July 18, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

We are told that while it is certainly true that apricot trees do not generally perform at all in Taranaki, there are two exceptions – one in Hawera and one in New Plymouth. The latter tree is available on the market under the name Apricot Fitzroy (guess where the original plant is growing?) and has performed well for many years. We intend to plant one here. We have yet to track down the Hawera tree.

  • Continue the winter pruning round in the ornamental garden – roses, hydrangeas, wisteria, clematis, deciduous fruit trees and the like. As the autumn flowering sasanqua camellias finish, it is the time to clip and shape them.
  • Be very cautious when pruning the roses. They harbour some really nasty fungi and bacteria and most health professionals will have tales of severe infections as a result of wounds incurred when pruning roses. Older people are particularly susceptible so take even minor scratches and splinters seriously. Rose prunings should be burned, as should the fallen leaves and debris under them. Most people do not have compost that heats up sufficiently to kill the unwanted greeblies. Roses need full sun, lots of air movement and will stay healthier (without spraying) if you keep the ground clean and mulched beneath them. If you are not into meticulous rose pruning, lay an old sheet below them to catch the debris and give them a pass over with the hedge clippers. It does not look as tidy initially but once they come into leaf, the results are usually fine. If you are more into the detail, cut out all dead wood, all spindly growth and branches which cross. Then cut back the remaining branches to an outward facing bud. Hard pruning is the order of the day with roses.
  • You can get a jump start on spring vegetables by starting them now in pots for planting out later. All the brassicas, lettuce, spinach, salad veg, even peas can be started now.
  • Plan to rotate crops in the vegetable garden. Medieval gardeners knew what they were doing with crop rotation and one fallow year. You can get away without leaving the ground fallow by planting quick maturing green crops and using compost but the rule is not to keep planting the same type of vegetables in the same bed every year. A four to six year rotation around the area will reduce the build up of diseases. Deal in plant families, not individual veggies. So an area which grew potatoes, capsicums, aubergines or tomatoes last season (all solanums) may be planted in brassicas (caulis, cabbages etc), legumes (peas and beans) or root crops like carrots or onions this year.
  • If you have yet to plant your garlic, get it in this weekend. This is a crop worth growing. The product is infinitely better than the imported stuff often sold in the supermarket. There is a world of difference between good garlic and rather tasteless, cheap bought stuff.

A wry thought to finish, from the Curious Gardener’s Almanac:

Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead.