Scooted off and heard Andrew Boylan of incredible edibles give a talk on Thursday night at Palmer’s and then up to Katikati on Friday morning for some more good advice from Gerard Martin of King’s Seeds at the final open day for the year that had a summer/Christmas theme.
Some of Gerard’s tips for a stress-free summer garden:
Mulch – supresses weeds and retains moisture in the soil (but you can mulch a plant too deeply; keep it at a maximum of about 50cm to allow the soil to breathe).
Water – a plant that keeps flowering will keep fruiting and a mulched plant that is watered regularly is more likely to stay free of disease and insect attack. Water thoroughly in the evening.
Stay on your toes – stake plants before they need it; remove seed heads to avoid treasures becoming weeds; watch for insects on the underside of leaves; remove diseased plants; deadhead to prolong productivity; train plants; sow every 6 weeks for a continuous harvest.
Bolting – some plants naturally bolt. Coriander and watercress won’t be under stress, they’re reacting to day length. Successive sowing will get you over any bolting.
Eggplants (aubergines) – when the plant sets its first fruit, take it off. This encourages other flowers to grow equally and produce better fruit. Put your plants in the hottest part of your garden.
Whitefly – Mix 4 tbspns bicarbonate of soda to 1 litre of water and add a drop of detergent. Spray on plants affected by whitefly, but keep the mix agitated so the bicarb doesn’t sink to the bottom.
Gerard conducts his own germination trials – a current one for beans has seen him remove a line of seeds from the shelf as they didn’t strike well.
Visitors at King’s Seeds open day take advantage of the free offers – red lettuces, tomato plants, pumpkin plants and bundles of rhubarb. Photo: Sandra Simpson
And some of Andrew’s advice:
Blueberries – are surface feeders so have a shallow root system. Acidic soil is vital and they don’t like wet feet. Blue Magic will overcrop the first year so you need to remove the emerging fruit. Blue Sapphire, to be released next year, is the same.
Fig – Let the tree grow to the height you want and cut the top off. Keep cutting it back to encourage sideways growth. Mosaic virus (mottled leaves) doesn’t affect fruit but keep the tree fed (especially if it’s in a pot) and it will recover.
Feijoa – Don’t use them as a hedge as they fruit on last year’s wood (or trim alternate sides each year). The flowers are pollinated by big birds such as blackbirds, mynahs and starlings. Waxeyes may be in the tree but they’re not pollinating. In urban areas it’s not necessary to have 2 trees to achieve pollination but in the country it’s probably a good idea.
Passionfruit – Full sun and lots of water. Spray with copper in spring and summer as a curative for greasespot. “The fruit will look awful but it still tastes good,” Andrew says.
Avocado – Never plant another tree where one has died from root rot (Phytophthora). When planting a new tree, carefully extract it from the bag and under no circumstances disturb the root ball. incredible edibles is next year introducing a (they hope) dwarf avocado called Cleopatra that flowers heavily. The Hawke’s Bay breeder has a six-year-old tree that is 3m.
Casimiroa/sapote – Can be planted in the place where an avocado has died.
Pine nuts – It’s 8 years before you get a crop, 18 months before the cones have ripened … and then you have to get the nuts out! Andrew says he has nice, big pine trees.
Chilean guava/NZ cranberry – Keep trimming it and the bush will keep flowering and fruiting. Cut young plants 3-4 times a year to develop their structure.
Coffee – Grow inside in a pot in the hottest place you have. The bushes hate cold wind. Andrew this year cropped 500 beans from a plant in his office. Fiona roasted them in the frying pan, then the oven and smashed them up in a blender. They made a delicious brew, says Andrew.
Chilean guava trained as a topiary. Photo: Sandra Simpson