Our District

March in the garden

by Hannah Zwartz, Green Gardener

 

One great thing about gardening is how you always get a second (even a third or fourth) chance. What other pastime is there where your mistakes can be ripped out, piled up in a heap, and recycled into rich compost, food for your next attempts?

If your garden is looking a little seedy, beat the late summer blues with a big clean out. Empty the beds of non-performers and pile up spent calendula, parsley, lettuces etc. on the compost heap,with as much extra manure and seaweed as possible. (If your own compost needs some troubleshooting, watch for an upcoming composting workshop at Matai Rd community garden) Watered and covered now, compost should be ready for next Spring’s plantings. The clean up also makes room in the beds for winter crops like silver beet, cabbages, kale and broccoli.

 

Brassicas: (the cabbage family) need to be planted by March if you want to be eating them over winter. If you put them in when the weather has already cooled, they’ll sit there all winter without actually growing. Kale is the easiest crop for beginners and has the advantage of being pickable leaf by leaf, so a few plants can keep you in greens all winter. Cauliflower and broccoli demand high nutrition, so pat yourself on the back if you are growing these to a large size.

Brassica seedlings will need protection from Cabbage White butterflies, whose caterpillars can shred plants within days. A physical barrier like insect netting (or old net curtains) is good, otherwise spray with bT (there are several brands now available). This parasite kills the caterpillars without harming other insects.

 

Community Gardens: Usually at this time of year I’m flat out preparing for the Sustainable Home and Garden Show.This year I’ve been spending time instead in less-temporary gardens, ones that last for more than one weekend. Kapiti’s network of community gardens is growing and the two new gardens established over winter- at the Community Centre in Paraparaumu and at Matai Road Reserve in Raumati – have been producing large amounts of tomatoes, zucchini and beans. Watch out for regular workshops at these gardens, to keep up with what you can be doing at home.

 

Death and decay have an up-side: these plastic bins help to keep compost damp. Open heaps need to be covered (eg with a tarp) to retain moisture.

Top Tasks for March:

  • Find some room for winter crops and plant into composted soil.
  • Keep picking summer crops – left even a few days, beans and zucchini can overwhelm.
  • Summer-prune stonefruit trees (to avoid silverleaf spores that can infect pruning wounds in winter.) Prune excess leafy growth from apples and pears.
  • Pest Patrol- warm weather brings out all sorts of weevils, beetles and caterpillars. Watch for early signs and try to nip populations in the bud (hose off or squish) before they settle in.
  • Pile up spent plants into your compost with manure and seaweed, keep it watered and covered to be ready for next Spring’s planting.

 

Plant: Brassicas, silver beet, lettuce and other salad greens, red onions, leeks, fennel.

Sow: Carrots, beetroot, coriander, rocket, calendula, peas, green crops (direct); alyssum, lettuce, spinach, silver beet, peas, onions (in trays). Also last chance before winter to sow kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower (in trays, protected from white butterflies.)

 

The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.

Community Visits and workshops are free. Get together five friends or neighbours and invite the Green Gardener round.

Contact Hannah through the Council Service Desk 296 4700 or at greengardener@kapiticoast.govt.nz

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