Garden news. Since the beginning of October, I have started hardening off my plants. It isn’t a good idea to move plants from a warm environment (in my case, a greenhouse) straight to the garden without acclimatising them to outdoor temperatures gradually. I started by leaving my plants outside for a few hours during the day and brought them back into the greenhouse at night. However, my biggest tomatoes needed to be repotted and restaked (again!) and take up more space, so they don’t fit into the greenhouse. I’ve had to leave these and some of my larger chillies and capsicums outside a lot earlier in the month than I would have liked. As you can see in the photo, I have lined them up under the eaves of our house, where I hope it’s a bit warmer and more sheltered. I’m so excited! We have beans on our broad bean plants! I will share a photo in a future post. Over the past couple of days, I have been re-potting seedlings into larger pots. I will continue with this today. I am writing my blog post early as I have a busy, shorter day than usual. I am going into the city in the afternoon to participate in the YMCA 10k summer series, which kicks off today.
I’d like to discuss how to maximise the productivity of your plot. It’s not how many plants you have that matters, it’s how productive they are. More plants don’t necessarily equate to higher yields. Don’t forget that the more plants you have, the more time, effort and money you will need to spend on them! Here are some suggestions:
· Use high quality seeds. I highly recommend Yates Seeds. Even though my Queensland Blue pumpkins expired in August 2017, they all germinated really well
· Put in a couple of extra plants as a contingency because you can’t count on everything growing. Also, plants are not all equally productive
· Consider planting grafted tomatoes and eggplants, which yield more than standard seedlings. This may be a good idea if space is limited or you live in a region where the summers are short
· Plant varieties which are known for having a higher yield. I’ve noticed that Liseta potatoes and Iznik cucumbers (Egmont Seeds) crop more prolifically than other varieties. Crown pumpkins can produce 8-12 fruits per vine, compared with just a couple (or just one!) from fancier varieties. I like Hybrid Grey Crown from Yates Seeds, which I’m growing this year
· Save seeds from your own plants where possible. Their germination rate may be better than store bought seeds (remember what I said about Carol’s parsnip seeds?). Over time, seeds will become acclimatised to your microclimate and perform well in your unique conditions
· Be realistic - grow what’s appropriate for your climate. Cherry trees are unlikely to do well in the Far North and passionfruit probably won’t do well in Queenstown!
· Make sure plants are in the right position. Fruiting and root crops generally need full sun, but leafy crops can do well in part shade
· Timing is everything. Try to plant at the right time. Early spring is perfect for planting potatoes and many other veggies as the ground is nice and moist which helps germination
· Practice crop rotation to keep the soil healthy
· Consider planting a cover crop such as lupins or broad beans over winter to give the soil a rest and build it up again for the next season
· Pick fruiting crops as they mature to encourage further fruit to form
· Water your garden regularly
· Use quality fertilisers to feed your plants. I highly recommend Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed liquid fertiliser, which I’ve been using on my plants every fortnight
· Provide plant support where needed eg tomatoes and broad beans
· Remove laterals from tomatoes so plants put their energy into fruit on the existing branches
· If crops are growing but are not being pollinated, it may be necessary to become involved in the process by hand. Melons and eggplants may benefit from hand pollination
Does anyone have any other ideas on how you can maximise the productivity of your plot?