With the shortest day behind us and the odd fine day popping up its time to plan for a new growing season ahead – even though winter is by no means over! In warmer areas now is a good time to prepare a bed where early potatoes can be planted in August. Soil should be weeded, dug through to loosen and break up large lumps and then enriched with compost, seaweed and well-rotted manure. It pays to keep an eye on the weather forecast – especially in cooler areas or exposed gardens - for any particularly cold or wet spells that might be reason enough for a temporary pause in planting. That said, there is plenty of planning to be done that will help you enjoy productive growing in the months ahead.

POD Gardens visits Sophie and Rob in their Mt Roskill garden, which they've created in only nine months.

It's citrus season. Accordingly Eleanor Ozich, offers a winter bounty of tasty and healthy baking of sweet things with citrus.


Where soil is workable, sow broad beans, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, Florence fennel and plant globe artichokes, garlic, potatoes, shallots and strawberries for late spring and summer harvest. Citrus trees, bare root deciduous fruit trees (plums, pears apples etc.) and container grown fruit bushes such as blueberry and red currant are all available for planting now. It’s a good time to plant these more enduring and permanent items as the cooler weather and damp soil helps them to get off to a good start in our gardens. For those with a long-term garden plan its time to plant asparagus crowns for a succulent, spring harvest that may continue over the next 20 years.



Citrus fruit are on the menu with orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, mandarin and kumquats all ripening. Wait till fruits have fully coloured up and have a taught but slightly yielding texture when squeezed before you pick them as they won’t continue ripening when off the tree. Juices, marmalades, marinades, sorbets, salads and dressings are all the better for some sharp, zesty, citrus sweetness. There are also sweeter fruits like tamarillos, persimmon and guavas weighing down trees in July. Carrots that are ripe and ready now are best left in the ground until you want to eat them, they will store in the fridge but can lose their crunch and become soft. Yams are ready for digging up when frosts have caused their tender tops to wilt.



Feed fruit trees and bushes with a rich layer of compost, sheep pellets, well-rotted manure, straw – whatever you have to hand - spread as a mulching layer across the soil’s surface above their roots. You can also give plants a boost by feeding them with a sprinkling of blood and bone meal around outer edge of foliage. Many gardeners use citrus feed granules – however, although the mixture of minerals and nutrients might be good for the trees it can kill off microbiology in the soil itself and deplete its long-term goodness. Ensure you keep a nutrient rich layer of mulch around the base or your trees at all times – this should not only help to provide the shallow roots with the nutrients they need but will also help to keep weeds down and therefore reduce the need for soil cultivation which can damage shallow, surface roots.



Jamo Bristow's TIP
FOR July

Winter planting tip

"If soil is damp, lumpy and hard to improve, you can help seedlings out with a wee 'sleeping bag'. Make a cosy planting hole - about the size of a mug - in your beds and fill with loose potting mix. Plant individual seedlings into these holes and they'll get off to a good start. By the time roots reach the slightly rougher soil outside the sleeping bag they should be getting strong enough to push on through. "



Plant strawberries now for late spring harvest

Plant strawberry seedlings along the top of raised ridges if you are going to grow them in beds. Strawberries can also be grown in containers. Whichever you choose, make a hole that is just a touch shallower than the depth of your seedling’s roots and soil. Planting seedlings a little proud of the soil’s surface – say about a finger-tip difference between seedling soil and garden/pot soil - helps to ensure the good drainage that strawberries love. If planting runners then make sure that only the roots themselves are covered by soil and the base of the plant – where the roots appear is on or just above soil level. This too gives a bit more drainage as well as space for a layer of mulch. Plants get reasonably big as they grow and put out new runners so don’t overcrowd them. Give each plant a gap of about one to two hands-lengths from any neighbours. Finish by mulching around your plants with pea straw, straw, compost or finely shredded soft bark. Some growers like to cover soil with black plastic sheeting and cut holes through which they grow their strawberry plants. Ensure any sheeting is well-anchored.


Give fruit trees a winter tidy up

The aim of a winter tidy up is to get trees back to a healthy and productive framework whilst they are dormant. By letting light and air into your trees you will help to encourage fruiting buds to form and ripen into fruit whilst at the same time depriving pests and diseases of sanctuary. Most stonefruit trees are pruned into an open, vase-like shape whereas these days many pipfruit trees are grown with a central stem (leader) into a Christmas tree-like shape. It’s fairly straightforward, start with a sharp pair of secateurs, loppers and a pruning saw for thicker stems.  First, remove any suckers that are growing from the base of trees. Next, remove all dead and diseased branches along with any that look weak and spindly and any that are crossing and rubbing against each other (take out the weaker of the two). Using a pruning saw – and maybe some help - take out any large branches that are growing through the center of the tree so that it is left open – remove small branches form the center too. Sometimes this can mean two or three large stems coming out – if this is the case then maybe do one per winter over a couple of years to stop loads of vigorous re-growth. If you can, burn all prunings as they may harbor pests and diseases.