October 19, 2007 Weekly Garden Guide

With the open garden high season upon us, owners will be relieved to hear that the terror threat in gardens is low this year.

While just about every activist group in the country has been implicated in the para military training in the Ureweras (peace activists, Maori sovereignty advocates, animal rights activists and environmentalists), there is no suggestion that active gardeners in horticultural societies have been recruited yet. However, vigilant garden openers may like to keep their eyes peeled for Latvian ex-KGB agents who are easily identified by their bad hats and the notebooks they carry.

  • If you have naturalised annuals which self seed year after year (thinking particularly of pansies but there are many others too), pull out plants with inferior flowers or yukky colour mixes before they seed or you will find that increasing numbers of plants have these undesirable characteristics in future seasons.
  • When we said last week that serious inorganic gardeners will use Orthene to combat white fly, we were in fact advocating that home gardeners look to a more environmentally friendly option, of which there are several. You need to be a certificated, card carrying chemically qualified person these days to buy Orthene.
  • Labour Weekend is the traditional time for major plantings in the vegetable garden but the cold wet weather this week may deter all but the most hardy of traditionalists. It won’t matter if you delay a week or two before starting to sow your corn or to plant out your tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and courgettes. Or corn can be started in small pots if you are too cold and wet to direct sow. It is a crop best planted in succession to ensure a longer harvest season. Don’t delay on getting your carrot seeds in, however. It is also time for planting main crop potatoes and kumara runners can be planted in warm areas. Keep successional sowings of peas. All grandparents should sow peas as part of their duties to young grandchildren. It doesn’t matter if none make it to the pot. Pity the poor child who misses out on the pleasure of eating peas fresh from the pod in the garden.
  • Once you have garden borders weed free, laying a good thick layer of mulch (around 10cm) will deter the next crop of weeds from germinating as well as adding structure the soil and feeding the plants if you use compost mulch. Just make sure that the mulch is free of weeds or you will multiply problems ten fold.
  • Keep pruning in between showers. Despite the dripping foliage, this is the best time of the year to prune most plants (but not cherry trees which are summer pruned).