Home' Christchurch Mail : December 20th 2012 Contents 29
CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, DECEMBER 20, 2012
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Tessa Stewart started
Banks Ave School on
Prepare now for salad days
By LYNDA HALLINAN
This column is adapted from
the e-newsletter Get Growing
from New Zealand Gardener.To
subscribe to Get Growing (it's
free!), visit the NZ Gardener
website at nzgardener. co.nz, and
click on the Get Growing tab. To
subscribe to NZ Gardener visit
mags4gifts.co.nz or call
0800 MAGS 4 GIFTS.
HERB HEAVEN: Now is a good time to
sow basil, coriander, dill, fennel,
chives and parsley.
Pot up portable salad patches
Planning to go camping, bach-
ing or caravanning this summer?
Why not take a supply of fresh
salad greens with you? Buy cheap
10-litre plastic buckets, puncture
a few drainage holes in the base
and fill them up with potting mix.
Then plant a punnet of mixed red
and green lettuce seedlings, or a
selection of your favourite herbs
in each bucket.
Pamper your pots for the next
fortnight with lots of water and
liquid fertiliser and you ll be
amazed at how much growth they
put on. You can also sow mesclun
and radishes in buckets -- and if
you use bright red buckets, you
can give them away gifts too!
I ve never been a big fan of
cucumber but since I ve been
pregnant I ve come to really like
Cucumbers are part of the
cucurbit family, along with
courgettes and pumpkins, and
they all have similar growing
needs: Rich soil, moisture and
good air flow to prevent fungal
issues like powdery mildew.
Cucumbers grow and fruit
much more quickly than
Plant individual potted
seedlings from garden centres or
sow from seed. It s not too late to
sow cucumber seeds (just poke
them into the soil where you want
them to grow). Mound up the soil
slightly before sowing. Cucumbers
germinate in about 10 days and,
depending on the variety you
choose, can be ready to eat within
The best cucumber I ve ever
grown is Diva. It s a seedless F1
hybrid that produces crisp fruit
about 20 centimetres long and is
very prolific: One year I picked 65
cucumbers off a single plant!
Diva is part of a modern
generation of cucumbers bred to
be gynoecious (these varieties
predominantly produce female
flowers, so you get much more
fruit) and parthenocarpic (they
also don t need a pollinator, so
they will crop well inside a tunnel-
If sown now, Diva will be laden
with fruit by the end of January.
This variety is also resistant to
mildew. Other recommendations?
Lebanese cucumbers are
increasingly popular, as they have
sweet skins that don t need to be
peeled off, while Mini White is
charming and prolific.
Round apple or lemon cucum-
bers are cute but they can taste
quite bitter compared to other
varieties like the telegraph.
This bitterness is even worse in
dry weather (the fruit of drought-
stressed cucumber vines soon
turns sour). To keep cucumbers
sweet, feed regularly with liquid
fertiliser and lay mulch under the
vines to conserve soil moisture in
Summer salads wouldn t be the
same without crisp, crunchy red
radishes. Sow direct in loose soil
or potting mix that s not too rich
in manure or compost, as this can
cause the roots to split and crack,
while too much nitrogen fertiliser
will produce lovely lush tops with
not much action underneath!
Radishes are quick to mature --
if sown now and kept well
watered, they will happily swell
up and be ready to pick in the new
year. Sow in pots or in a spot with
afternoon shade to keep the roots
slightly cooler -- this slows down
their tendency to bolt to seed.
Radishes are brassicas, so if
your plants are being eaten alive,
check for caterpillars. Leaf miners
also munch their leaves. Don t let
radishes get too old -- they turn
woody and taste too peppery.
Feed, feed, feed
Feed all your summer fruiting
crops -- tomatoes, eggplants,
beans, peppers, strawberries,
pumpkins and courgettes -- with a
liquid fertiliser or granular
fertiliser that s designed for
fruiting plants (such as tomato
food). You can use the same ferti-
liser for all these plants.
Sow more herbs
Sow basil, coriander, dill,
fennel, chives and parsley. Sow
direct -- just sprinkle the seed into
a very shallow trench of seed-
raising mix. Keep the mix moist
by covering with a couple of sheets
of damp newspaper for the first
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