October 31, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

To be honest, we won’t be doing much in the garden this week beyond talking to visitors and whipping around with the blower vac and lawnmower. Like many others, we are entering our single biggest open garden week of the year. If you don’t have your own garden open, then get out and visit some who do. Even vegetable garden fans have a selection this year in an innovative move (check out the Rhododendron Festival programme for these). What is more, the veg gardens are free or donation only. There is no excuse for staying at home this week.

  • If you are tempted to buy plants (and Festival week is a big retail week) get them into the ground as soon as possible because dry and warm weather will come soon. We do not recommend teasing out the roots at planting. The only time the roots should be touched is when you can see a pot-bound plant has resorted to growing its main roots around in circles. In this case you need to liberate the roots or cut them because the poor plant will just stay with spiralling roots. Otherwise, it tends to do more damage than good to tease them out. Make sure you cultivate the ground well so that the young roots can grow out further, plant to the same level as in the pot, firm it down but don’t stamp it down vigorously and mulch it. You can add fertiliser if it makes you happy but we tend to rely on home made compost to feed the plants. Rhododendrons perform best with good drainage (never plant in heavy wet conditions), good air circulation (reduces pests and disease) and reasonable light levels (or they may not set flower buds and can get leggy). Sun for half the day is ideal.
  • Now is the optimum time to fertilise most plants. They are in full growth and the uptake of the fertiliser will be most efficient. Read the instructions on quantity – more is not better and you can burn the roots by over fertilising which can result in leaf scorch.
  • Deadhead pieris (often called lily of the valley shrubs) if you want good flower set for next season.
  • The great vegetable plant out continues. Give priority to crops which need the longest growing season (tomatoes, melons, kumara etc) and to crops which you plant in succession to ensure ongoing harvests ( green beans, peas, corn and salad vegetables). It is important to keep your vegetable garden soils light and aerated. Quick maturing plants don’t like heavy, compacted soil. Avoid walking on beds where you can and make the push hoe your friend.
  • 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.
  • Shun hormone spray at this time of the year if you have planted out your tomatoes or have grapevines. Hormone sprays are often used on lawns.

The quote from the week is a thought to ponder while out garden visiting and comes from American landscape architect Thomas Church:

Style is a matter of taste, design a matter of principles.