Grassroots Free Store Companion

Click on the product you have questions about.


Difficulty: Easy Suitable for Cutting: Yes Suitable for Drying: Yes Attracts Butterflies: Yes Attracts Bees: Yes

Achillea (Yarrow) Perennial A popular perennial used for fresh cut flowers or dried bouquets. Flower heads resemble wild carrot or Queen Anne's Lace and are pastel colored including many bicolors and primary shades. This species is a refined hybrid of a species found in both Europe and North America. Although seed can be sown outdoors in late May, plants will not flower the first season. To assure first year blooms seed must be sown earlier indoors.

CULTURE: Sow seed indoors. Seed is quite fine, press into the surface but do not cover because the seed needs light to sprout. Germinate at 68°F/20°C during the day and lower soil temperatures at night, during the germination period. This improves germination (about 85%) which usually takes about 10 days. Grow seedlings cooler at 60°F/16°C. Young plants can be moved outdoors to harden off in 6 weeks. Plants should mature in August/September from seed the first year from an indoor or greenhouse seeding. This species is particularly effective when used in background clumps of 5 or 6 plants spaced about 12 in/31 cm apart. It gives a hardy perennial wild flower flavor to the planting area.

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Admiral pea, cover crop

Pea tendrils (the most recent 6-8" of growth) are also great in salad mixes, and the dry yellow peas can be cooked in soup. Sow alone in spring or fall, or, can also be mixed with vetch and/or oats, winter rye, or ryegrass. Peas smother weeds better than spring-sown clover. Inoculate for best performance. FOR GREEN MANURE: For best results, till under when in the flowering stage.

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Aquilegia, columbine

Fluffy, star-shaped blooms with pointed, overlapping petals resemble petite clematis flowers. Fully double 1 1/2" upward-facing and nodding, spurless flowers. Blooms late spring of the second year from a spring sowing. An excellent cut flower, it has strong, straight stems and fills the gap between early spring and summer bouquets. Produces multiple blooms per stem. Attracts hummingbirds. Perennial in Zones 3-9. Ht. 32-42".LIGHT PREFERENCE: Part Shade. Will tolerate full sun where summers are cool and plants can be kept watered. PLANT HEIGHT: Varies. PLANT SPACING: 10-15". HARDINESS ZONES: Zones 3-9. HARVEST: When half of the florets on a stem are open. SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Prefers light shade and humus-rich, well-drained soil. Will tolerate full sun where summers are cool and plants can be kept watered. USES: Cut Flower. Beds and borders.

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Aster - "Pinkie"

Aster alpinus 'Pinkie' has large, rich pink flowers in May and June. The daisy-like flowers attract butterflies and beneficial insects. Alpine aster 'Pinkie' is nice at the edge of a path or in the rock garden. It prefers poor, well-drained soil. Start indoors 6-10 weeks before planting out. Cover seed lightly and germinate at 20-24 degrees C. Germination takes about 2-3 weeks. Grow seedlings in a right, but cool location (15°C). Pinch back seedlings when approximately 6" tall to encourage bushy growth. After loast frost, transplant 12-15" apart in a full sun location with average, well-drained, but moist soil. Divide every three years in spring.

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Season: Warm season Exposure: Full sun Zone: 3 to 10 – not cold hardy Timing Basil grows well in containers indoors at any time of year provided you can supply enough light. For outdoor growing, sow basil seeds from mid-April to mid-May for transplanting to the garden in June, or direct sow in late-May or early June, once the soil has warmed up. Basil requires warm soil and full sun. Optimal temperature for germination: 21°C (70°F). Seeds should sprout in 5-10 days. Starting Sow seeds 1cm (½”) deep in sterilized seed starting mix. Basil is prone to damping off, so once seeds sprout, make sure they are adequately ventilated, and kept under very bright light. Thin to 20-25cm (8-10″) apart. Using bottom heat speeds germination. Growing Use any rich, loose, well drained soil. Once plants are 15cm (6″) tall, pinch out the growing tips to encourage really bushy growth prior to harvest. Watch for signs of flower buds forming in mid-summer, and pinch these off to promote more foliage. Harvest Frequent harvesting will prolong the life of the plant. Basil leaves have the best flavour just before the plant flowers, and if you plan to preserve some of your basil or make a big batch of pesto, this is the best time to harvest. Flowering can be delayed by pinching or clipping off new flower buds. Tear basil rather than chop with a knife because when you chop you will notice the basil going dark. The oil stays in the leaf and does not properly flavour your food. Try to add just before serving so as to get the full aroma and effect. Cooking for any length tends to make the minty side of basil come to the forefront. Basil is best fresh, but can be perserved by drying or by freezing. To do this, tear the leaves into small pieces and freeze small batches of them, with water, in ice cube trays. Once frozen, the cubes can be saved in zip-lock type bags and labeled for later use. This will preserve the fresh flavour of basil for up to four months. For a large harvest, you can cut off as much as a half the plant at once. Seed Info Usual seed life: 3 years. Companion Planting Will improve vigour and flavour of tomatoes, planted side-by-side. Also good with asparagus, oregano, and peppers. Basil helps repel flies, mosquitoes, and thrips.

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Bee Balm

Leaves are excellent in tea, reminiscent of the distinct flavour to Earl Grey blends. Plants grow to a height of 60-90cm (24-36"), and those that don't survive as perennials in Coastal gardens will likely self-sow. All bergamots are highly attractive to beneficial pollinators like butterflies and wild bees. Hummingbirds will stage territorial fights to stake their claims over a wild bergamot plant in full bloom.

Difficulty Easy Season & Zone Season: Warm season Exposure: Full sun Zone: Hardy from zone 5 to 10 Timing Sow indoors late February to mid-March, or direct sow in early spring when a light frost is still possible. Seeds can also be direct sown in October. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 15-21°C (60-70°F). Seeds should sprout in 10-40 days. Bottom heat will speed germination. Starting Barely cover the tiny seeds with soil. Thin or space transplants 45-60cm (18-24″) apart. These vigorous perennials will grow in, closer together over time. Growing Any ordinary garden soil will work. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Where summers are long, plants are prone to mildew, so avoid overhead watering. Deadhead regularly to prolong the blooming period. Plants spread by rhizome growth, and should be dug and divided every three years. Harvest Pick the leaves as desired for fresh use in the kitchen. For drying, harvest leaves before the flowers open. Cut flowers for drying as soon as they’re fully open. Tiered pink-purple blossoms grow from August until frost.

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Black Beans

This old heirloom has been grown for over 150 years. The plants are “semi-runners,” meaning they grow on bushes that benefit from some support. The plants are super productive. These tasty beans turn from black to dark brown when cooked. This bean is disease resistant, heat resistant, and hardy.

Tip: use floating row cover until the plants are well established, otherwise slugs are likely to eat nearly all the plant

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Broccoli, sprouting

CULTURE: Prefers a well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter with a pH of 6.0–7.5. Prefers a consistent supply of moisture throughout the growing season. Irrigate regularly for best results.

DISEASES AND INSECT PESTS: Prevent flea beetle and slug damage by applying floating row cover at planting. Prevent disease with crop rotation and good sanitation.

TRANSPLANTING: Sow 2 seeds per cell in 72-cell plug flats, 3–4 seeds/in. in 20-row flats, or in outdoor beds ¼" deep. Seedlings should be ready to transplant in 3–4 weeks. If possible keep soil temperature 75–80°F (24–27°C) until germination, then reduce air temperature to about 60°F (16°C). Ensure good air circulation and light. Transplant outdoors 6–12" apart for spring raab and 12–24" apart for sprouting broccoli in rows 18–36" apart.

DIRECT SEEDING: Sow 3 seeds per foot, ½" deep, rows 18–36" apart, thinning to one plant in each group.

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Buddleya, Violet Butterfly

(5 ft/1.5 m) Violet blue flowers 6 months from seed. Fragrant cut flower or flowering shrub. Plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

GREENHOUSE: Sow indoors March 1st for late summer flowers. Easily germinated and no pre-treatment of seed needed. Germinate @ 70°F/21°C for 25 days. Cover seed lightly. Transplant 30 to 35 days after sowing. For saleable green plants allow 10 to 12 weeks in cell packs or 14 to 16 weeks for a 4 in/10 cm pot. Plants grow quickly under warm conditions of 65°F/18°C nights and slower under cooler temps of 50°F/10°C at night. Anything lower than this will damage foliage. Softwood cuttings can be easily rooted during spring and summer. Plants will flower the first season at 15 in/38 cm but will mature at 5 ft/25 m the second year. This is an excellent choice for a seasonal shrub during the summer in cold winter areas. Requires full sun and good drainage. A pH level of 6-7 is best.

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Butterfly Flower, Carmine Rose

Commonly called milkweed, this is the exclusive diet of the monarch butterfly caterpillar. Flowers first year in late summer. Start indoors 8-10 weeks before planting out. Cover seed lightly, provide light and cool conditions (50-75 degrees F). May also be direct seeded outside in early spring or early autumn.

Transplant when plants are still small in early spring. space 24 inches in a permanent location. These plants hate to be moved or divided.

Full sun to light shade. Pinch back plants when they are 6 inches tall to encourage branching.

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Butterfly weed

Difficulty: Easy

Attracts Butterflies: Yes

Attracts Bees: Yes

Fragrant Yes

CULTURE: Sow indoors from Dec. - March. Moisten seeds and pre-chill @ 34-40°F/1-4°C for 4 weeks before sowing. Germinate 70-75°F/21-24°C for 28 days. Leave seed exposed to light or press into soil. Grow seedlings @ 65°F/18°C. Space 12 in/30 cm apart. Asclepias like full sun. The rich flower nectar attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, especially Monarchs. Plants tend to dislike transplanting, becoming weak and languid as roots become bound in containers. For ideal performance sow seed into plug trays and transplant only once before the final outdoor planting. The root area is quite fragile so extra care must be used in handling. Plants bloom the first year from June to August. Cut off dead flower heads for extended color up to 4 weeks. In late summer, as flowers fade, plant produces an elongated, tapered 4 in/10 cm seed pod. Suitable for flower arrangements fresh or dried. Asclepias are slow to make their showing in spring. Remember to mark the area where plants grew last year. A routine aphid check is required to ensure healthy plants. Member of the milkweed family. Low maintenance perennial for zones 4-9.

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DAYS TO GERMINATION: 7-14 days at 65-72°F (18-22°C)

SOWING: Transplant (recommended) - Sow 6-8 weeks before last frost. Lightly press seed into growing medium. Transplant into cell packs or 3-4" containers 20-25 days after sowing. Harden off and transplant out 6-8 weeks after sowing. Cool temperatures of 50-55°F (10-13°C) are required to keep the plants low growing and basal branching. Avoid warm temperatures in excess of 65°F (18°C), especially at night, which will product soft growth. Direct seed - Early spring when a light frost is still possible.




HARDINESS ZONES: Zones 6-8. Best results when planted as an annual.

HARVEST: 10-20% of flowers in cluster or spray are open.

SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Rich, sandy, well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline.

USES: Excellent commercial cut flower and is also suitable for gallon container production with one plant per gallon container. Also makes a lovely bedding plant.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Dianthus spp.

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CHIVES - a mild onion flavored herb for stews and salads

CULTURE: Plant in clumps outdoors in rows 20 in/51 cm apart. Chives like average light sandy soil, medium rich, in a warm sunny location. Make divisions of roots in the fall for indoor use in pots during the winter months. Plants resemble fine leafed onions with lavender blue flower heads. Can be used as an attractive edging for vegetable or herb gardens. Mature clumps of plants increase rapidly and should be divided every third spring.

HARVEST: Long thick green upright shafts may be harvested 8 in/20 cm long 2 or 3 times after regrowth. Cut flower stalks to the ground just after blooming, and/or use as one of the earliest cut flowers. Leaves may be close cut but severe cutting requires additional fertilizer applications after harvesting.

USES: Chives are a relative of the onion family and are grown for their tubular leaves which are used for their mild onion flavor in salads, sour cream, soups, mashed potatoes and stews.

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You can activate your compost and condition your soil with comfrey - it's one of the best plants for this. The roots range to depths of 8 to 10 feet, bringing up nutrients from the mineral-rich subsoil, breaking up heavy clay and aerating the land with their channels. The leaves themselves may be buried as "instant compost" to give row crops season-long nourishment.

Comfrey has not been declared potentially poisonous. Using comfrey as a vegetable, in tea or as livestock fodder; is NOT advisable. Comfrey contains at least 8 pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can build up in the liver to cause permanent damage and sometimes death. Because of this, comfrey preparations are not sold for oral or internal use in Canada.

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Floating row cover, light weight

Recommended to protect plants from flea beetles, slugs, root maggots, birds on baby pea plants, brassicas, young bean and carrot plants. Also provides a bit of warmth to the plants while allowing rain/irrigation to pass through. Anchor with staples, rocks, soil, what have you.

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Perennial 4 1/2 - 7 ft/l.5 - 2 m

GREENHOUSE: Germinate @ 60°F/16°C soil temp. for 20 days. Cover seed lightly, 1/4 in/6 mm deep, and firm. High soil temps. will limit germination. Maintain air temp. of 65°F/18°C days and 55°F/13°C nights for about 2 weeks. Grow seedlings @ 50°F/10°C to prevent soft, spindly growth. Transplant into 2 1/4 in/6 cm peat pots, about 6 weeks after seeding. When transplanting - use all sizes of seedlings. Do not sort seedlings according to height, or you will end up sorting out each color. Whites and pinks are the most vigorous. The reds, salmons and yellows are usually the smaller ones.

DIRECT SOWING: Sow outdoors as above, from May to July. Space plants 12 in/31 cm apart. Plants are susceptible to rust disease. Most double flowered varieties attain full bloom the second season. Doubleness increases to almost 100% the following spring.

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Easy easy to grow on the North Island. Tolerates wet conditions, but also tolerate drought. Not finicky.

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Lettuce, Salanova

CULTURE: Lettuce is hardy and can be planted as early as the soil can be worked. It is a cool weather crop and grows best at temperatures of 60–65°F (15.5–18.3°C). Sow every 3 weeks for a continuous supply of fresh lettuce. Pelleted seed requires a little extra attention when it comes to watering, as it performs best with consistent, moderate soil moisture throughout the germination period. An initial watering will split or dissolve the pellet, but if the soil is allowed to dry out before the germination period is over, the seed may receive insufficient moisture for optimal germination.

TRANSPLANTING: Sow in flats, 1 seed/in., or in ¾" plug trays, barely covering seeds with fine vermiculite, 3–4 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Shade the flats on sunny, warm days if necessary to keep the soil surface cool, below 75°F (24°C), until germination. If sowing into flats, transplant 1–2" apart into flats, pots, or cell-type containers about 2 weeks later. Harden seedlings by reducing water and temperature for 2–3 days before planting outdoors. Properly hardened transplants can survive temperatures as low as 20°F (-6°C). Transplant 8–10" apart in rows 12–18" apart for full size heads or 6" apart for mini heads.

DIRECT SEEDING: Seeds germinate even at low, 40°F (4°C), soil temperature, but poorly above 75°F (24°C) depending on the variety and seed lot. Sow seeds 2" apart, rows 12–18" apart. Cover seed lightly, about 1/8", and firm soil gently. Thin to one plant every 6". Dry soil must be watered to ensure coolness and moisture, and for uniform germination.

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These plants are practically indestrucible on the North Island and grow to be rather massive. They tolerate very poor soil and wet soil as well. They fix nitrogen for other plants and attract pollinators.

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Marigold, French

This is the only annual in the Free Store and it is included because it brings a smile to the face and reputed to be helpful in companion planting.

How to Sow Tagetes: Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost at a temperature of 70-75° Expect germination in 5-7 days. Alternatively, sow seeds outdoors after all danger of frost has past When sowing seed outdoors, we recommend a maximum planting depth of 4X the width of the seed

How to Grow Tagetes: Transplanting: Transplant when there are at least two sets of true leaves

Spacing: Space 6-18 inches apart in full sun

Soil: Site in a neutral to slightly alkaline, average, well-drained soil

Additional Care: Pinch to promote compactness and deadhead to prolong flowering. Taller types may need staking. Very tolerant of exposure, heat, and humidity, but will need supplemental watering during droughts

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Peppers, sweet

Growing peppers on the North Island requires some coddling. They are not a native plant by any means. West Coast Seeds has this to say about their seeds: "This sweet Italian heirloom is a favorite for frying, Red Bulls Horn pepper seeds are an excellent producer on the Coast. The 45cm (18") plant produces loads of fat, conical 10-13cm (4-5") peppers curved in the shape of a bull's horn. They ripen to a deep red late in summer or can be harvested green. As they ripen to red, the flavour becomes much sweeter and mellower. Try planting some Red Bulls Horn pepper seeds in a five gallon patio container - your plants will respond well to the extra heat by producing more fruit.

Matures in 80 days

How To Grow Peppers are tropical plants that need lots of heat and attention to detail when starting them. Well grown in a warm summer, they are the gardener’s triumph.

Difficulty Moderately difficult

Exposure: Full-sun Zone: Not winter hardy. Grow in Zones 4 and up.

Timing Peppers need plenty of time to mature before they will bloom and set fruit. Start indoors in early March to the first week of April under bright lights. Transplant only when weather has really warmed up in early June or later. Night time lows should be consistently above 12°C (55°F). Soil temperature for germination: 25-29°C (78-85°F). Seeds should sprout in 10 – 21 days.

Starting Sow indoors 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep. Keep soil as warm as possible. Seedling heating mats speed germination. Try to keep seedlings at 18-24°C (64-75°F) in the day, and 16-18°C (61-64°F) at night. Before they become root-bound, transplant them into 8cm (3″) pots. For greatest possible flower set, try to keep them for 4 weeks at night, about 12°C (55°F). Then transplant them into 15cm (6″) pots, bringing them into a warm room at night, about 21°C (70°F).

Growing Soil should have abundant phosphorus and calcium, so add lime and compost to the bed at least three weeks prior to transplanting. Mix ½ cup of complete organic fertilizer beneath each plant. Though peppers will tolerate dry soil, they will only make good growth if kept moist. Harden off before planting out in June, 30-60cm (12-24″) apart. Water in with kelp-based fertilizer. Using plastic mulch with a cloche can increase the temperature few degrees. Pinch back growing tips to encourage leaf production. this helps shade peppers and prevents sun-scald in hot summers.

Harvest When fruit is firm it is ready to pick. But if you wait the fruit will ripen further turning red, yellow, brown or purple. The sweetness and vitamin C content go up dramatically when the fruit changes colour. If you pick green the total numbers of peppers harvested will increase. Fruit that sets after late August will not usually develop or ripen.

Diseases & Pests To prevent rot and wilt, plant in well-drained soils and follow a 4-year rotation. If cutworms are a problem, use paper collars at the plant base. Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV): young growth is malformed and leaves are mottled with yellow. To prevent it: wash hands after handling tobacco, before touching peppers. Control aphids, which spread the disease.

Companion Planting Pepper plants make good neighbours for asparagus, basil, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, oregano, parsley, rosemary, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Never plant them next to beans, Brassicas, or fennel."

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Pumpkins, miniature, "Jack be Little"

Here's what West Coast Seeds has to say about their seeds: "While they are edible and actually quite tasty, most growers choose Jack Be Little pumpkin seeds for the compact vines and tiny, undeniably cute miniature pumpkins that follow. Each flattened, deeply-ribbed fruit measures only 5cm (2") tall and about 13cm (5") across the top. If cured fully on the vine, the fruits will last as ornaments for as long as twelve months! Jack Be Little makes perfect little bright orange pumpkins for fall decorations, and each plant produces up to eight fruits. Be sure to keep one or two for dicing into fall soups or slicing thin for tempura. Quick Facts: Can be used as edible soup bowls Cute, tiny, bright orange little orange Wonderful for decorative fall displays Matures in 95 days (Open-pollinated seeds) How To Grow Difficulty Easy, but these big plants require lots of room.

Season & Zone Season: Warm season Exposure: Full sun Zone: Not winter hardy. Compare the days to maturity to the length of a typical summer in your area. Days to maturity are from transplant date.

Timing Direct sow or transplant in late May or early June when soil warms up. For transplants, start seeds indoors during the first two weeks of May. Make sure plants go into the ground no later than June 15th. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 25-35°C (68-95°F). Seeds should sprout in 7-14 days.

Starting Sow seeds 2cm (1″) deep. Sow 3 seeds in each spot you want a plant to grow and thin to the strongest plant. Space plants at a minimum of 90-120cm (36-48″) apart in rows 120-180cm (48-72″) apart. If starting transplants indoors, consider using the 12-cell plug inserts.

Growing Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. These big plants need lots of food! Choose a sunny spot with fertile, well-draining soil. Dig in a generous quantity of finished compost and/or composted manure. Dig in 1 cup of complete organic fertilizer under each plant. All pumpkins grow male flowers first, then the female flowers are produced. The female flowers have tiny fruits at the base of the petals and require pollination by bees, mostly. Incomplete pollination is common at the beginning of the season, and results in small fruits that are misshapen at the flower end. Discard these damaged fruits before they rot.

Harvest Like other winter squash, pumpkins are mature when they have coloured up well and their stems are crisp. For the best sugar content, cut the stem about 4cm (2″) or so from the body of the fruit. If the weather is dry, allow the pumpkins to cure in the field for 10 days, or in a warm room for 4-5 days. Bring pumpkins in under cover before rain.

Diseases & Pests Powdery Mildew: An airborne fungal disease that causes white spots on the leaves at the end of the season. Several home-sprays are said to be somewhat effective. Spray any of the following at 7-10 day intervals. 1tsp baking soda and 1 quart of water with a squirt of dish soap. Resistant varieties get the mildew just a few days later than the other varieties.

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Raspberries will grow and multiply on the North Island without any help from us. Nevertheless, here are a few tips: Delicious raspberries are perfect for homemade jam and preserves and even better eaten straight off the plant. Boyne is ultra hardy raspberry and very reliable. One of the earliest to mature. Boyne produces dark-red, medium sized berries.The other variety produces larger berries into late fall.

Choose a sunny site in your garden with good air circulation and water drainage and a pH of 6.0-7.0. Keep roots moist until planting. Work plenty of organic matter into the soil and mulch to keep out weeds. Plant as soon as the soil has warmed. Dig a hole large enough so as not to bend roots. Trim canes to encourage new growth. Plants should be set out at least 2 feet apart in rows 5-6 feet apart.

Growing:Trellising is beneficial for cane support. These summer-bearing berries produce fruit on second year canes (floricanes). In the fall of the 2nd year, prune spent canes at ground level and thin others to approximately 4 canes per foot of row. Cut off suckers which grow outside of rows. Trim remaining raspberry canes to 4-5 feet."

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Red currant

From Garden Organic: "Choose well drained fertile soil in sunny or part shaded, sheltered site

Average time to harvest From 18 months

Water and mulch. Reduce length of main stems by half in second year. Cut side shoots to one bud and shorten main shoots. Can also grow as ‘fan’ shape or ‘cordon’

Equipment needed Mulch (eg compost)

When to prune Winter or early spring

Pick when fully coloured and ripe, but still firm. Remove whole trusses (‘strigs’) rather than individual fruit. Cover plants with netting to protect from birds. Bushes are self fertile.

Average plant size 150cm tall and wide

Key nutritional content Vitamin C and fibre

There is a pesky insect that will eat the leaves off the bush and lay maggots in the fruit! It's pretty horrifying. They overwinter in the ground at the bottom of the bush and begin eating from the lower leaves upwards. The good news: they don't (usually) kill the plant.We have not yet tried one suggested remedy: covering the soil beneath the plant with cardboard, so they can't emerge in the spring. Otherwise, you need to start checking your plants now for these insects. They are one of only two creatures we think we have no recourse but to kill. Gooseberry worm

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Here's what West Coast Seeds has to say about their product:

"Allium cepa. A standard green onion for summer and fall production, Kincho scallion seeds are Japanese type scallions with dark-green leaves and tall, straight, single-stalk stems that do not bulb. Increase the white stem length by planting in trenches and hilling up. Kincho maintains a uniform thickness along its whole length. The flavour is bright, and the texture is crisp, so it's just right for slicing. Kincho is a good choice for winter gardening - provide a cloche cover over the row, and it will grow all winter.

Matures in 50 days. (Open-pollinated seeds)

How To Grow Scallions are actually very easy to grow, they take up very little room, and they are surprisingly cold hardy, so you can grow them from early spring until around November. Give them some cloche cover, and you can harvest all winter. They are all excellent, but Kincho (ON569) may be the closest to what you would find in the supermarket.

Timing Start indoors in February to mid-March, and transplant in April. Overwintering onions need to be started in early July, and transplanted by the middle of August, and will be ready in June. Scallions can be direct sown every 3 weeks from April to late August. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 21-25°C (70-75°F). Seeds will emerge in 6-12 days, depending on conditions.

Starting Transplants are preferred for home gardeners. Sow 3 seeds 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep in each cell of a 72-cell tray. Transplant as a clump, spacing each 12-15cm (5-6″) apart in rows 45-75cm (18-30″) apart. Scallions can be spaced at 2-5cm (1-2″) apart in rows 15cm (6″) apart.

Growing Ideal pH: (6.0-6.8 for scallions). Fertile and well-drained soil in full sun is essential. Provide August-planted scallions with the frost protection of a cloche or heavy row cover by the end of October.

Seed Info In optimal conditions at least 75% of seeds should germinate. Usual seed life: 1 year.

The pungent odour of onions repels many pests and also protects nearby garden vegetables.

Companion Planting Plant chamomile and summer savory near onions to improve their flavour. Onions also work well alongside beets, Brassicas, carrots, dill, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes. Don’t plant onions near asparagus, or peas of any kind."

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Seed saving kit

Objective of seed saving is to remove excess moisture and then store without subjecting the seed to heat, humidity, moisture.

Renewing silica gel: dry for 8 hours in 200°F oven. Don't mix the silica gel up with household food of food containers as it has most likely been treated with cobalt chloride. Immediately seal the renewed gel in airtight glass or metal container. This process can be repeated indefinitely.

Drying seed with the gel: weigh your saved seed and it's packaging then place in air tight jar. Measure an equal weight of silica gel into the jar and seal up the lid. After 7 days, immediately transfer the dried seeds to either a glassine envelope or a lined seed packet. Quickly seal the packet with an iron on low heat. You can cut up the packets to double your seed saving capacity. They can then be stored in the freezer, fridge or other cool and dark place. If using the glassine envelopes, store them in an airtight jar.

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Sorrel, salad

Use baby leaves in salad, soup, stir fry. Plant thrives on the North Island, though it has not become overly aggressive in Port Hardy and has confined itself to the area in which it was planted. Vigorous plant, not fussy, easy easy to grow.

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Books have been written about growing strawberries so we don't need to write much here. Your variety is "Sarian", originally grown by Grassroots from seed. It is a "day neutral" or "ever bearing variety that will fruit until the rain starts turning the fruits to mush in the fall.

Thompson and Morgan advises: "Water strawberries frequently throughout the growing season and weed regularly between rows. When growing strawberry plants in baskets and containers, they will also need feeding every two weeks. From early summer, remove any runners that are produced as these will weaken the plants vigour. Protect the developing fruit from slugs and snails by spreading straw around each plant. Positioning a net over the plants will also prevent crop damage by birds. The netting and straw can be removed after cropping to allow better air flow around the crown of the plant. Mulch strawberry plants with well rotted manure in spring."

Strawberries and raspberries are two easy-to-ignore North Island plants. Ignore them and you'll still have some delicious fruit!

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Even more books have been written about tomatoes than strawberries. They are not a North Island friendly crop and need attention, which is rewarded with a scrumptious harvest.

Here are a few North Island tips: Give them as much sun as you can. Find out if they determinate (Siletz) or indeterminate (Red Pearl, Five Star Grape, Valentine, Sun Gold).

Here's what Johnny's Selected Seed Company has to say about their products: "INDETERMINATE (Climbing): Varieties should be staked, trellised, or caged, and pruned for best results; fruit ripens over an extended period.

GROWING SEEDLINGS: Don't start too early. Root-bound, leggy plants that have open flowers or fruit when planted out may remain stunted and produce poorly. Sow 1/4" deep in flats, using a soilless mix (not potting soil), 5-6 weeks before plants can be transplanted out after frost danger. Keep temperature of the starting mix at 75-90°F (24-32°C); tomato seeds germinate very slowly in cooler soil. When first true leaves develop, transplant into plug trays or 3-4" pots to produce large, stocky 7-8 week transplants. Grow seedlings at 60-70°F (16-21°C). Water only enough to keep the mix from drying. Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble, complete fertilizer.

TRANSPLANTING OUTDOORS: Transplant into medium-rich garden or field soil 12-24" apart for determinate varieties, 24-36" apart for indeterminate, unstaked varieties, and 14-20" for staking. Plant 3-8" inches deep, covering the root ball well and up to the cotyledons (first leaves). If using grafted plants, take care to ensure the graft union is not touching soil. Water seedlings with a high-phosphate fertilizer solution. For earliest crops, set plants out around the last frost date under floating row covers, which will protect from frost to about 28°F (-2°C). If possible, avoid setting out unprotected plants until night temperatures are over 45°F (7°C). Frost will cause severe damage.

FERTILIZER: Abundant soil phosphorus is important for early high yields. Too much nitrogen causes rampant growth and soft fruits susceptible to rot.

DISEASES: Learn the common tomato diseases in your area. Select resistant varieties. For prevention, use young, healthy transplants, avoid overhead irrigation, plow in tomato plant refuse in the fall, rotate crops, and do not handle tobacco or smoke before handling plants.

BLOSSOM END ROT: Prevent blossom end rot by providing abundant soil calcium and an even supply of soil moisture.

"Pruning" Siletz tomato variety means pinching out the new growth between the main stems.r a soluble, complete fertilizer.Pinching out a tomato side shoot

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Thrives on the North Island unless the soil gets too cold and damp. Prune back at end of season to encourage good growth for the following spring. Use in cooking, salad dressings. You can research possible medicinal and culinatry uses.

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Wheat grass

This one's for the kids! Make "chia pets", grass heads, wheat heads. Watch their hair quickly grow, cut their hair and it grows again. Cats love it too, or google around for ideas to use as center piece, interior decor.

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