Spring is springing and a new energy of the cycle of growth is under way!

Spring is springing and a new energy of the cycle of growth is under way!

Buds are forming on deciduous plants and bursting into blossom or leaf. Joy oh joy.

Can we plant veggie seeds and seedlings out now it’s spring?

The days are getting longer.

Yet the ground is still cold and wet, wet, wet here in Auckland.

Seeds sown outside take a long time to sprout [or rot or are eaten by insects].

Seedlings of flowers and veg which are planted out now will sit and wait for warmer soil to grow – so are tasty targets for slugs and snails etc. then we wonder why they haven’t grown.


Keep tomatoes and their relatives in a warm place until November before planting in the garden.

The soil is way too cold for them to grow outside unprotected yet.


To have a successful planting delicate, tender seedlings need protection from:

  • the heaps of slugs and snails which miraculously appear now. Keeping them away from delicious, tender new sprouting seedlings requires some effort.
  • strong cold winds
  • birds – especially black-birds which are nesting at present and determinedly scratch for worms scattering seeds and seedlings out of the soil in their efforts.
  • any pets which can dig [or neighbourhood cats]
  • possums and rats which can cause havoc if you have them around


What sort of protection?

These are my favorites: For veg, full plastic cover over hoops on raised beds with bird netting over the top and looped onto hooks on the wood to hold all in place in strong winds.

plastic covers over raised beds with bird netting over the top to hod all in place in strong winds


A protective surround. Cut down plastic bottles, one per seedling can work. I put a bird net over the lot as we have determined black-birds which up-root most such attempts. And hook tent-pegs or weed-mat pegs over the sides into the ground to stop the wind blowing them away.


A plastic bag cover over a frame with the plastic buried into the ground so there is no access [+ snail bait/deterrent for the determined ones].


A plastic tunnel cover [with covered ends too] +snail bait/deterrent


Any other inventive physical barrier!

And have patience – seedlings grow in warm soil – use your inner wrist or a thermometer – not your gloved hand – to feel if it’s warm enough for them to thrive.


May your spring garden bring you joy!
Heather Powell


For more ideas about what to sow and when in NZ, have a look at  http://gardenate.com



For more about planting by the  moon phases,

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, a great one is to plant the same seeds in rows right beside each other [so all other conditions are identical], and label the rows with the date of planting. Then sow seeds from 1 packet at weekly intervals, each week in a new row.

This way you can see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

I enjoy experimenting with such ideas – and if only I can rescue the rows from the snails and black-birds, I might even get some results to share!

Here’s a post I wrote about planting by the moon phases if you like more information and reflections on it.

Moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

What’s going on with weather effects in our gardens this year?

What’s going on with weather effects in our gardens this year?

What strange seasons we are experiencing at present. The plants seem somewhat confused.

Early spring bulbs are flowering now – and it’s not even winter yet! Jonquils [also called ‘Erlicheer’] began flowering here first week of May.



One Choko vine has been producing prolifically; and another large vine has no fruit yet. Strange.

chokos - assorted sizes
chokos – assorted sizes


The pumpkin crop is very small this year – and very late. It’s getting too cold to harden the skins properly so I doubt they will store at all well. Previous years we’ve had heaps.


Tromboncino squashes [the long ones] are REALLY late producing fruits. Also none of storage quality this year whereas last year we had more than 20 stored for months. We are only now getting small ones to eat fresh – very late.


Leafy greens

The summer and autumn heavy rains also affected crops of leafy greens for commercial growers as well as home growers. Lettuces don’t grow well submerged in water as happened for some market gardens!

Many leafy greens, including our lettuce crop, were affected badly by caterpillar damage –  mainly ‘green-looper’ caterpillars which hide under leaves and chew the juicy, tender leaves.

I hand-picked off dozens from lettuces this year – and went back a few days later and found more I had missed – they are so good at camouflage and can chew through lots of seedlings! It’s much easier to grow good lettuces in cooler seasons when they stop being such a pest.

Lettuce, silver-beet, broccoli


I have covered the chilies with a plastic bag to protect them a bit from the cold southerly winds here. More ripen under plastic than out in the open with frosts likely now.

Also the snake beans – putting a plastic cover over them was more of an effort as they have climbed up poles as tall as me and straggled along posts. They are nearly finished for the year, but have given us such a great harvest I am hopeful to get a few more beans – even though it is now May and they are from warmer climates than Auckland.

Also, under the snake beans a tromboncino squash sprawls along the ground and has some fruits – with a covering we are more likely to get some fruits to eat.


The apricot crop was very poor – possibly affected by the warmer winter – we didn’t have any frosts at all – and apricots need chilling to fruit. Maybe this year. It’s worth having frosts to convince stone fruit trees to fruit! And to freeze caterpillar pests so next year’s crops have a better chance to grow well.



The warm winter then cool, wet summer/autumn seems to have confused many plants. It will be interesting to see what does well next season.

We plant lots of different crops and varieties – some usually do well even when others don’t so we have a harvest of something we enjoy.


Have you found similar oddities too? or different ones? Or has your garden grown well through-out the seasons? If so, that is wonderful!


May you and your garden flourish!


Welcome to the warm, humid sub-tropics in Auckland!

The good, the bad and the ugly of the wonderful sub-tropics.

Beautiful flowers, lush vibrant growth – and explosions of pests and diseases which also love these conditions!

I am learning about growing in the warm, humid zone these days. After many years in more extreme climates, from temperate to semi-arid zones, this is a new experience.

The recent years in Auckland have shown me that strategies which worked elsewhere are ineffective here. Interesting. So I learn new strategies to get a harvest instead.

In Auckland the weather has been warm and wet, wet, wet!

Fungus alert

I am already noticing molds starting – even on calendulas where, in past years, it had not been an issue. An early start to a warm, moist, humid season?

Many fungus diseases LOVE warm, moist conditions.

The white/grey molds reduce vitality of plants they grow on, so I’ll keep a close eye on this issue now.

When I notice molds on plants we treasure, they’ll get a spray with a milk/carb soda solution.

I’ll use about 1:10 dilution of milk in water, and add about 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda to a liter and shake it well. This changes the pH to be less attractive to mold growth.

And remember to repeat after rain as it washes off.

There are rust spots on the older silver-beet leaves too. Our solution?

  • Pull diseased leaves off and allow more air flow around the healthy new leaves.
  • And feed the plants to keep them growing fast.


In a future post we’ll also look at pests and how we work around them.