Gardening diary: Late summer

Reviewed by our expert panel
Gardening diary: Late summer

All the hard work has been worth it: time to enjoy the harvest, says David Haynes.

There is so much to do this month as the vege garden is at its peak of production. To keep you on track, here is a checklist of all the ‘must dos’ for your edible garden.

  • Mulch your vegetable beds to retain moisture in the soil.
  • Give a good deep water every second or third morning.
  • Snip off coriander seeded flower heads and either save, germinate or add the seed to the spice rack.
  • Harvest rhubarb before it goes woody.
  • Sprinkle untreated wood ash or a phosphorus and potassium- rich fertiliser around the drip line of all fruiting plants such as tomatoes, capsicums, courgettes and all your root crops. These nutrients play an important role in flower, fruit and root formation.
  • Sow parsnip and Brussels sprouts seeds now for a winter harvest.
  • Keep an eye out for aphids, whitefly and caterpillars and spray them with a garlic or soap solution (see my book The Beginner’s Garden for recipes for homemade organic sprays).
  • Harvest corn, strip off corn with a knife, drop into boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, drain and drop into ice water, drain again, pack in re-sealable bags and freeze.
  • Plant lettuce seedlings beneath taller plants so they are partly shaded. Too much summer sun makes them tough and bitter.
  • Prune lower leaves off tomato plants to allow air to circulate.
  • Pull any remaining onions and garlic, leave in sun for a week and then plait and store.
  • Spray a 10 per cent milk, 90 per cent water spray on courgette leaves weekly to prevent mildew.
  • Harvest runner beans continually as this encourages further flowering and bean production.
  • Cover any summer brassicas with fine netting to prevent butterflies from laying their eggs on the leaves.

Gardening Q&A

Q. How do I encourage more tomato growth, less foliage growth?

Bridget, Auckland

A. Tomatoes require plenty of TLC to get worthwhile results. Irrespective of which variety you choose tomatoes naturally throw out shoots from the point where the leaf stalk meets the main stem of the plant. These ‘laterals’ grow rapidly and generate lots of greenery but very few flowers and hence fruit.

Remove all laterals as early and as often as possible by pinching them off between thumb and forefinger on dry days. Keep tying the plant to its stake as it grows upwards and once tiny green fruits set then prune off the lower two layers of leaves around the base of the plant to let air circulate.

Additionally, sprinkle either wood ash, seaweed solution or a general purpose flower fertiliser around the drip line of the plant as the potassium and phosphorus helps fruit development.

Keep watering regularly, mulch to reduce evaporation and if the fruits rot at the ends (blossom end rot) sprinkle a handful of dolomite around the drip line.

First published: Feb 2014

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