Child looking at brassicas

As every parent knows, getting kids to eat anything that’s good for them can be an uphill battle, especially when it comes to vegetables. The best solution may be to get them to help you plant them.

“Autumn is a great time to plant hardy vegetables,” says Awapuni’s gardening expert Tod Palenski.

“The colder weather means there’s no need to worry about when to water vegetables or whether they’re going to be destroyed by bugs and diseases before you get to enjoy them.”

The secret is to choose vegetables that grow well at this time of year and prepare the soil properly.

“Choose a fertiliser which is moisture controlled, such as nirophoska blue, over one that is temperature controlled, like blood and bone and make sure you add lime to the soil to stop it going sour when wet.”

Brassicas, such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, are the perfect plants for this time of year. Mixed seedlings can be a great way to create some variety in your vegetable garden.

“Awapuni has two types of brassica mixes in their traditional value seedling range. One has cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli and the other has cabbage, cauliflower and silverbeet, so your family can enjoy a good variety of greens.”

Get the kids to help you plant brassicas every couple of weeks, rather than all at once. This way they don’t mature all at once and you can have fresh vegetables all through the winter.

Tod also suggests rotating crops on a yearly basis to avoid the fungal disease club root.

“Just choose a different area of the garden to where you planted your vegetables last year.”

If you like hearty soup on a cold winter’s night, now is the time to start planting the ingredients.

Leeks, onions, carrots and some potatoes, such as Rua and Illam Hardy, can be planted in your autumn garden as excellent soup ingredients.

“Get the kids involved with planting soup ingredients – they’ll love being able to eat their own homegrown creation,” says Tod.

He suggests planting leeks in the bottom of a ditch and getting the kids to mound up the soil regularly as they start to grow.

“The less sun they get, the longer the white bits will be, and that’s the best bit to eat. Another trick is to place a tube or piece of plastic pipe over your leek seedlings.”

Tod says onions and broad beans are among the easiest vegetables to grow – you can pretty much plant and leave them.

“Broad beans don’t need to be tied up, just plant them close together so they hold each other up. If they do grow extra large, you may need to place a stake at each end of the garden with a piece of string between to hold the plants up.”

To add some colour to your winter garden, Tod suggests using teepee frames from summer tomatoes and runner beans to grow sweet peas.

“Sweet peas, pansies and calendula are all easy to grow in winter,” says Tod. “Especially if you choose Awapuni’s Pop’n’Grow seedlings, which have their own individual root systems so they don’t get damaged before you get them in the ground.”

To give flowers and vegetables a head start in the cold weather, use a layer of straw for mulch to help keep the soil warm.

If the cooler months are particularly dry this year, you may need to water your garden occasionally. The best way to check whether you need to is to make a rain gauge. Kids can do this – all they need to do is mark a glass or clear container with a 3cm line and add whatever decorations they like.

“Get them to empty the glass every few days and, if the water level gets under the line, they’ll know to get the hose out. It’s a great way to keep kids active in the cooler months and help grow their imaginations.”

Awapuni Nurseries , a locally owned family business, has been growing plants for the Manawatu and all over New Zealand since 1961

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