Home' Central Canterbury News : September 4th 2013 Contents 20 CENTRAL CANTERBURY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 4, 2013
Brace yourself, sap is rising
GROW YOUR OWN: If you've not yet sown capsicum, get a move on.
This column is adapted from
the e-newsletter Get Growing
from New Zealand Gardener.
To subscribe to Get Growing
visit the NZ Gardener website
at nzgardener.co.nz, and click
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By VIRGIL EVETTS
Keep Your Guard Up
Spring is rightly called the
cruellest season, because it can
switch from mild to miserably bit-
ter at the drop of a hat. This is
rough on livestock and wildlife,
obviously, but it can take its toll
on gardens too.
Tender seedlings, especially let-
tuces, are vulnerable to gusty
wind, shredding hail, and even --
as I found recently -- heavy rain.
DIY cloches are easy to make
and a great way of protecting see-
dlings in situ. Bend lengths of
chicken wire around a large post
first to create a uniform gutter
shape. For most seedlings, this
only needs to be about 30cm high.
Cover the wire frame with frost
cloth or recycled bubblewrap and
anchor down at the corners.
Crimp the ends closed, but leave
space for some air flow, as you
don t want to cook your plants
alive. Once your seedlings are
past the feeble, floppy stage, the
cloche can come off.
Did you see the news about the
whopping price of peppers? In
one Christchurch supermarket,
orange capsicums are selling for
$7.19 each. Our advice? Don t buy
them -- grow them.
If you ve not yet sown capsicum
and chilli seeds, get a move on! My
favourite sweet variety is Cornos ,
with its big, fleshy, sweet fruit.
Like many older cultivars, these
perform much better outdoors
than the boxy supermarket types,
which were bred for hothouses
and tend to sulk out in the open.
Virgil s rule of thumb is to sow
more sweet peppers than you
think you ll need, because some
years are better than others. And
plant fewer hot chillies than you
think you ll need, because unless
you ve got a cast-iron constitution,
it takes an age to get through 500
or more fiery red bullets.
Capsicum and chilli seeds need
constant warmth to germi-
nate -- ideally 18 to
Within this range, germination
should occur in 3 to 5 days. Below
18C, it may not occur at all. Use a
heat pad, heated bathroom tiles or
any other warm spot.
Another tip from Gerard at
Kings Seeds: Capsicums require
heat, but not light, to germinate,
so sow fresh seed into a small con-
tainer, such as a 2-litre ice cream
tub, water thoroughly to moisten
the seed-raising mix, cover the
container with plastic wrap and
put it in your hot water cupboard.
The plastic wrap will stop any
moisture escaping, and keep it
nice and humid. Once the seeds
sprout, take the container out,
take the plastic off and expose
your seedlings to the light so they
can green up. This also works for
eggplants and tomatoes.
In areas with variable summers
(some years, that can feel like the
whole of New Zealand), grow
sweet peppers in large pots. That
way, you can move the plants
under cover -- either into a tunnel-
house or under the eaves of your
house (or even indoors in a sunny
room) -- to continue growing at the
end of summer. All going to plan,
you could be picking peppers, for a
fraction of the supermarket cost,
this time next year.
Start Basil For Summer
Basil can be a real fusspot. It
hates cold, wet soil; hot, dry soil;
low light; too much sun; and frost.
Start basil seeds indoors now,
preferably on a heat pad, and by
early October, they ll be just the
right size to plant out.
Success With Coriander
Coriander often succumbs to
transplant shock and bolts to
seed, but you can trick it by star-
ting your seeds in cardboard pulp
Fill cartons with seed-raising
mix, add a few seeds to each sec-
tion, mist well with water, pop the
whole carton into a plastic bag
and place in a warm spot until
germination occurs. Keep the see-
dlings indoors until the first true
leaves have formed, then wrench
apart the compartments and plant
them out, paper and all. The roots
will grow straight through the
soggy sides and the plants will be
none the wiser.
Plant Onion Seedlings
Transplant onion seedlings now
for a mid-late summer harvest,
depending on the variety. You re
bound to lose a few of the frail
things to mishaps over the coming
weeks, so overcrowd them a bit to
begin with. In a month or so, you
can thin them and make new rows
with the evictees.
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