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Early varieties of peas (Dwarf Massey needs no staking) can be sown as soon as the soil surface is dry enough. Rich soil that was well dug in autumn can be used for peas. Add some lime and general fertiliser before sowing. With a hoe, make a channel ("drill") about 30cm wide. Sow seeds 5cm apart and cover with about 1cm of soil. If the soil is likely to dry out from late spring, make the drill about 8cm deep, but cover the seeds as usual. This means the plants are below the surface of the surrounding soil and moisture will be retained around their roots in hot weather.
Broad beans may be sown until the end of September. Choose a variety — such as Imperial Green or Coles Prolific — recommended for spring sowing. Because broad beans are intolerant of hot, dry weather, crops will be poor if seed is sown too late.
Some Asian vegetables can be sown now. Try kailaan, tatsoi, misome or pak choi.
Lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage and silverbeet seed can be sown this month, ideally in trays of sandy soil or seed-raising mix covered with a sheet of glass or plastic. Putting them under cloches or somewhere indoors is recommended when conditions are cold. They should be ready for planting out in early October.
Potatoes for a December harvest should be in by early next month. Plant them closer than main-crop varieties: 30cm between tubers and 50cm between rows is enough. Place them 20cm or deeper in sandy soils, but if the ground has a heavy, clay-like consistency, 10cm deep is sufficient. Some superphosphate can be added to the soil at planting time if it was not manured in autumn.
Pansies and violas will grow almost anywhere, but prefer a moist, rich soil in partial shade during midsummer. Sow seed now in seed trays. Scatter seed thinly, cover lightly, then place a square of glass over the boxes. Keep moist in a cool position until they are strong enough to plant out. Some protection will be necessary if slugs and snails are present.
Annuals and biennials sown in the open in March and April should be encouraged to start the new season’s growth by having the soil stirred around them with a hoe. Thin any that have become overcrowded and work in a light dressing of blood and bone around plants. Varieties that wintered over in boxes will be ready to plant out as soon as the soil can be worked.
At this time of year, some nurseries and garden groups offer workshops on fruit tree pruning and grafting. These are useful for those who want to get the best return from their trees, not just in the amount of fruit each produces, but also in the number of varieties.
In a small garden, multi-grafting works to spread the range that can be grown on a single tree.