Mark the shortest day of the year on June 21 or the beginning of Matariki on June 24 by planting garlic. First, prepare a sunny spot in your garden with compost and aged manure. Buy large bulbs that are free of mould at your local garden centre, break them up into cloves, and plant the individual cloves 5cm deep, with the pointy end facing up, at intervals of 15-20cm. You can also grow garlic in buckets – aim for five or six cloves per bucket. Water your garlic from time to time to prevent the soil drying out and so the soil is slightly moist, but avoid saturating it, or the bulbs will rot. Garlic is a slow crop and won’t be ready to harvest until December.
Prune fruit trees
It might seem a daunting task, but pruning fruit trees isn’t scary. Plus, opening up a fruit tree to sunlight makes it more productive and its fruit sweeter. Stonefruit trees are best pruned into a vase shape, in which the main trunk
or central leader is effectively removed and the tree is pruned so it has four or five major branches. Pipfruit trees should be pruned into a central leader – a Christmas tree shape with tiers of branches around 60cm apart. Also remove any dead, diseased or damaged wood, as well as any criss-crossing branches. When pruning, use clean secateurs and loppers, and make your cuts on an angle so water doesn’t pool in them.
Sow for summer
It might be gloomy outside but you can sow flower seeds now for spring and summer. Fill trays with seed-raising mix and sow calendulas, dianthuses, lobelia, poppies, snapdragons and stocks. If growing indoors, put them in
a sunny spot, such as on a windowsill (but remove them from the cold glass at night), and spritz them regularly to keep the mix moist. Once they’ve developed their first set of true leaves, prick them out and pot them into individual containers of potting mix. Or, if you want instant gratification, pick up some potted colour at your garden centre. There’s nothing like the orange glow of a marigold to brighten up the winter garden.