10 Labour Weekend projects

Gillian Vine lines up 10 garden tasks for Labour Weekend. 

Procrastination can be a fine thing, even in the garden. 

Those who thought they would get the jump on their neighbours by ignoring the traditional practice of planting vegetables at Labour Weekend may have come unstuck with last week's dire weather. I fell into this trap, so the carrots I sowed a couple of weeks ago have failed to germinate.

Hopefully, the long weekend will bring mild weather so gardeners can get into gear, especially in the vegetable patch.

Ten things to consider doing are:

Photos: Gillian Vine
Photos: Gillian Vine
1 Plant seed potatoes

Van Rosa (pictured) is a reliable main-crop variety for the South. If you have limited space or just want to try something new, garden centres sell individual seed spuds, ideal for test-driving a new kind. Potted spuds are good for small households and if you can get your hands on an old washing-machine bowl, it makes the perfect container for this.

2 Sow and thin

Sow carrots, radishes, spinach, mesclun, peas, beetroot, Asian vegetables and lettuces. When seedlings are through, keep an eye on whether they need to be thinned. Excess spinach and beetroot can be replanted, although they may not be as successful as those sown where they are to mature.

3 Time to plant

Somewhat tender, sweetcorn, capsicum, runner and butter beans, tomato and courgette plants can go into the garden now. Punnets of mixed brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli) are good for smaller households and by buying a single punnet every two or three weeks, harvesting is staggered.

4 Espalier brambles

Loganberries (pictured in the Waikouaiti garden of Merridee and Kevin Watson), boysenberries, blackberries and other brambles need their branches off the ground. Espaliering on a trellis or fence not only lifts the branches but gives maximum sunshine and makes it easier to pick the fruit.

5 Consider raised beds

Not only are raised beds ideal for small properties, they give gardeners the option of filling them with the best possible soil and fertilisers for great vegetable production. Make them no wider than twice the reach of the shortest gardener's arms.

7 Save space

Be like Norrie Omerovic, of Waikouaiti, and go up instead of out. He used spouting to create a herb planter for his wife, Annette, on a fence behind their townhouse. Growing runner beans, apple cucumber or climbing Rampicante courgettes on a fence can also be a space-saver.

6 Tidy the herbs

Spreading herbs like this golden marjoram can be tidied before weeds get a foothold. Elsewhere in the garden, there may not be time for weeding this weekend, so prioritise by getting rid of flowering annual pests such as bitter cress and shepherd's purse to stop them seeding. Perennial weeds, such as docks and dandelions, can be slowed down by taking off the flowers.

8 Insurance cover

If it rains, spend the weekend making covers for the garden. In areas which have carrot fly, covers of fine mesh stop the flies from laying eggs. Be aware that parsnips, celery and parsley can host the carrot fly, too. Do not leave old carrots or parsnips in the ground after the start of spring in case the pest has overwintered in the roots.

9 Protect

Even if late frosts or hail are unlikely, some protection from the weather will pay off with less transplant shock for seedlings. Lettuces and young peas are magnets for the birds, so cover them with mesh, netting or even frost cloth until established.

10 Prune

After they have bloomed, azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, viburnums and other spring-flowering shrubs can be pruned. Then again, if you get through the other nine suggestions on the list, sitting down with a cold drink could be more appropriate.


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