Steal My Sunshine

Yo, it’s your old mate E Cus coming in with the first garden post of 2016. Feels good to be back. Let’s be honest though, this year has not started well. First we lose beloved David, then we lose magnificent Alan, then Sylvester Stallone- Ok he didn’t die but he did get nominated for an Oscar for a supporting role in Creed. AN OSCAR. FOR HIS SEVENTH ROCKY FILM. I mean, I know it’s not on the same level as the death of two of the greatest artists of our generation, but still it’s a bit of a slap in the face. AN OSCAR. Anyway, move on E Cus. I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you, too. Bad news: Your summer garden is almost done. Good news: You still have just enough time to make the most of your current crops and establish some new ones before that sun starts to set. Pump that late 90’s banger by Len and let’s get hoe-ing before the sun gets go-ing.

Watering

If you made the most of your garden time before Christmas, your garden could be reaching near to full capacity. If you are from Christchurch and have barely had a summer at all, you may be happy to know that I expect you will have some super hot days in before our season is totally gone. This means no more grace period on the watering front. To get the last of your one-crop plants over the line, you need to up the anti in this respect now to see you through to the end. I’m all about sprinklers, but over watering makes me anxious so you need to be careful. Whether you are sprinkler-ing or can-ing it, my advice is water your plants after the sun has gone down and that heat of the day has broken. If you are on sprinkler duty, give your plants up to an hour of water before turning that off, depending on how hot it has been that day. If you are watering potted plants as per usual make sure you are filling the top until you see water coming out of the bottom. If you were super creative and planted your edibles in hanging baskets this year they need a lot of water. I have found in this instance it is best to soak the whole basket and plant in a tub for an hour and let it drain out once or twice a week. Around this time of the season is a good opportunity to have one last go at fertilising your plant, especially tomatoes, so tip a bit of liquid fertiliser in your watering can or your soaker tub before you water. When you can, try to avoid wetting the fruit as it can encourage nasty behaviour like blemishes and rotting. Obviously you can’t avoid anything with a sprinkler, including getting yourself wet every second night. Set an alarm on your phone homies. Water now, every night until your plant is totally done.

Weed

Yep, I know. I don’t want to do it either, but we have to. Chronic weeds can strangle your plants and stop them reaching their full potential with their crop. Before you determine that your plant is just never going to crop, weed heavily around the base and surrounding areas of the plant exposing it to light and air. Even weeds that might not seem too bad can have a crippling affect on your plant and how much you get off it. If your strawberry patch was a bit dull this year you may find your plants have had too much affection from some nearby dandelions and they have wound themselves deeply around your plants. You won’t get to the root of all the weeds now, especially as we need to keep the roots of our plants happy and not disrupt them too much, but the more space the plant has the more support you are giving it to the end of its cycle.

Believe

I have had countless people asking me about their tomatoes this season. Your tomatoes are probably still green. This is particularly true of Christchurch gardeners again as the sun has been having a holiday from us. Just keep believing. If you have green tomatoes, they will ripen, just hold on. Your problem will be more what to do with all of your tomatoes when they all ripen simultaneously right at the end of the season. Remember which type is good for what and plan ahead. Big Beef- make sauce, Sweet 100s- salad those suckers, Money Maker- chuck them in your sammies. Even if your plants look like they could be dead, if they have the tomatoes on them, they will almost certainly still ripen. Water them and trust them.

Move On

Some of your plants are totally done and you need to move on with your life, girlfriend. Peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, broad beans, corn, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, heaps mate. If they are definitely done it’s time to haul them out. Unless you are going to harvest their seed which I will talk about in a minute. Remove the remains of the plant, fork through that dirt, chuck in some versatile fertiliser if you feel so inclined and get ready to go again. With this method we are not giving the soil much of an opportunity to regain itself after its previous relationship, your soil is kind of getting into a rebound relationship, so we must rotate the crop. Each thing you plant has different requirements which take different things out of the soil so when we put two exact same things in the exact same spot we aren’t giving our soil much of a chance. Change it up and move things around a bit. Around about now I am looking at planting root vegetables and the occasional hardy bean in my garden as we should have just enough summer lovin left to get us through the germination period of the seed. You can also plant full plants now if you would like, just be careful what you are buying as many garden shops will be selling out of season/root bound plants for cheap.

Offspring

The idea of letting your plant go to seed and then collecting it sounds so awesome but it’s a crap-tonne of work. It will often take your plant ages to do the thing where it grows really tall and then shoots out these funny looking bits and then when you are really close the summer will be over and a big gust of wind will blow over all of your hard work and you feel like an egg. Can you tell I’m speaking from previous experience? If you still feel up for it and you think you are better than me then here’s roughly how it goes. Only collect seeds from a plant that has been healthy and treated you right. If it’s a pod, pick the remaining pods on a dry/dying/dead plant and keep them in a cool dry place in a paper bag, or wrapped in paper towels. Once the seed is totally dry, remove the debris of pod (which may have totally split open by now) and store in paper envelopes. Any seeds that look dodgy don’t make the envelope, and check for bugs. For brassicas, the same applies only you need to wait for the plant to go to seed in your garden, the longer you wait the better. Then cut off the seed section and apply the previous rules. For berries & fruit, usually you are sacrificing the crop here to do this as the seed is most fertile before the fruit has ripened. Use your judgement though. Previous rules again. Google your plant and breed before thinking about saving seed and make sure you have a super organised storage system so you know what’s what next season.

Show People Around

If you have worked hard in your garden in 2015, have a party and show it off. There is nothing more impressive than a beautiful garden full of crops that can be plucked and consumed and with birds and bugs partying on down too. Be proud of your hard work while the weather is good because the road into the cooler months can be treacherous. Be humble but willing to discuss your gardens successes as it will encourage others. Have a BBQ full of your brag-worthy noms! I’m proud of you garden babes and I hope you are too.

All the best for the start of the year pals, I’m off to be a student (again) so you can expect a lot of $$ saving posts from me in the coming months. If you have something you want to know more about please email me here, and let’s all cross our fingers that humanity has advanced enough to not allow Sly to take home the Oscar and let Leo take one instead. I mean surely. Surely.

Much love,

E Cus x

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