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Not a true spinach, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa) is invaluable for gardens that dry out in late summer. Allow 60cm between each plant and sow in groups of two or three seeds, thinning later. This plant prefers a dry, sunny situation. When plants begin to spread, the growing tips should be nipped so lots of leafy shoot tips grow. Cut these frequently and always cook before eating.
Celery can be planted during the next few weeks. The old method of digging a trench and filling it with compost or manure mixed with soil before planting has much to recommend it, but celery will grow well in any good soil. Keep the plants well watered to prevent them running to seed.
Outdoor cucumbers also need rich, moist soil. Raised beds are best if the soil is heavy. This does not need to be sophisticated. Make a flat-topped heap, starting with a couple of sacks of horse manure to a depth of 15-20cm, then well-rotted lawn clippings or compost and a layer of soil. About 30cm high is sufficient. Sow seeds in groups of three at 60cm intervals along the middle of the bed. Covering with a plastic soft-drink bottle with the top removed is ideal and will speed germination and shelter the seedlings. Once they are growing, remove the covers and control growth of side shoots by cutting them off, one leaf beyond a fruit. Cucumber plants need regular watering. After rain, feed fruiting plants with weak liquid manure.
Gardens benefit from regular hoeing, especially as the ground starts to dry. Stirring soil thoroughly allows air and sun to enter and keeps weeds down. It also reduces the amount of water required as the loose soil acts as mulch, reducing evaporation .
Broccoli is hardier than cauliflower, and easier to grow. Broccoli can be sown now to mature in the coldest months of the year. Ground cleared of early potatoes, broad beans or peas can be used for broccoli. Plant seedlings out at the end of December and during January.
Roses appreciate heavy manuring. This can be done by mulching, watering with liquid manure or top-dressing with commercial fertiliser. Make liquid manure by half-filling a bucket with raw manure, topping up with water and leaving for a couple of weeks. Dilute to the colour of weak tea before applying to the base of the plant after rain or a good soaking with the hose.
Chrysanthemums can have their centres pinched out, encouraging side shoots for good flowers in autumn.
Half-hardy annuals such as asters, French marigolds and zinnias can be planted out now, ideally in rich soil.
Nasturtiums will thrive and produce more flowers than leaves in poor soils, provided they are in a warm, sunny position. Their large seeds and fast growth make them a good choice for introducing young children to growing flowers.
Fuchsias will benefit from a top-dressing of compost or old animal manure in early summer to keep the soil in good condition.
Gladioli should be growing strongly now. Stake the plants if strong winds are expected.
Gooseberry bushes put in this year should be summer-pruned soon, to build a well-shaped bush and allow sun and air to penetrate to the centre. Mulch gooseberries with compost or stable manure and keep them well watered.
Raspberry canes may have young sucker growths around their base. It is a good sign, showing the plants are strong and virile, and promises well for next summer’s fruit. The new shoots are next year’s fruiting canes and should be thinned and allowed to grow 1m or more.
Plums, apples, pears, peaches and nectarines on heavily laden trees should be thinned. Unless this work is done thoroughly, the crop will be plentiful but small-sized and often misshapen. Remove the centre fruit first.