I have been very busy in the garden this month. The shortest day is actually my favourite time of the year, as it marks when I plant strawberries, onions and garlic, which I really enjoy growing in our garden. Did you know that once the shortest day (21st June) has passed, every day is lighter by one minute more? I think this is what seems to trigger growth for some veggies, including alliums. Onions do really well if planted as seedlings around this time of the year.
Here is a round up of what I have been doing so far this month.
A week ago, I planted out the last of my spring bulbs. I was a bit late in receiving my tulips and hyacinths from Bulbs Direct this year because the owner had Covid and had to self-isolate. I somehow managed to plant everything out in two days. I also sent my cousin Shireen who lives in Whangarei a package which included some tulips and daffodils (from another bulb order which arrived in mid-May). Bulbs Direct usually upload their spring bulb catalogue on the website in mid-January and it does pay to get in quick with your order as popular varieties sell out fast. In addition to offering a fantastic range of spring bulbs at very reasonable prices and great customer service, Bulbs Direct is also happy to pre-chill your tulip and hyacinth bulbs if you live in a climate with mild winters, like Auckland. This ensures that your flowers have long stems and are suitable for picking. I have grown tulips and hyacinths which were not pre-chilled in the past and I noticed that the plants were considerably stunted by comparison.
Towards the end of May I started the process of lifting our dahlia tubers and carried on with this task into June. We have had quite a bit of rain recently and I was concerned that I might lose the tubers to rot if I left them in the ground over winter. I have stored all our dahlia tubers in plastic Sistema crates filled with some potting mix and saw dust. Mum sprays them with water every day to keep the tubers alive. Here is a picture of how I have stored them in our greenhouse, as there is no available space in our garage.
I didn’t need to order any new strawberry plants as my plants from last year went absolutely wild and produced so many runners! Most of my plants were given to me by Awapuni last year and are the variety Camarosa. It took me awhile to tidy up our patch. It looked like a complete jungle to begin with.
I wasn’t sure where to start so I enlisted the advice of a fellow gardener called Candy, who goes by the Insta handle @nzgardener. Candy is an expert on growing strawberries and grew over 26kg of fruit last summer. Candy advised me not to dig up and replant all my plants, which is what she is doing in her own garden. She said that I just needed to remove the runners that had appeared in the pathways between rows and replant them elsewhere, so we would have little pathways to walk between rows to pick the berries as they ripen. I created three new rows of strawberries with the additional runners, so we now have a total of seven rows of strawberries. I did not count how many plants we have in total but a rough guesstimate is 300 plants. Here are some photos of what our strawberry patch looks like now.
Over the past fortnight, I planted eight punnets of Pukekohe Longkeeper brown onions and five punnets of Californian red onions. I found four punnets of brown onions and the five punnets of red onions on clearance at the Warehouse and it made sense to purchase them at $1 and $1.50 per punnet. I got the remaining four punnets of brown onions for free by redeeming a $10 voucher at Kings Plant Barn. They have a loyalty card and I had accrued enough points over time to redeem a reward. I received a very pleasant surprise when I went to pay at the checkout! What is a shame is that this year I had every intention of ordering onion seedlings from Awapuni, who stock both brown and red onions but I have more than enough and don’t need to do this. Nor do I need to bother raising any onions from seed in spring, as I did last year. I find onions incredibly easy to grow. Other than keeping the weeds down, they need little care until they are harvested in mid-summer.
I wasn’t intending to grow garlic this year after struggling with rust for the past few seasons. Like a lot of gardeners, I lost all of my good seed stock and had to keep purchasing new seed garlic. It is becoming very difficult to source and is very expensive. The quality of what you get these days isn’t that great, either. A picture of an amazing garlic harvest popped up on my Facebook feed and belonged to a gardener in one of the many gardening Facebook groups I belong to. I happened to comment on what an incredible crop it was and mentioned that I had given up because of my on-going battle with rust. The author of the post responded with some advice – to spray the foliage with apple cider vinegar. She was kind enough to let me in on her secret and that is to mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (she uses the Countdown Homebrand one which is around $4 for a bottle) with 5 litres of water.
I have planted four varieties: Printanor, Red Russian, Ajo Rojo and Elephant. I was very fortunate that a fellow Auckland gardener gave me some spare elephant garlic cloves as I had been having problems sourcing them this year. I gave some of each garlic variety to my cousin in Whangarei, along with some strawberry runners and dianthus Diana Blueberry plants that I raised from seed in autumn.
The two garden beds that I planted with ornamental kale seedlings when I returned home from our bach in mid-May are shaping up nicely. I grew three varieties from seed, Crane Pink, Crane White and Crane Bicolour.