Five green thumb tips for the tasks to tackle in your home vege patch for January. It is all about picking rip tomatoes, digging up your onions and garlic and sowing more beautiful beans. Get more great gardening advice and watch easy how-to web videos with Trudi at www.tuitime.co.nz
1. Harvest garlic, shallots and onions. These flavoursome favourites from the onion family are all ready to harvest when their leaves start to brown off and die. Ease up on watering for a couple of weeks before harvesting so the skins can harden up and cure. Then use a garden fork or sturdy spade to lever the bulbs out of the ground, rather than trying to pull them up by hand. Brush off any excess dirt and hang the bulbs to dry in a warm spot.
2. Sow another round of dwarf beans. If the weather cooperates, you’ll get a good crop from them before the cool nights of autumn arrive. Unlike runner beans, which just keep on keeping on all summer, dwarf beans tend to produce prolifically and then succumb either to general exhaustion or to attacks from green vege bugs. Sowing a late crop now means you’ll get a constant supply of green beans until the first frosts, as your new plants can pick up where the old ones left off.
3. Remove the lower leaves of tomatoes. You might notice that the oldest leaves on your tomatoes (the ones at the bottom) are starting to turn yellow and look unhealthy. Don’t panic. Just use a sharp, clean pair of secateurs to snip them off. Removing the lower leaves also lets sunlight in to ripen the fruit and improves air circulation around your plants, reducing the risk of blight. Don’t take off too much foliage though. If tomatoes are fully exposed to the sun, their skins can burn (resulting in sun scald).
4. Water and mulch. If you’ve neglected your garden because you’ve been away at the beach, remember that a good, deep soak is far better than frequent light sprinklings with your hose. Thorough watering encourages plant roots to dig down deeper to find moisture, keeping them cooler and therefore more resilient during dry spells. Lay mulch too. Wet the soil first, then lay it on thick (5-7cm). Compost makes an effective mulch and grass clippings are fine to use around ornamental plants (and crops like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower).
5. Nip the tips off pumpkins and melons once they’ve formed a couple of good sized fruit per vine. Nipping off the growing tips at the ends of these rampant vines stops the plants in their tracks and concentrates their energy on ripening the fruit, rather than excess foliage growth.
Happy gardening in 2017. To watch your summer how-to web guide starring Trudi from Fresh.co.nz, click here