As summer slips into autumn it brings renewed energy to the garden. There is still the excitement of harvesting pumpkins, squashes, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and aubergines for those that have nurtured these warm weather favourites. This is also turnover time as we move back into our beds and borders with a sense of purpose – removing spent plants and foliage and contemplating new planting opportunities.

POD Gardens visits designer Clare Buchanan in her North Shore garden and relish making kitchen.

Here at POD we are preparing ourselves for another busy autumn and a few changes in the Store. Seed sales support all our efforts including production of new ‘how to’ videos. As we are self-funded and free to all, we're increasing the price of our seeds ever so slightly (now $4 per packet)to help cover production costs.

Meantime the latest POD video How to grow in containers is available for viewing. Please share with friends who might lack a garden space but nontheless harbour the desire to grow fresh herbs, veg, fruit and flowers.

Eleanor Ozich of Petite Kitchen offers late summer recipes including a fantastic pea guacamole.



March
SOW & PLANT

It is time to think of broad beans, winter carrots and lettuces, mizuna, pak choi, parsnips, peas, silverbeet and spinach that can all be sown directly into the garden now if soil is not too hard and rain-deprived. If soil in your garden is still too unworkable for sowing seed then sow some swift greens – rocket, mesclun, cress, corn salad, mizuna – in a few pots close to your kitchen. They’ll be easier to water and look after until wetter weather opens up other parts of the garden. Many crops can also be sown into punnets or trays - if you get on and sow brassicas like broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale, cabbage and cauliflower and transplant into beds when seedlings have at least two sets of leaves then you should be harvesting them come winter and spring.

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March HARVEST

Harvest is top of the bill right now and some of the more exotic and exciting garden-grown fruits and vegetables are the stars of the show. Plum, peach,nectarine, grape, apple, pear, Cape gooseberry, kumara, cucumber, rock melon, water melon, aubergine, capsicum, squash, pumpkin, and tomato should be ready around now. To ensure crops reach your kitchen in top taste and condition keep them well watered and fed with liquid feed right to the point of harvest. With the tomato harvest also comes the opportunity to mass harvest basil and start making pesto that can easily be frozen to pep up winter soups.

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March SEASONAL TASKS

Fruit-laden trees, shrubs and vines are a target for hungry birds. Covering some of your plants with mesh can help to keep the birds off your produce until you have harvested sufficiently. Bright coloured shiny objects such as tin foil and old cds can be threaded onto strings and strung around crops such as peas and corn. This can help to dissuade pigeons from helping themselves. When your harvest is mostly collected take away mesh and deterrents and allow birds to do a tidy up for you. Keeping birds interested in your garden at this time of year means they are likely to stick around during winter and hopefully consume their fair share of pests such as slug and snails – and their eggs.

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Chris Morrison's TIP
FOR March

Quicker composting

"There’s loads of foliage that comes out of gardens at this time of year and its perfect for boosting your compost heap. Taking the time to chop up thick stems and large leaves makes for quicker composting – its also easier to turn your heap. No sweat!"




March FEATURED TASKS

Harvesting & storing squashes and pumpkins

When ripe, fruit should make a hollow ringing sound when rapped with a knuckle. Other clues are firm skin that resists the pressure of your thumbnail and vines and foliage starting to wilt. To harvest, cut from the vine leaving the short stem attached to the fruit. Squashes and pumpkins that are to be stored for winter consumption are best left on the plants until all stems have wilted and died away. In cooler areas a light frost will often do this for you, however remove fruits if any heavy frosts are forecast. Fruit can then be carefully lifted, checked for any signs of damage or disease (in which case eat immediately or feed to chickens) and stored in a cool dry place. Sit them on a slatted surface if possible, do not stack pumpkins or squashes and arrange so that no two fruits touch each other. Good air-flow should help pumpkins and squashes to remain in perfect kitchen-ready condition for up to 5 months.

More on pumpkins and squashes

Watch POD TV: HOW TO HARVEST PUMPKINS







Conditioning your soil after summer

As summer moves into autumn its is worth keeping up the momentum by digging over and enriching soil that has been cleared through harvest so that it is ready for winter and spring crops. Add seaweed, compost, rotted manure and/or sheep pellets to increase nutrient content. Lime in the form of garden lime, dolomite or crushed shell can be an important addition to beds with heavy clay soils or slightly acidic soil. You can test your soil ph levels (a measure of acidity or alkalinity) with tester kits that are often sold at garden centres. Lime raises the ph of soil making it more alkaline and this can favour leafy crops such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach.

WATCH POD TV: HOW TO GIVE YOUR SOIL A POST HARVEST TUNE UP

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