Since the winter solstice, the days have been getting longer, here in New Zealand. Then comes the equinox – when day and night are equal length. 12 hours each. What an interesting moment in the year.
Here in New Zealand, its on 23rd September 2017 at 8.02 am – so precise! [Aren’t astronomers amazing to be able to define such points in time so specifically?]
And then we have more light than darkness each day until the summer solstice.
Woo hoo! Summer is returning!
Time to start the new cycle of growth into the warmer weather. This is really the beginning of the new growing season [no matter that our ‘calendars’ say ‘Spring’ begins at the start of September]
Time to start more lettuce and summer greens. New root crops. Fruits and seeds too. All can begin again now.
It’s time to start the warmth-lovers too now – in a protected place [hot-house, window-ledge, cloches over pots on a patio, on a heat-pad]. By the time they are ready to plant outside there will be enough light and heat for them to flourish [end of October or early November usually]. Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, chilies, capsicum, egg-plant, bitter melon and more.
We start these warmth-lovers inside on a heat-pad [for bottom warmth in the pots] then as their tiny first leaves shoot through the soil surface they are moved into bright light [outside for preference] so they grow sturdy stems. We still protect them with plastic covers and keep them on the patio in the warmer part.
If seedlings stay in low light, they stretch up searching for more light and become ‘leggy’ with delicate stems. Much more fragile and easily damaged when transplanting.
How warm is the soil compared with the air?
The open ground is often still cold even when the air is warm, especially in shaded and soggy places. Few plants enjoy being planted into cold, soggy ground.
Wet ground takes longer to warm up than drier soil.
Check first – feel the soil with your skin. If its cold to your skin, its cold to a seed/seedling – which will sit and hardly grow at all. Then they are subject to all sorts of pests and diseases as they have little resistance. We do our best to grow strong, healthy plants by giving them the conditions they prefer.
With so much rain making for saturated soils here, gardening is challenging. This is when lighter soils and high organic content are a real benefit – there is still air space in the soil for healthy roots. It really pays to create soil with high organic content.
[PS – walking on soggy beds compacts them so there is no air in the soil for plant roots – put boards down to stand on if you must walk on the beds]
As the ground warms up, the ‘Spring flush‘ takes off, everything seems to sprout and grow upwards in leaps and bounds!
Often the first we realize is when our food crops shoot upwards and turn woody.
Crops which run to seed in Spring
Crops which have been feeding us through-out winter suddenly change – producing a tall flowering stalk and then masses of seeds. Lettuce, silver-beets, carrots, beetroot, parsnip, radish, etc suddenly shoot up flowering stalks from the root in the ground.
[PS – this time of the year is a good time to keep an eye on root crops and pull any starting to shoot up before the roots turn really woody and become inedible]. Or to save your own seeds of your best ones – well-adapted to your area.
Choose the best plant of that crop to save your own seed. Check out how to collect true-breeding seeds of that crop before you begin.
- Some are very easy to save true [eg lettuce].
- Some require exclusion of other similar types and their pollen.
For example, beetroot and silver-beet will cross so we grow them far enough apart that seed stays true to the parents.
It is a great feeling to save seeds from your best plants so next year you will have quality seeds which work well in your place.
For more about saving seeds, here’s a post I wrote.
This is a great time to sort out seeds and get started planting for your summer and autumn meals. Plant what you and your family like to eat so there is an incentive to look after them too.
Use this ‘Spring flush’ to your advantage – when seeds make wonderful progress quickly, easily.
It’s time to imagine your vibrant, flourishing garden and to start sowing heaps of whatever it is that you like for this wonderful season [well, maybe that which grows in this season in your region too]
Have a wonderful Spring!
May you and your garden flourish!