Warm weather great for beans

Runner beans are only half-hardy, so may need protection. Photo: Gillian Vine.
Runner beans are only half-hardy, so may need protection. Photo: Gillian Vine.
What to do in your garden this week.


In warmer districts, where no more frosts are expected, runner and butter beans can be sown.

In most gardens, it is better to delay growing these tender vegetables outdoors and to get seed started under cover.

This is also true of sweet corn and outdoor tomatoes.

From the time they germinate, runner beans, such as Scarlet Runner, take 90 days to mature, while dwarf or butter beans will produce crops in 60 days.

The latter are generally recommended for smaller gardens but a few runner beans can be grown anywhere they can climb.

If sowing them in their permanent position, put runner bean seeds about 5cm apart around a bean teepee or against the netting or trellis they are to climb.

Pinching out the tips to make bushier plants is a waste of effort, as it reduces the crop.

Like climbing types, butter bean seeds should be set 5cm apart, with 60cm between rows.

Plant out cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, parsley and silverbeet, and check that autumn-sown broad beans have adequate support.

Sow spinach and orach where they are to mature.

Orach (Atriplex hortensis), or red mountain spinach, is a low-growing, purple-leaved vegetable, cooked like spinach.

Sow white turnips, spring onions and quick-maturing mini beetroot, such as Bonny Baby.

Small beetroot plants can be transplanted to fill gaps.

Main crop beetroot can be sown next month.

Turnips and beetroot should not be grown in soil where traces of animal manure remain, as this causes the roots to fork.

Main crop potatoes Rua, Moonlight, Red Rascal (the improved form of Desiree), Red King, Heather, Iwa and Agria, for example, can be planted now in areas that experience hot summers.

In cooler districts, wait until next month.


Many spring-flowering shrubs are pruned as soon as they have finished blooming.

This is so the plants can make new growth over summer and autumn, as it is on this new wood that they flower next season.

Clematis, which has its peak flowering next month, is often left to grow unchecked but most types can be pruned hard after flowering.

Cut C. montana to 1m above ground, leaving only a main stem with two to four buds to develop.

Rhododendrons and azaleas can still be planted.

They are shallow-rooted, with fibrous roots close to the surface, making them easy to transplant.

Set the shrubs with the highest roots just 2cm to 3cm below the soil surface.

Adequate moisture is vital to this group, so mulch around the roots with rotted autumn leaves, pine needles or old sawdust from wood that is not tanalised.

Being woodland plants, rhododendrons and azaleas need an acid soil, so never apply lime.

Azaleas come in two types — evergreen and deciduous — and the latter have colourful autumn foliage in orange or red.

Winter roses (Helleborus) can be divided this month.

They do better in semi-shade rather than full shade, and can be boosted with leaf mould or well-rotted cow manure.

Lawns can be planted or renewed now.

Rake any bare patches to give a slightly rough surface, then scatter with a lawn grass mix — usually chewings fescue and browntop seed in a 2:1 ratio — then cover with fine soil and press down lightly.

Water if the soil is dry, then cover with netting to stop birds eating the seed.


Grafting of apples, pears and other fruit trees is usually done this month.

This is an important way of saving heritage fruit trees, and courses on how to graft trees, particularly apples, are run each season by special interest groups.

Raspberries put in over winter should be cut back to 30cm above the ground to encourage new stems (canes) to grow over summer for a better crop next year.

This treatment is also recommended for blackberries, tayberries, boysenberries, loganberries and marionberries.

New blackcurrant bushes should be pruned to about 25cm above the ground but red and white currants need only to have last season’s growth trimmed by about half.

This growth is identified by its lighter bark.

Gooseberries are pruned in the same way as redcurrants.

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