As summer is upon us, temperamental weather gives way to more benign conditions which are ideal for raising the more tender vegetables.
December is a busy month in the vegetable garden, not only raising new plants but reaping the rewards of late winter plantings.
What to plant
Tender plants: courgettes, sweet corn, cucumbers, melons, capsicums and pumpkin seeds or seedlings can be planted directly in the garden. Unless bought as seedlings, eggplants, tomatoes and celery are best first germinated in pots indoors and then transplanted once true leaves appear.
Brassicas: broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seeds or seedlings can now be planted out, provided you are prepared for the onslaught of cabbage white caterpillars. Otherwise, plant winter varieties of these in autumn once these pests have diminished for a crop the following spring.
Beans: dwarf and runner beans.
Root vegetables: beetroot, carrots, kumara, parsnips, swedes, turnips.
Alliums: it is a bit late to raise leeks and onions from seed but seedlings can still be planted out now.
Salads: all varieties of lettuce will grow rapidly — keep them part-shaded and well watered to avoid tough, bitter leaves.
Plants require plenty of water and food throughout summer. Apply mulch to retain moisture and compost or well rotted manure for nutrients. It is better to give one deep weekly water, rather than daily light watering, as the deep watering encourages root penetration to the deeper, moist soil.
Those veges planted in August will now be cropping.
- The last asparagus spears can be cut and beets, peas, lettuce, leeks and cabbages will be ready for picking.
- Garlic and onions can be lifted once the tops of the plants wither. Keep in a dry place for a few weeks prior to plaiting and storing.
- Love ‘em or hate ‘em, broad beans will be cropping well now. Keep picking the pods as this encourages further flowering and bean production.
- Early season new potato plants will be withering, indicating it is time to dig up the crop.
- Strawberries will be starting to fruit just in time for the Christmas pavlova – providing the birds haven’t beaten you to them.