Home' Northern Outlook : March 2nd 2013 Contents 10 NORTHERN OUTLOOK, MARCH 2, 2013
Act now to deter
the grape burglars
By LYNDA HALLINAN
QUICK GROWING: Phacelia is a haven for predator insects. Photo: FAIRFAX
Watch out for fungal problems too
This column is adapted
from the e-newsletter Get
Growing from New Zealand
Gardener. To subscribe to Get
Growing (it's free!), visit the
NZ Gardener website at
nzgardener.co.nz, and click
on the Get Growing tab. To
subscribe to NZ Gardener visit
mags4gifts.co.nz or call
0800 mags 4 gifts.
NET AND SNIP GRAPES
If your grape vines are laden with
bunches of unripe fruit, net them
now before birds start pecking at
Birds are ruthless grape
burglars -- they will attack at the
first hint of colour.
There s no need to irrigate table
grape vines in late summer unless
they are showing signs of
significant drought stress -- if the
leaves are wilting, take action.
Keep an eye out for possible
fungal problems too.
Moulds, mildew and botrytis
can cause the almost-ripe grapes
to shrivel up and drop off, and
spraying with fungicide this late
in the season does not usually
The best preventive action is
pruning: if you haven t yet
trimmed back your vines to
improve air flow and let more
light in to ripen the fruit, do it
Cut back any trailing soft
growth to about 30cm past the
bunches of fruit.
SOW COVER CROPS IN
EMPTY VEGE BEDS
Vege gardening is intensive: the
constant cycle of sowing, growing
and harvesting can strip your soil
of nutrients by the end of summer.
A great green way to replenish
your soil is to grow living manure
or green cover crops.
Cover crops, which often hail
from the legume family (due to
their nitrogen-fixing ability), are a
fantastic source of rich organic
material to dig into your soil.
Sow seed thickly now and your
cover crops will be ready to dig in
by the end of winter, before they
flower and turn woody in spring.
This plant material breaks down
and restores nutrients as well as
helping to improve the soil
There are other benefits too,
including weed suppression in
empty beds and protection from
erosion/run off during wet
Cover crops also provide a snug
habitat for beneficial bugs.
Because cover crops are sown
thickly, it s cheapest to use bulk
Order online from Kings Seeds
(their green manure mix is a
blend of peas, oats and lupins) or
look for 500g and 1kg bags of seed
in garden centres.
Useful cover crops include:
Phacelia: This quick-growing
crop is a haven for predator
insects, like aphid-munching
Sow phacelia from now until
April and dig in at any point.
Lucerne is another easy cover
crop and one of the best options
for replenishing lost nutrients in
Lucerne has a vigorous root sys-
tem which makes it useful for
breaking in soil pans. Cut to use
as a mulch or dig in.
Mustard can help clear some soil
fungi and is very fast growing. It
can be dug in after 4-6 weeks.
Blue lupins (not to be confused
with the stately Russell hybrids)
are one of the most commonly
sown types of cover crop.
Lupins are excellent for improv-
ing all types of soil, but make sure
you dig the plants in before they
produce their stumpy blue blooms,
or their stems will take much
longer to break down (not to
mention being hard work to dig
Buckwheat is another fast crop
that beneficial insects love. It s
frost tender though, so dig it in
Crimson clover is a very useful
crop. It not only fixes nitrogen but
brings in bees, so leave it to grow
year after year. Sow in late
PICK APPLES AND PEARS
Apples ripen naturally on the tree
but you may need to start picking
the fruit to beat the birds.
If any branches split, gather
unripe or windfall apples to make
your own apple sauce: just peel,
core, simmer with a little water
and puree, then sweeten to taste
with some sugar.
Pears are best picked when
they ve reached full size, but have
only just started to change from
rock hard to slightly springy.
Let pears ripen in your fruit
bunch of ripe bananas to speed up
SOW DWARF PEAS
Tomatoes over? Sick of
Pull them out and sow dwarf
peas and sugarsnaps. Keep the
soil moist for 7 to 14 days to
ensure good germination. A pro-
lific low-growing variety we love is
Dwarf Massey from Egmont Seeds
& McGregor s.
PLANT OR SOW SPINACH
Spinach is such a cold weather
staple that it s easy to take it for
granted at other times of the year.
Sweeter and less stalky than
silverbeet, it s a handy gap filler
and a good fallback for dishes like
vegetarian lasagne and quiches.
There s no need to boil it -- just
give the leaves a quick wash then
wilt in a saucepan, or steam.
Spinach is widely available in
punnets in garden centres, and
it s good value as one or two
punnets are plenty for most
families. That s because you
harvest it leaf-by-leaf rather than
uprooting the whole plant in one
go.If you prefer to sow seeds, try
Winter Queen from Yates or the
early maturing Winter Giant
variety from Kings Seeds.
If you never seem to have
enough, try sowing spinach seed
every three weeks for a continual
Spinach can be sown direct and
germinates in around 10 days.
Plants can be harvested at any
point as a baby salad green but
will reach maturity in 8 to 10
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