Some green thumbed advice and NZ gardening tips and timesavers for July. It’s all about planting garlic, shallots and strawberries for the upcoming summer.
1. Harvest Brussels sprouts. Don’t be surprised if your Brussels sprouts are slow to fatten up this winter, as the warm start to the season won’t be helping. In warm climates, the plants produce loose rosettes of leaves up their stalks instead of the tight mini cabbages you want. In days gone by, gardeners used to strip off the lower leaves to encourage heart formation, but apparently that’s just an old wives’ tale. Give the plants a bop over the head to damage the growth tip at the top instead. For Brussels sprouts, cut them in half, steam quickly (just a couple of minutes) then roll them around in a hot frying pan with olive oil, garlic, heaps of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper… and lots of crispy bacon.
2. Keep planting garlic, shallots, strawberries and brassicas in your garden for spring. Use quick-growing Asian greens like bok choy and mizuna as gap fillers around slower-growing brassicas like cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli. Bok choy is ready to eat in 50 days (or even sooner if you want whole baby bok choy for noodle soups or stir-fries).
3. Transplant onion seedlings in your garden. It’s a fiddly job but make sure you carefully space grass-like onion seedlings at least 5cm apart, to give the bulbs room to swell and grow in spring and summer. Plant onions in rich, free-draining soil and feed with liquid fertiliser throughout the season.
4. Visit your local farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets aren’t just a great source of fresh, locally-grown ingredients – they’re also a great way to find out what crops thrive in a garden your region each season, and they let you hook up with growers of rare and unusual crops. At my local market it’s not just food on offer: you can also buy herb and vege seedlings as well as heirloom seeds to sow. And if you want to grow your own yams or Jerusalem artichokes, you’ll find them for sale at farmers’ markets during winter, so simply save a few tubers to plant. To find your nearest market, check out the website www.farmersmarkets.org.nz.