Onion seed sown this month will withstand the winter, then
mature into good-sized bulbs for harvesting next summer.
Prepare soil with wood ash if you can get it, lime and some
garden compost, or a general garden fertiliser. Space cleared
of early potatoes or peas is ideal for growing onions.
Pukekohe Longkeeper, developed by Pukekohe's commercial
growers in 1923, remains popular with home gardeners. Cabbage
(Earliball, Green Acre or mini-variety Space Saver),
silverbeet and spinach (Winter Queen, Santana) can be sown
for use in early winter through to spring.
Late summer and early autumn sowing is important, as they
will grow rapidly in good soil before the first frosts slow
them down. Sowing seed after a shower of rain is ideal. Make
sure beds do not dry out. Weeds gallop through their life
cycle at this time of year and seedlings will produce seeds
in a few weeks. Dig weed plants - but not docks or dandelions
- into the soil, or pull them out and add to the compost heap
before the seeds ripen.
Second-crop potatoes, such as Maris Anchor, may be lifted
now. Leave the ground vacant, or sow a green manure crop,
such as lupins or mustard. Green manuring involves growing
suitable plants for about six months and then digging them in
before they flower. Where a faster turnover is needed,
mustard can be sown, as it will mature in three months. For
general purposes, oats and blue lupins are recommended.
Lupins add nitrogen to the soil, while oats help break up
heavy soils. Field peas and red clover can also be used.
Oriental poppies, Aubrieta, Shasta daisies, lupins,
delphiniums, pyrethrums, leopard's bane (Doronicum)
and other early-flowering herbaceous plants should be trimmed
now. Doing it immediately after flowering will encourage some
plants, particularly delphiniums, to flower again in a few
weeks. Roses, dahlias and sweet peas can also be encouraged
to flower longer by regularly removing faded blooms. Summer
chrysanthemums should be selectively disbudded to provide
good-sized blooms. Leave only one flower a stem on varieties
grown for exhibition.
Dahlias benefit from liquid manure as well as conventional
watering. Horse, cow, sheep or poultry manure - a third of a
10-litre bucket of manure topped up with water - is fermented
for two or three weeks, then diluted to the colour of pale
tea and watered on to the ground around the plants. Green
material can also be used. Comfrey makes the best green mix,
as it is high in nitrogen and potash, but any green weeds and
lawn clippings can be used. This is also a good way to
destroy convolvulus, docks, dandelions and other perennial
weeds that do not rot readily in the compost bin.
Strawberries may still be layered, choosing the first new
plant on each runner and cutting off the rest. Placing
compost around the runners will help roots develop quickly.
Transfer new plants to their permanent places in about three
weeks. Dig out and dispose of all strawberry plants that have
borne fruit for two or more years. Because they can carry
disease and take a long time to decay, do not put strawberry
plants in the compost bin. For younger strawberry plants,
trim off old leaves, clear away weeds and give them a mulch
of garden compost mixed with blood and bone and
That prepares them for another active growth period in
autumn. Cut out old raspberry stems (canes) that have
fruited. Stake or wire young canes, removing any weak,
spindly or misshapen ones. Six to nine canes a plant is a
reasonable number to supply next summer's crop. A mulch of
straw, grass clippings or compost helps retain soil moisture
and provides humus. Apply on ground already well saturated by
rain or artificial watering. Because they fruit next year on
growth made this season, blackcurrants can have all old wood
removed once fruiting has finished.
Prunings can be used to propagate new plants. As an
alternative to growing in garden beds, currants (black, red
and white) can be grown on a fence or trellis. They make
useful shelter hedges. Tomatoes grown in a glasshouse or
tunnel house should have any yellow or dead leaves removed.
Pinch out laterals (young shoots at leaf joints) of bush
(determinate) types, ensure all tomato plants have plenty of
ventilation and reduce watering as fruits stop swelling and
begin to ripen.