October 17, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

When our good friend Tony Barnes was quoted on the gardening pages last week as saying that clivias are generally immune to slug and snail damage, he did not mean that these little critters shun the clivias… What he meant (we assume) is that they don’t eat them. However, if you have a slug and snail problem on nearby plants, you may find that they have taken up residence between the clivia leaves. A daytime search yielded up around 15 or 20 snails hiding in each clivia clump in one of our garden borders. As clivias are often companion planted with hostas, it pays to be aware that they may be daytime sleeping in the clivias and night-time feeding on the surrounding plants.

  • While on the subject of hostas, you can still lift and divide these as they come into leaf. Make sure you replant into well cultivated soil. Similarly, clivias can be lifted and divided even when they are in flower.
  • Mark the location of daffodil clumps which failed to flower well this spring because you will forget where they are when they go dormant. Dig and thin the patch to encourage flowering or relocate them all to a sunnier position.
  • Time is running out for the spring pruning of evergreens… We are starting to panic here so if you haven’t done yours, you are not alone but don’t delay.
  • If you have never seen a davidia involucrata (also known as the Dove Tree, Ghost Tree or Handkerchief Tree) in full flower, go and see the one at Tupare. They take a long time to flower but when they do, it can look as if somebody has pegged white hankies all over the tree.
  • You are running out of time to get summer crops such as melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and kumaras started – all the crops which need as long a growing season as possible. You can buy plants but it is much cheaper to do it from seed. Scarlet runner beans and green beans can be started now. These are heavy cropping, easy and reliable for home gardeners to grow and should be sown in fortnightly succession to ensure continued supply.
  • Earth up early potatoes as they grow. This is reputed to encourage better potato set and reduces competing weeds at the same time.
  • Now is the optimum time for getting your vegetable garden producing to maximum capacity for summer crops so don’t put it off any longer.
  • If you want big leeks, you can start them now from seed, either in trays or directly into the garden. Leek planting can continue through summer, depending on how large your like your leeks to be. However, it is getting late for onions but you can still get a good crop if you get the seed in now.
  • We have never had much success with growing celery and much prefer Florence fennel, but if you like the former, you can sow seed now to plant out in December. The Curious Gardener’s Almanac claims that eating celery results in negative calories. Apparently it burns up more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to start with. That is assuming you don’t fill the central cavity with peanut butter or cream cheese.