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Keen gardeners dig in as temperatures heat up

Herald on Sunday column — On Sunday daylight saving began and apart from the negatives – such as Sunday being only 23 hours long and now having to wake up an hour earlier to go to work – there is now no denying that summer is near.

Spring arrived? Check. Equinox been and gone? Check. Daylight saving kicked off? Check. Labour Weekend here? Almost.

In fact Labour Weekend, just three weeks away, is our final closing of the door to winter.

My Herald on Sunday editor asked me to write about new-season asparagus the other day. I wasn’t really sure if he was joking – news editors are some the few people on earth I struggle to read.

But I took his idea and looked into it and I realised sales of new-season asparagus really ramp up around Labour Weekend – and that’s also when the prices start to fall.

The holiday weekend also signals the green light for us to plant our summer vegetable gardens and to get our flower gardens in order.

By then, we tend to be out of the frosts and the soil temperatures are heading upwards – and for most seeds and seedlings you need warm soil temperatures to encourage growth.

It’s no different with asparagus. Warm days and mild nights help growth … the colder the nights, the more slow the growth.

So as keen as you may be to get planting, remember it’s the overnight lows that matter most at this fragile time of year. Cold nights, not even at frost level, can be enough to kill seedlings.

Clearly the further north you are the warmer those nights will be, so for Northland and Auckland you may get away with earlier planting.

Weatherwise, October looks to be similar to September: half-settled, half-windy. Temperatures look to remain about average overall.

At this point of spring, daffodils and frolicking lambs are old news. Now it’s the next part of spring – the new-season fruit and vegetable part.

Whether it’s fresh season asparagus as a side to your home-cooked meal – or the chargrilled asparagus at Al Brown’s Depot that my editor says “is to die for” – we’re now in the season where our meals can become a lot more colourful, flavoursome and healthy, thanks to new season fruit and vegetables

– Homepage image / Babiche Martens

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Column written by Philip Duncan

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