By Bec Wenzel
August is a pretty exciting month for those of us that work and play in the great outdoors. It may be one of the coldest months of the year but we also know spring is just around the corner so there is plenty to do and plan for in the garden. This is one of the most important months for us if we want a good spring and summer crop.
In Hawkes Bay we have been blessed with a few sunny weekends and I have been out in the veggie patch making climbing frames for my peas and broad beans, putting in some brassicas and some leafy greens. I’ve also added compost and sheep pellets to the soil, and spreading around those snail pellets has been a must to protect my brassicas and leafy greens from snails.
My garlic and shallots are poking through the soil and starting to come along quite nicely and I have also planted my strawberries in the ground. There is still so much more for me to do and the excitement is building because spring gets me extremely hyped up. Colour and the fun edible stuff is on its way. I love it!
Prepping your soil
This is the time to get your soil ready for the growing season. Boost the nutritional content of the soil by adding compost and manures. If you have grown any green manures over winter, it is time to dig it into the soil. This will add organic matter and help aerate the soil. It is one of the most important things to do this month.
This year I am definitely growing potatoes. This is something I’m looking forward to the most! I am usually someone who says, ‘they are cheap enough anyway I’ll just buy them from the shops’ but I’ve decided I really want some home-grown spuds. Ideally, I would love to grow everything myself but life does get busy for us so it’s a little way off yet. I’m going to grow my potatoes in a container to save room in my patch.
There is a huge variety of seed potatoes from the shops. Some are best for boiling, mashing or roasting so make sure you have a read in store before choosing which ones you want to grow.
Before planting out potatoes in spring they must have sprouted first, and the sprouts should be around 2-4cm long. This month’s task is to get those sprouts happening and the best way to do that is to lay the potatoes out in a tray or on some newspaper in a single layer in a warm, airy position receiving some sun light.
This is one to get the kids involved with. I’m sure they will take quite a keen interest in helping out when they know there may be some strawberries coming along in no time!
It is the best time to plant strawberries right now. They require very little room and can be grown in containers as well. Growing them in containers can actually help keeping them off the soil and away from slugs.
Strawberries need a sunny position. The sunnier the spot the happier and sweeter they will be. Good drainage and lots of nutrients is a must and that is where that beloved compost and manure comes in. Strawberry fertiliser is also available when spring kicks in. Mulching with straw also helps keep the fruit off the soil when it comes to fruiting time. Space your plants about 20cm apart. Grow about 4-5 plants per person for a good amount of strawberries.
Once fruiting starts you will need to protect plants from slugs and birds alike. It’s not just humans that love them. Bird netting, straw and snail pellets will be good protection in the future.
It is the beginning of asparagus growing season, especially in the warmer parts of the country. Asparagus crowns can be planted from August until December depending on what part of the country you’re from. If you are in a cooler part of the country hold off for a few months.
This is another of those plants I’m absolutely looking forward to growing this year.
Brassicas and Leafy Greens
It’s the perfect time for spinach, silverbeet, mizuna, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. I have had spinach growing all winter but have just added some of those other goodies. Using slug and snail bait will help minimise any damage caused by the little critters. I’ve learnt my lesson from the last time I planted seedlings only to have them eaten by the next morning.
Broad Beans and Peas
I planted my broad beans last month as I had some three to four-year-old seeds I just so happened to stumble across in my garage. I honestly thought it would be a waste of time and they wouldn’t grow but I guess the hardy little things still sprouted. There is still a few months to get them in the ground though so it is still worth putting them in and the same with peas.
These plants are best sown directly where you want them to grow or alternatively plant seedlings. Free draining soil is a must. Having bamboo stakes or some sort of climbing frame will be beneficial.
Beetroot and Carrot
Root vegetables are best sown directly into the garden bed rather than transplanting them. Plant in full sun or part shade with good drainage.
Tomatoes, Capsicum, Cucumber, Aubergine
Well these favourites are definitely just that little too early to put in the vegetable garden just yet but that doesn’t mean you can’t start getting ready. You can start sowing them into trays or pots of seed raising mix now to have them ready.