I love Spring! Real Spring, not the crazy beginnings of false Spring courtesy Climate Change. The last four years our Spring, normally celebrated on 1 September, has brought instead the wrath of a winter not wanting to head North but rather dig in and play havoc in our gardens. Spring has moved to a later slot now, try mid October.
Now if you’re a gardener like me, you’ll be nodding your head in agreement with the Season’s silliness. I can count the nice Spring days of September on one hand, the rest were blustery, rainy and cold. So how to plant those early warm- loving veggies in such a tumultuous season? Tents. That’s how I get to plant my courgettes early.
My tomatoes are planted in our hothouse, to get them in the soil earlier than the traditional tomato planting on NZ Labour weekend (around 26 October) but the courgettes need more space than the hothouse, so I create a tent for them. I have several pieces of black polythene irrigation pipes which I recycle for veggie tenting options. Simply cut lengths of 1.2m. Push each end into the soil to create a hoop over the area you want to protect.
Tie a length of bamboo across the tops of the hoops and then spread a frost cloth (I have pieces of lightweight polyester fabric I was given, works just as well) over the top, securing the cloth with small lengths of the irrigation hose which has been cut down one length. Weight down the bottom of the tent cloth so that gusty winds don’t steal your cloth. Once you’ve created the pieces needed to make your protective tent, it only takes 10-15 minutes to make. When the weather has warmed up sufficiently, whip off the tent and hoops. Your zucchini will have had a good head start to growing.
When planting brassicas and needing to protect them from white cabbage butterflies, simply erect your tent hoops, but cover them with fine netting, instead of frost cloth. Simple, low cost and effective.
Happy Spring Planting!