Growing from seed

Kings Plant Barn SeedlingSpring has definitely arrived, bringing light mornings, fruit trees full of blossom and temperatures gradually starting to warm up. If you haven’t already thought about it, it’s time to decide what you are going to be planting in your veggie and flower gardens this season. Once you have a rough plan together you then need to decide how you are going to grow the plants, either from bought seedlings or germinate them yourself from seed.

Growing your own plants from seed has got to be one of the most rewarding experiences in the garden.It is a fascinating process being able to watch a plant grow, then fruit and flower, all from a tiny little seed. It’s so easy to do and extremely cost effective. Children are also amazed to see how a seed can grow into an actual plant, make sure you get them involved too.

Getting Started-You don’t need a lot to get started, just some fresh seed, a seed tray and some seed raising mix.

Fill the tray to the top with the mix and lightly compact. Evenly sprinkle the seed across the mix and and water using a hand held mister. Place in a brightly lit area, you may want to start them off inside where it is slightly warmer to speed the process up. Depending on the seed variety, it usually takes between 7-14 days for them to germinate. Wait until they have 3-4 leaves and are looking reasonably strong, then you can pot them on into either a larger pot or straight into the ground.

Remember to keep them well watered at all stages and protect from slugs and snails by sprinkling a few slug pellets around.

Spring is such an exciting time of year, make sure you have lots of fun in the garden and get planting now to enjoy endless veggies and stunning flowers all summer long.

Happy Gardening

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Delightful Dahlias

Plant up the garden with these old-time  favourites!

Dahlias are so easy to grow and provide a rewarding show of colour for months. Over the coming years a clump will develop  and multiply therefore producing masses of stunning blooms.

Before you plant your bulbs prepare the soil with Kings Organic Compost and Kings Sheep Pellets.  I always like to put a stake in the ground,  especially for the taller varieties, before planting as it lessons the risk of damaging the bulb.

Plant the growing tip of the bulb just below the surface of the soil with the tubers hanging down below. Cover with a little soil and firm the soil around the bulb being careful not to damage it.

Dahlias need regular feeding and a good dressing of Bulb food at planting time.  Continue feeding throughout the season with Kings Liquid Fast Food to ensure lush foliage and quality blooms.  Deadhead the old flowers as they finish as this will encourage new buds to form.

There are varieties to suit large pots or colourful borders so grab some and have a go!

Remember plant groups of one colour for a bolder statement.

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Growing Asparagus

If you fancy growing your own asparagus, the dormant crowns are available for planting now.

Few tips about asparagus:

Asparagus is a long-term crop – it will keep producing for up to 25 years, so think carefully about where you plant it. It needs its own bed that’s completely free of weeds and gets plenty of sunlight.

Dig in lots of sheep pellets, blood and bone and organic compost before planting. Prepare the soil to a depth of about 40cm, then dig a deep trench and spread the roots of the crowns out in the base of the trench, then cover with soil. Mulch to keep the weeds down.

Asparagus is a really great long-term  investment but you do need to be patient. You can’t pick any spears this year, and only a few next year, because the plants need time to build up their energy reserves.

If your soil is frozen and you can’t plant the crows now, bed them down into a tray of damp sawdust/potting mix and simply keep them moist. Cover until September, when you can plant them out. This reduces the risk that they’ll rot in waterlogged, cold soil between now and then.

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Summer Watering Tips!

Water computer Hozelock AC1 HorticomWith long hot summer days ahead the garden will start to suffer if it doesn’t get sufficient water. I often find that customers say they have watered but if fact they have sprinkled. In order to water the ground well set up a sprinkler and let it run for 20-30 minutes. The addition of a computer allows you to set it and let it happen. In todays busy lifestyle it’s easy to have good intentions but it may be too late for the garden.

There are several other things you can do to aid with water retention. I always like to add a good layer of mulch in the early summer. This will help to prevent water loss, therefore your garden will stay looking fresher and healthier.

If your planting any pots or garden plants at this time of the year add in some water retention crystals. They will hold extra moisture during dry periods and ensure the soil holds more moisture. A personal favourite of mine is Debco Saturaid. Perfect for adding to existing gardens or containers Saturaid and will channel water down to the roots of the plants. Once a pot dries out it’s really hard to get sufficient water back into the centre of the root ball. Saturaid will do this, simply add in the saturaid to the top of the pot and water away. Instantly you will see that the water doesn’t run through instead it slowly works its way down, taking a considerable length of time to drain through.

The only other area that often suffers is the indoor plants. The addition of saucers is a great way to give the plant extra moisture but you just need to be careful that they don’t sit in water for to long as this may cause rotting. Remember house plants like to be kept moist but don’t like to be wet.

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Where does our food come from?

It’s really sad to hear that there are children out there who just don’t know where fruit like apples come from.

Growing up on Auckland’s North Shore, I have wonderful memories of regular weekend outings to Albany to visit the orchards. The trip home always included chosing a big apple, shinning it on my shirt until you could see yourself in it and then there was the first bite.

Now with most of the local orchards disappearing for industrial or housing areas, it’s time to start growing your own. Why not get the kids and head to the Garden Centre to select a fruit tree for planting. Every time the tree fruits the family can recall the experience of planting it with joy.

I have often heard people say that they don’t have the room to grow fruit and vegetables. remember it can be as simple as growing the top of a carrot in a saucer of water to ignite the love of growing plants.

When it comes  to the vege garden we have always grown a wide range of common vegetables like lettuce, carrots, beans and so many more. Recently we made the decision to start growing some of the less common veges like Kohl Rabi and Celeriac. The Celeriac has a mild celery flavour and can be mashed like potato of grated raw in salads. Kohl Rabi is perfect for adding to winter soups and stews. Both were easy to grow and the flavour was amazing. We hadn’t eaten or purchased these before but will now grow them regularly

As far as getting the kids to eat them was easy. We always had a rule the you must try at least a mouthful of everything on your plate. Our now 10-year-old son will eat all of the veges we grow willingly.

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Growing Tomatoes

Labour Weekend is the traditional time to plant tomatoes, so get your soil ready – and buy your plants – now.

Tomatoes can be planted outdoors from late spring until mid-summer, but they need three months of warm, frost-free weather to crop well. They also need full sun, staking to support the weight of their fruit, and loads of food. Make sure you use specialist tomato food – the aim is to promote flowering and fruiting, not just general leaf growth.

The easiest types to grow are the cherry varieties. Sweet 100 is foolproof – it produces hundreds of sweet, red cherry tomatoes. Or look for the more unusual cherry types, like Sungold, which has sweet yellow fruit, or Black Cherry, which I think is the pick of the crop for meaty, full-flavoured mini tomatoes in a purplish-brown colour.

If you live in a cooler climate or your summers are variable, plant grafted tomatoes. You’ll pay more for these plants but they’re worth it – they combine the rootstock of a vigorous wild tomato with the head of your favourite fruiting type, so they grow faster, crop quicker and can support far more fruit without the need to nip out the laterals.

Laterals are the little side shoots that sprout out of the main stem. It’s a good idea to take these off so your tomatoes get down to the business of fruiting instead of growing more and more stems. You can pot these up for free plants too.

When you’re planting tomatoes, it’s easy to be fooled by the size of the seedling into thinking a single bamboo stake will be strong enough to support your plant, but it’s not. Either use three stakes tied at the top to create a tepee, or use an obelisk, or one sturdy wooden stake per plant.

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Growing New Seasons Potatoes

There’s never been a better time to start thinking about planting a new crop of spuds.   I like to keep in mind that it’s 3 months from planting to harvest so if you want fresh garden potatoes for those early Christmas barbeques,  grab some today and start planting.

The seed potatoes you get from the garden centres are certified to be disease free.  Once you have purchased them, place them in a tray in a cool but dry, well-lit area to allow them to sprout. When it’s time to start planting, work in lots of compost and a quality Potato fertiliser.

I like to start by digging a shallow trench to place the seed potatoes in. The main reason for this is so that as the potato grows you can start mounding the soil which will increase the size of the crop and help to protect the forming tubers from sitting in the sun as they grow. Plant your seed potatoes 30-40 cm intervals in rows 70cm apart and cover the them with 5-7 cm of soil. Once the potato plants are 15 cm above the ground level, start mounding  the soil. This may need to be repeated depending on the height of the plants.

Potatoes require plenty of nutrition throughout the growing season to ensure the best quality and flavour. Watering during the season is important but it’s best to water in the morning so the plants can dry during the day, therefore avoiding possible issues with blight.

When should you harvest? For early varieties you can start digging them as soon as the first flowers are fully open. These won’t be suitable for storing as the skins will be soft. Main crop varieties can be harvested once the foliage has started to die off. Check that they are suitable for storing by rubbing the skin. If the skin rubs off easily they aren’t ready for storage.  If the skins are firm then dry them off and store them in a cool dark position for up to six months.  Look out in store for Growing and Planting Guides.



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