Keeping the soil hoed at this time of year not only keeps
down weed seedlings but also gives vegetables an effective
mulch of broken soil that prevents loss of moisture lower
down in the ground.
In most of the southern part of the South Island, sowing
seeds this late for late autumn and winter vegetables is a
chancy matter, although experience of individual plots is the
best guide. Keeping a garden diary with sowing and maturity
dates is well worth the effort. An alternative to a diary is
a sturdy exercise book divided into sections for plants, so
carrots, for example, are all together, with varieties and
sowing/ maturity dates listed year by year with any relevant
Small carrot varieties are best for late-season sowings.
Chinese cabbages, kohl rabi, spinach, parsley and turnips can
Plant out broccoli, late celery and leeks. Modern celery does
not need to be ridged up to blanch but ridging leeks does
give longer stems. Lift onions, garlic and shallots when the
tops turn yellow. Harvest on a dry day, gently shaking off as
much loose soil as possible. Store in a dry place. Garlic can
be stored by tying the tops together and hanging under cover.
Ground for next season's crop of onions should be prepared
now with plenty of stable manure or compost and some lime.
Autumn sowing of onions gives best results in southern
districts. Never let rhubarb seed, as it saps the strength of
the roots and inhibits the storing of nutrients for next
Now is the time to lift spring-flowering bulbs and corms.
Soon after the leaves die down, bulbs begin to grow new
roots, so transplanting should be carried out before the
roots get under way. This is the best time to take hydrangea
cuttings. Look for firm shoots that have not flowered this
season. Cut pieces about 10cm long, cut off lower leaves, dip
in rooting hormone powder and push cuttings around the edge
of a pot of damp potting mix to which a handful or two of
gravel has been added.
Cover with a plastic bag to hold in moisture and leave in a
cool place until well rooted. Dahlias should be at their peak
now and a combination of watering well and keeping them
deadheaded will keep new buds coming so they will flower for
at least another two months.
Outdoor tomatoes should be growing well. Once tiny tomatoes
form, a weekly application of liquid manure diluted to pale
tea colour can be given as well as the usual watering. As
blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum) are picked, the bushes can be
pruned. Remove old branches that have borne fruit to let
light in and air circulate. Next year's fruit grows on this
season's growth, so do not be overenthusiastic about cutting
back new growth.
In contrast, redcurrants (Ribes rubrum) and their albino
form, the whitecurrant, fruit on old wood, so new growth
should be pruned to half to two-thirds of its length. Cut out
old wood after four or five years of producing fruit.
Prunings can be used to propagate more currant bushes.
Take straight pieces 20cm to 30cm long and push well down
around the edge of a pot of moist soil to which compost and
sand has been added. Water well and cover the pot with an
opaque plastic bag, tucking the ends underneath. Leave it in
a cool spot for at least a month, by which time growth should
have begun. At this point, the bag can be cut across the top
to begin hardening off the cuttings. Keep the soil moist and
transplant next spring.