Michael Van de Elzen shares Spring tips from his 'Good from Scratch’ garden to help you prep your lifestyle block for the next season.
Planting from seed
Planting from seed is pretty easy. We just order our seeds online and then place them into a good seed raising mix, give them daily water, worm tea, and keep them warm. You can either use heat mats or anywhere that has good light and heat to begin with.
Planting in the tunnel house
We are using our tunnel house to propagate all our summer crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, as well as pumpkins. We are hoping for a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, as last year they seemed to suffer from a variety of diseases in the tunnel house. So, we have changed things around a bit to avoid this happening again as commercial sprays are not an option.
We have more than 200 plants in seedling trays to allow for a small percentage of loss and have chosen varieties that are more disease-resistant than others. We are installing a big fan at one end of the tunnel house to keep the air circulating through. They have great names like Chef’s Choice, Money-Maker and Early Doll. I’m hoping they will give us a great selection.
Tomatoes are huge feeders and before they start to really take off and fruit is a good time to get heaps of seaweed fertilizer onto them.
Being coastal, we’re lucky that we can simply collect seaweed from the beach and soak it in water for a few days to let it start to ferment. Then we dilute it and feed it to the tomatoes. If you don’t live by the sea, there are loads of products on the market. Tane at AgriSea NZ is a wealth of knowledge and their website is packed full of information so jump online and have a look.
Worms and mulch
Worm farms to boost your veggie patch
Worm farms are great. Not only do they love to munch down your organic waste, but they also provide you with valuable worm casting water (simple, unfermented worm tea) which you can then dilute with water and feed to your vegetables to boost production.
It's also very important at this time of the year to ensure they don't get too hot. So, either move them to a cooler shaded spot or open them up if you can, to get some breeze going through them.
Fertilizing your fruit trees
Spring is a good time to get some important fertilizer down around your fruit trees and have a good clean up. Get some mulch down over the base of your trees in the orchard and over the vegetable beds to keep the moisture in the ground.
We like to use a lot of pea straw in the gardens as it won't suddenly sprout new weeds. You can easily walk on it and it won't get blown away in the wind, so it’s ideal for us.
Preserving your Spring fruit
We harvested the orchard last month and had a huge number of lemons, limes, and oranges in cold storage. With soda syrups, jams, marmalades, and preserved lemons to make we have enough to keep us busy.
Normally I pack my lemons with rock salt to preserve them which works well but this time I’m going to cold smoke the lemons before I preserve them. My hope is that the end result will be a preserved salty, bitter and slightly smoky lemon for my summer salads.
Get a head start reducing some of Summer's big risks
Check your water and irrigation systems
Water is such a valuable commodity, and we need to ensure we're not wasting it.
If you have them, now’s the time to check your irrigation systems, but it’s also good to walk around your gardens and block to ensure your animal's water troughs are clean. Check the ball valves are all working and don't leak and give your sprinklers a touch of oil. This way they will turn easily and work on lower pressures.
Clean up your gardens
Get your old branches chopped down now, clean up all the gardens and landscaping plants and get them into a bonfire.
Before burning, always go to www.checkitsalright.co.nz to check if you're permitted to do controlled burns in your area. Always read through the guidelines on lighting an open fire safely and what equipment you should have on hand to manage things if they get out of control. FMG has more advice on rural fires and how to reduce the risks here.