May 23, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

The early spring bulbs are pushing through the soil now. Keep an eye on them for slug and snail attack and keep their area weed free. Most bulbs need sun and light to grow well, along with excellent drainage. Check to make sure that neighbouring plants are not shading out the bulbs or you may find that they don’t set flowers and can die out. Be careful if you spray for weeds because they are very vulnerable as they come through the ground.

  • You can still get a strawberry bed in but do not delay. If you grew strawberries last year, you can either use runners (the stems which leap to freedom out the side) or if you have one of the modern varieties which doesn’t put out runners, you can divide the crown. Strawberries are best redone entirely every year though you can get away doing it every two years. If you are leaving an established bed for another year, clean it up. Cut off all the old leaves, thin the clumps (limit the number of shoots to each clump), fertilise and mulch.
  • Brassicas planted now will be ready in late spring.
  • The autumn copper spray on citrus trees is the most important one of the year so if you haven’t done it yet, do not delay. Coastal areas of Taranaki can grow oranges and mandarins well so you don’t have to confine yourself to the ubiquitous lemon tree. We pick oranges twelve months of the year from our trees although the mandarins have a much shorter season.
  • The camellias in flower at the moment are almost all early flowering sasanqua types which are more tolerant of sun and wind than many others.
  • Readers who open their gardens and have access to the Living Channel on Sky may like to tune in to the repeat series entitled “Open Gardens” at 4.30pm on Sundays. It is a really interesting look at how the British manage their National Garden Scheme (the famed Yellow Book) and how they carry out rigorous garden assessments while keeping most people happy.

The recent edition of the new publication, The Gardener’s Journal, has a wonderfully provocative piece by Christchurch writer, Barbara Lea Taylor. Headed “Free the Grasses”, she starts:

If I see any more grasses trapped in suburbia, I’ll scream…. They should never be plonked … in low maintenance beds because they happen to be fashionable. Even worse, they should never be popped in among flowering plants “to add a bit of contrast”. They will inevitably look out of place, like wild birds tamed and caged.

It is worth subscribing to the journal to read this opinion piece alone.