It’s planting time again! March brings cooler weather and rains, making it a great opportunity to get your garden planted before winter. Natives and evergreens need time to get established in the garden well before winter, whereas deciduous plants will be fine planted through winter – so long as the soil is well drained and workable. If you haven’t already, start preparing the veggie garden for winter and spring.
Bulbs are becoming available this month, but hold off planting them until temperatures have consistently dropped. The variability of the temperatures in Queenstown differ so much that it can cause bulbs to flower now instead of in spring.
Cold loving flowering plants can be planted now to give you flowers from autumn to spring. My favourites are violas, which are good performers in many conditions and just keep flowering. More flowers will be available as the cold weather really starts to set in.
Give roses a bit of a trim if they are tall and getting blown around in strong winds, this will reduce the risk of root rock. Root rock can happen if force on the top of a plant is strong enough to move and even break plant roots, it can kill plants.
Many flower seeds can be sown and collected now. Go exploring with a pen and a paper bag, give seedheads a shake into your hand if seeds fall freely they are ready to be collected. Shake them into the bag or take the whole seedhead, label and store in a cool, dry place. Depending on what they are lots of seeds can be sown directly, like Aquilegias, salvia and other hardy perennials.
Sweet peas can also be sown, but they will need to be stored in a cold frame over winter.
Get on and repair the patches in the lawn after a hard summer or sow a new one. It’s still warm enough to sow all types of lawn seed. You can still throw on a bit of lawn fertiliser but only a short lasting one such as the Shotover Lawn fertiliser. Even better give a topdress of rooster booster or dynamic lifter lawn food.
If you have had problems with grass grubs or you have patches spreading over your lawn, you may need to distribute some of Kiwicares Lawngard Granules.
Inspect plants planted earlier in the year to make sure they are still happy and healthy. You may need to adjust stakes or ties that are cutting into the plant.
Get ready for collecting those glorious autumn leaves to turn into leaf mulch. Use stakes and chicken wire to make a bin to hold the leaves which will compost down to leaf mulch. Leaf fall is a trees way of feeding itself. This is why it’s important to leave a layer of leaves underneath trees. However you can collect all those leaves that go astray onto paths and lawns, compost them and distribute as a nutrient rich topdressing the following year. You can also fill bags of hessian with leaves and then leave them tucked away in the garden somewhere. The leaves will compost inside them.
Harvest apples and pears as they ripen, depending on variety some may be suitable to store all through winter. Leave windfall apples for the wildlife, they love apples and pears too but be careful of cats.
If you haven’t already, give the trees a potassium feed. It will top up used reserves of potassium and make them hardier to winter. Use a fish or seaweed fertiliser, like Seasol or kelp meal. You could even get adventurous and make a comfrey tea for free! (If you have comfrey).
Keep an eye on frosts as they’ll start sneaking up on us now. You may want to give your tomatoes and summer crops a cover to extend their season. Keep giving them potassium feed to keep them going until the very end.
Think about bringing in any tender herbs like lemongrass or basil to extend the season. Keep freezing and drying herbs for use through winter.
Lots of seedlings can be planted now for autumn and spring harvesting, especially if you missed the chance to sow them. Plant spinach, pak choi and kale now for winter harvesting. Use cloche hoops to grow rocket, lettuce and silverbeet. Broccoli, cabbages and cauliflowers will be ready in spring if planted now.
You can still sow several types of seed. Sow; small rooted carrots, radish, pak choi, bok choi, cabbage, lettuce, salad leaves, turnip, broad beans.
There is still time to sow green manure if you have finished with a veggie bed for winter. You can sow, blue lupins, mustard, wheat, oats, peas or a mix. Green manure keeps the weeds at bay by out-competing them over winter, and you can dig them into the bed for added organic matter. They also add lots of nutrients back into the soil when they decompose. We have large bags of green manure seed available.