In the garden 26/12/2008

  • We find it difficult to believe that many people will be undertaking extensive gardening activities this week, though some may be hiding out from visitors with push hoe in hand. The most important priority is to stay on top of weeds at this time of the year and to prevent weeds setting seed. If you push hoe in the early stages, you can leave them to shrivel in the sun but if seed heads have already formed, you will need to rake up the weeds and remove them. A properly managed compost heap heats up sufficiently to kill the seeds but few people actually manage this and it is more likely that if you put your seed heads in the compost, you will be spreading them far and wide through the garden later in the season. Unless you are good with compost, putting seed heads in a black rubbish bag laid in the sun will be more surefire death.
  • Boiling water poured on weeds between concrete pavers works a treat as long as you are careful carrying the jug. We have a friend who boils up all her husband’s spent cigarette butts and uses that to kill weeds, but we have never tried this ourselves.
  • Living in the country, we have major problems with flies at this time of the year and Mark is very dubious about the practice of installing fly huffers indoors which mean you are constantly living in a mist of insecticide. The active ingredient in most fly killers is synthetic pyrethrum (the real McCoy is extracted from pyrethrum daises) and while it is touted as safe, we err on the conservative side and prefer to avoid constant exposure. This year we are trialling one of the bucket contraptions which sits outdoors and its distinctly pungent aroma attracts the flies. It is working a treat and every fly which is trapped in fly heaven is one fewer that comes in our windows but we need at least three to cover our ground floor more effectively and it is rather aromatic as you pass by. It is genuinely all natural, though.
  • If you are in to picking flowers from your garden, it is best done first thing in the morning when the flowers are freshest and with the highest level of sap in their stems. They flop far more quickly as the day progresses. In your new gardening diary, you may like to remind yourself to plant Christmas lilies for next year – they come into the shops in late winter.

We had some charming garden visitors in this week who told us that they had Rhododendron Christmas Cheer but it was not going to flower for them this year. They had bought it from a Wanganui garden centre who had assured them it would flower at Christmas. Ah, no. Even in its Northern Hemisphere place of origin, it flowers in March. Here it flowers in July. We like to think that Taranaki garden centres give better advice than that!