuations. You can do this by using a planting pattern that covers the soil with a living mulch, or use other sorts of mulch such as woodchips, straw, leaves or weedmat. Over time, investing in increasing your soil’s organic matter levels will significantly increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture. If you have some water available, it is best to use it for prolonged and less frequent watering, which encourages plants to develop deeper root systems. QI have a spot in mind for my vegetable garden, but it is pretty shaded. What is the minimum amount of sunshine I need to grow vegetables? AIt is crucial to place vegetables in an environment with adequate sunlight. Most veges need a minimum of eight hours of direct sunlight to grow strong and healthy. If your garden has less than eight hours of direct sunlight, it is best to concentrate on growing leafy greens, which can grow with as little as three to five hours of direct light. Some of our garden beds tend to lose light hours in the winter due to shade from trees. We have found that if leafy greens grow with enough light during their main stage of development, they can handle almost complete shading for several weeks. QIAhave trouble growing carrots. What should I do? Germinating carrots and keeping the little plants alive are the main two issues with growing carrots. But once the plants are 10cm tall, they will continue to grow without trouble. As carrots can germinate at a wide temperature range, the main issue is to keep the ground continuously moist while they are germinating, which usually takes between 10 and 14 days. Spring and autumn are the easiest time to germinate carrots as there is naturally more moisture in the soil. It also really helps to time the sowing just before a period of rain is forecast. It is still best to water after sowing to guarantee that the ground is moist enough. Even if the rain event isn’t substantial, watering after sowing will prevent the soil from drying out. We have found that we have great germination rates for early spring carrot sowings, only to find that a week after popping up, they have been annihilated by slugs and snails. Mostly waiting for late spring will do the trick, as slugs and snails pressure eases as the soil dries out. But if you want to get an early start, you will need to trap, remove or deter slugs and snails from your intended carrot patch. We found reasonable success using coffee ground around the perimeter of the beds, beer traps and night handpicking with a torchlight. Making sure that the carrots are growing fast also helps. We tend to sow them under cloches that create a better growing environment and keep the birds from eating the young seedlings.

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