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By Dr Nick Roskruge

Tomatillos, often referred to as Mexican husk, are similar to tomatoes in growth habit and are closely related to cape gooseberries, with the same papery husks which split when ripe.

Sow and grow When to sow:

September to November in warmer areas, and October to December in cooler areas When to transplant: November to January in warmer areas, and December to February in cooler areas

Position: Full sun

Harvest: 13-17 weeks

Good for pots

Good for beginners

Get started

Tomatillos need warmth and a long growing season. In warmer areas, sow seed in containers in a sunny spot in spring, with seedlings planted outside 4-6 weeks later.

In cooler areas, sow seed in a greenhouse or similar 8 weeks before the last expected frost, planting seedlings out only when the ground has warmed up.

Step by step

■ Sow seed 6mm deep into containers of seed raising mix, firm gently and water lightly.

■ Place the container in a warm, sheltered spot and keep moist.

■ Germination takes 7-14 days.

■ Plant out seedlings when they have 2 or 3 sets of leaves. Place them 70cm apart.

■ You need at least two plants, as tomatillos are not self-pollinators, but they’re very productive, so three is plenty for most households.

■ For containers, use standard potting mix with extra compost added.

Gardening by the maramataka

Here the summer wife Hineraumati commands Rehua (the star Antares), and he becomes apparent through the midsummer haze and mist which itself pre-empts the drying up of soil and vegetation. This is the crucial period for understanding plant needs to survive drought and persistent drying winds such as the Canterbury nor-easters. Moving towards the end of the month, early red berries such as porokaiwhiti (pigeonwood) or taupata (Coprosma) are ready, and birds will find them for food. The red and black currants in the garden will also be ready at the same time. Whiro (new moon) is due on the night of the 12th, and Te Rākaunui (full moon) on the night of the 26th. Accordingly, the period following Whiro (13th to 15th) and the period following Christmas, from midday on the 26th to the 28th, are suited to garden activities of all sorts. Perhaps ensure the last of your new plants are planted during this period. You can now put your feet up for the upcoming start of 2024.

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