February 1, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

Today may herald the start of a new month but until some rain comes, there is not a great deal to be done in the garden. Central and South Taranaki gardeners in particular are under complete watering restrictions now and that is unlikely to change for several more weeks. Set priorities for what water you can use. Moving all container plants to shady spots will substantially reduce their need for water as will burying terracotta pots below the soil surface (plunging). You can recycle dish water, shower water or the rinse cycle of the washing machine.

  • While container plants can die from dryness and heat and so can recently planted material, established trees and shrubs may wilt and get stressed but will generally weather the drought out as long as rains come by autumn. There is no point in wasting water on them.
  • Digging an irrigation trench alongside rows in the vegetable garden gets the water closer to the roots that need it, as opposed to sprinkling water on the top. Many vegetables like peas, beans and tomatoes will need water at this time if you want a crop.
  • You can always weed and at least pulling weeds out or push hoeing means that the sun will effect a good kill rate on them by shrivelling them up very fast so you only need to remove those weeds that have set seed. The sun will not kill the seeds.
  • Ignore the brown patches in lawns. Green lawns are a luxury when water is short. Most of the world lives with brown lawns in summer.
  • Unless you have your own water supply, hold off planting even in the vegetable garden until some rain is forecast. You won’t lose anything by waiting another week or two before sowing the winter veg. But if you have water to spare, you can be sowing parsnips, carrots, dwarf beans and brassicas as well as keeping lettuces going.
  • Pinch back cucumbers, melons, courgettes, pumpkins and similar spreaders to keep them under control and to encourage fruit set. Tender pumpkin tips are delicious to eat, as are stuffed courgette flowers, if they are not infested with white fly.