VEGETABLES & FRUIT
• Prepare for early plantings of peas, potatoes, silver beet, lettuces, mesclun, rocket and coriander. Lightly till soil if it is not too wet before sowing seed. Do it when your gut feeling and weather conditions align.
• Weed, feed and mulch asparagus plants to reap good rewards of this luxurious and easily-grown delight come
• Free foods offering variety, zest and health at this time of year include miner’s lettuce, chervil and violets.
• Crack nuts harvested last autumn on a winters’ night in front of the fire. Toss the shells on the fire, roast the nuts and enjoy.
• On a rainy day check, repair, sharpen and oil garden tools.
• On another rainy day, put together a slide show of your favourite garden pics and share them with interested friends.
• Study books, discuss ideas, plan projects; spring and summer are coming.
• Plan ahead and prepare for spring and summer flowers by weeding, cutting back, and dividing perennials.
• Finish pruning roses and feed them well.
• Divide lilies and daylilies to increase your stocks and plant them out in well-drained, sunny spots.
• Gather seedless mulching materials but only put down a thin layer. Mulching the ground too thickly in cool weather can inhibit it warming up as the mulch acts as an insulating layer. Add more thin layers as the season progresses so weeds are inhibited, the soil is fed and growth is maximised.
• Beware of providing slugs and snails with a place of paradise, and be prepared to take steps to control them with hand picking or careful use of slug bait.
• Hopefully you marked bulb spots as they died down last year, but if not keep an eye out for delicate spears poking through and protect them from spades and big boots. I use driftwood, rocks, old china and anything else that appeals.
FIVE TIPS TO GROWING BERRIES
1. Boysenberries, tayberries and thornless blackberries are “super berries” and if you’re serious should be trained on posts, wires, or wound along fences, and fed and pruned to get the nicest, largest fruit possible.
They are as easy to grow as wild blackberry (but plain boysenberries can be horrifically thorny so go for thornless varieties). They like plenty of water in summer to swell the fruit. If you’re growing them inside, make sure bees can access the flowers.
2. Don’t be afraid to prune them back hard in winter. Like all the rose family, a hard prune increases flowering and fruiting. Prune back to a 2m tall tangly trunk, then rein in the trunks and tie them to a post. This sets the new vines at picking height so they ripen better in the sun and it keeps them off the ground.
3. Feed them like any other fruit tree. Be sure to weed out any wild blackberry from your flash berry plants as the wild ones will outgrow the super 21st century ones and they will get lost.
4. My thornless blackberry in the tunnel house was laden with giant fruit early last summer. They are easily propagated from a cutting with three nodes, making sure one node is buried.
5. Soak ripe blackberry fruit to float out bugs and sticks, then freeze so you can add handfuls to apple pies in winter.