Goodbye summer, hello autumn as 2016 Marches on… Here are five fresh tasks to get growing in your home vegetable garden for the third month of the year, the start of Autumn in New Zealand. Also check out Trudi with how-to video tips in the garden at tuitime.co.nz

1. Plant winter radishes: We love ‘Round Black Spanish’ radishes. These radishes are black skinned and white inside, they prefer to grow in the cooler months of autumn and winter, and can grow up to 8cm in diameter. They’re great to use fresh in salads or as a tasty addition to winter soups. Black radishes were very common in French and English gardens in the early 19th century, but records show this variety was being grown as far back as the mid 1500s in Europe.

2. Harvest cucumbers. We know people who’ve had much success with ‘Mini White’ cucumbers in containers this summer. Cucumbers will keep flowering and fruiting for a few weeks yet provided you keep them well watered. Pick off any leaves that succumb to powdery mildew. Cucumbers are pretty versatile too. You can make your own tzatziki to serve with spicy chicken or lamb kebabs on the barbecue, or get fancy and serve chilled cucumber and rocket soup at a dinner party. Or make a sweet and sour pickled cucumber salad for a change. You can also add cucumber to refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails or try Martha Stewart’s Mint, Cucumber and Vodka Cocktail. You need 2 cucumbers, small ice cubes, 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1/2 cup of vodka and 2 tablespoons of Cointreau. Cut 4 thin spears from 1 cucumber and reserve to use as a garnish. Peel the remaining cucumbers and quarter them lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Coarsely chop cucumbers, then puree in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add mint, sugar and lime juice and shake. Add 3/4 cup cucumber juice, the vodka and Cointreau, and shake. Strain into 4 glasses filled with ice. Garnish each cocktail with a cucumber spear.

3. Protect seedling brassicas with bird netting. Fling a roll of bird netting over bamboo stakes to protect newly planted cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbages from lingering white cabbage butterflies.

4. Out with the old and in with the new! It’s tempting to take your eye off the ball in late summer, especially if your garden looks like it’s falling apart at the seams. So spend half an hour in early March pulling out tired vege crops, such as courgettes with powdery mildew and runner beans that have run out of steam, and slot seedlings into the gaps. By planting something new each weekend, you’ll avoid the frustrating feast or famine scenario later in the season.

5. Plant Chinese cabbages. Bok choy, pak choi and wongbok are fast-growing fillers to bridge the gap between summer and autumn. Keep them moist and they’ll be ready to eat in a month. Watch out for slugs and snails though, as they’ll strip these succulent greens down to their ribs if given half the chance. Chinese cabbages are cold-hardy and perfect for containers as they take up only a fraction of the space of conventional cabbages. Steam or stir-fry; don’t boil them as they quickly turn to tasteless mush.

For more great gardening advice, read NZ Gardener magazine or click on tuitime.co.nz to watch Trudi on a quick three minute how-to web video gardening guide for Autumn:
http://www.tuigarden.co.nz/howtoguide/autumn-gardening-guide

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