October 26, 2007 Weekly Garden Guide

Those who have their gardens open to the public for the next ten days are unlikely to be doing any serious gardening themselves this week.

But others who read this column should try and get out to see a few gardens. If nothing else, visit two – one that you have always intended to get to and one which you think sounds as if it has some good ideas to inspire you in our own garden.

  • Pieris (commonly referred to as lily of the valley plants though they are not related at all to that cool climate perennial) are best dead headed. If you let them go to seed, they tend not to set flower buds on those stems next year. As rhododendrons finish flowering, try and dead head them too so that they put their energies into setting fresh flower buds not seed. Rhododendrons set next year’s buds in their spring growth each season so it is a long way ahead of when they flower.
  • While the seventies may have been the era of conifer gardens, the eighties of cottage gardening, and the nineties brought us the horrors of the minimalist garden, there is little doubt as to what is the fashion of the new millenium. It is the vegetable garden, the more organic the better. If you have never grown your own vegetables, avoid being too ambitious to start with. Remember that vegies need full sun and very well cultivated soil. Lettuces are a good crop to start with. Radishes bring a quick return for minimal effort. Micro greens or mesclun salad greens can be rewarding. Sweet 100 tomatoes are a good, easy care crop for a beginner.
  • If you are in the habit of buying the fresh herb plants from the fruit and veg section of the supermarket, you can extend their cropping by buying the smallest grade of plants on offer and either planting them out in a garden border out from your kitchen or potting them into a larger pot with some quick release fertiliser. Water well.
  • Pumpkins can be started on a mound comprised of layers of soil and lawn clippings. The decomposing grass generates heat which speeds up germination and initial growth considerably. Don’t make the heap too big or you may cook the seeds. A metre wide by 60cm high is about the right size.
  • Grape and tomato plants are very susceptible to hormone sprays at this time of the year, so be very careful if you are still using these types of sprays on your lawn. Magnolias are similarly vulnerable so keep sprays well away from any specimens in or close to your lawn. Better still, put the hormone spray away at this time of year.
  • If you want to grow watermelons and rock melons, this is your last opportunity to start off seeds. They should have been started earlier but you may manage to force them under cover for planting out in six weeks time. Mark did this last week.
  • Don’t delay on planting out trees and shrubs. It is getting late in the season and they are best established before summer.