Here we go with a brand-new year, which just has to be better than 2020.

What better way to celebrate than to create a pretty, productive garden to keep our spirits up and lower our living costs with fresh, full of flavor, home grown vegetables, surrounded by colourful scented flowers.

Number one after the new year is to plant some new tomato seedlings to ensure you can harvest a second crop later in the autumn. Our summer season has been forecast to last longer than usual and nothing sets off a salad better than home-grown tomatoes. Any excess tomatoes can always be frozen for use in winter casseroles or to make your own tomato sauce.

Most gardens have a shady area where you despair of ever growing something nice, but some plants prefer such a spot. A spectacular example is a Clivia, which comes in several shades from pale lemon to bright red and show to advantage against the bright green strappy leaves.

An added benefit is that they don’t require much water and don’t suffer much damage from slugs, snails and other pests. Upkeep is easy as they clump and they can stay in the same place and keep flowering for many years and stay green all year round, definitely a win/win situation.

One tip to remember is very simple – if using pine bark or wood chips as mulch, mix in a nitrogen-rich fertilizer before applying to the garden beds. This replaces the nitrogen lost from the soil in the process of the mulch breaking down and your plants will thrive instead of being deprived of this essential element.

Another couple of tips to make your summer easier and to ensure your plants get the best care and yield good results. Always water early in the day if possible, which makes sure the plants get the moisture required during the heat of the day.

Watering at night encourages insect life, particularly mosquitoes, which are tipped to be very bad this year. If the soil is shrinking away from the sides of your pots, soak them in a large container full of water that comes over the top of the pot until all the bubbles stop – these bubbles show that your pot has dried out. You can put a bit of liquid fertilizer in the water, which does two jobs in one.

St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally the time to plant sweet peas for the winter colour burst. What is more cheerful on a cold winter’s day than a vase of beautiful, sweet smelling sweet peas? Add some lime and well-rotted compost to the area where you want to plant the seeds.

Save money this year and plant seeds of winter vegies such as cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, silver beet and onions to name a few. These will then be ready to plant out at a later date, instead of buying seedlings, giving you a head start on the cooler weather and leaving more cash in your pocket. Other things to plant include broad beans, leeks, lettuce, radish, spring onions, parsnips and turnips.

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