Gardening diary: Late spring
If you’re keen to get growing but you’re time poor or just plain exhausted, try a lazy garden.
Can you tell the difference between a weed seedling and a vege seedling? If you can, you may like to try a lazy garden, which relies solely on the self-seeding characteristics of some popular vegetables to provide your garden produce for a number of years.
Providing the sun and soil are sufficient, many vegetables can be initially planted as seeds or seedlings, the biggest and best are then left to flower and set seed, and some of those seeds will fall on the soil, germinate and produce more vegetables. Other than keeping weeds at bay and thinning out the veges so there’s enough room and sunlight for all, there is little further intervention other than sipping a glass of wine while admiring your light touch handiwork.
A few cautionary notes
- This self-seeding approach requires the parent plant to be a true-to-type variety, ie. not a hybrid or cross. Check the seed packet: if it has ‘F1’ or ‘hybrid variety’ printed on it, it will not produce viable seeds.
- Some plants may grow better together than others by virtue of competition for light, nutrients or by release of growth promoting or inhibiting chemicals.
- Growing the same vegetables in the same plot year after year can cause depletion of specific nutrients or minerals and an influx of vegetable-specific pests or diseases (such as tomato blight).
- Over time the quality of the vege plants may decline leading to weak or rogue plants.
To counteract the above, always:
- companion plant
- top up nutrients and minerals at least annually (adding a layer of compost every winter for example) remove any diseased, weak, small, low yielding or malformed looking plants
Some self-seeding companion plant combinations to try:
- carrot (takes two years to seed)
- runner beans
Depending on variety, local conditions and the time of planting, some of the above may not flower and seed until the following spring so be patient and enjoy the experimenting.
Q. I am fairly new to gardening, and due to my husband being in the military, we are aware that we may be told to move at any time. I was wondering what the best options are for investing in fruit trees/bushes that are either inexpensive and won’t take years to fruit, or ones that thrive in pots. Any suggestions? – Sarah, Auckland
A. Very few fruit trees crop heavily early on. If you are looking for something compact for a container then citrus are your best option. Meyer lemon, Clementine and Encore mandarins and Bearss lime will all do well in a reasonably-sized container as they all have a very compact form.
Red guava also does quite well in a container, and incredible edibles® Feijoa Bambina (which is a dwarf variety) is well suited to a container.
The other option is a passionfruit vine. These are inexpensive to buy and crop fairly well within a year or two although they are not really transportable.
Whatever you choose, watering will be a high priority as containers dry out very quickly and can only hold a limited amount of water. Also, it is important to feed with slow release specifically formulated fruit tree fertiliser or a citrus fertiliser so you can be sure that your tree will get the right formulation of nutrients for three months.
Garden to table
Try this delicious side: Greens with goats’ cheese