In the Garden June 12, 2009

• Ash from fireplaces is a natural fertiliser. Woodstove ash is more concentrated than from an open fire so spread very thinly across gardens and lawns or add to your compost heap. That is as long as you have not been burning tanalised timber, plastics or polystyrene which are all round bad for the environment and leave toxic ash.
• As an addendum to our Outdoor Classroom spread in the newspaper last week (not available on our website at this stage) on potting citrus, we should advise taking any fruit off. There were no fruit on the tree we bought and nor should there be fruit set on such young plants. If you are buying beautiful little plants bearing fruit (I have seen mandarin trees available looking splendid and fruit laden at around 40cm high)it is most likely to be what we call spray-on fruit. Often it is the use of gibberellic acid which is a plant-based hormone used to stimulate growth and fruiting. The plant is too young to be fruiting and it will set it back. Take the sales crop off and let the plant get established and decide when it is ready to fruit or risk your plant getting deeply stressed.
• If you have an abundance of lady birds around your windows and crawling into curtain folds, regard yourself as fortunate. They are hibernating. The do no harm whatsoever, make no mess and deserve your tolerance from now until they spring back into activity when temperatures rise. They will reward you by busily dealing to aphids and other nasty garden pests in summer. So do not vacuum the poor creatures up.
• You do not have to wait for the shortest day to plant garlic. Any time now is good. Garlic needs rich, well cultivated soil with lots of compost and nutrient. Only plant the big cloves because squitty little cloves will give squitty little bulbs at harvest time. We remind you all not to plant Chinese garlic which may be cheap to buy but will give greatly inferior yields and potentially unleash viruses in your garden. Pay the extra and get good NZ garlic to plant out. Around 12cm spacing allows room for the bulbs to grow.
• Don’t delay on gathering your nut harvest or rats will beat you to them and those that the rats don’t get will go mouldy and rot. All nuts need drying out before eating. Spread flat in trays somewhere which is dry and has good air movement. It takes longer to get a good harvest from nut trees than from fruit trees but if you are fairly settled, planting nuts is a good investment in the future. The world demand for nuts is outstripping supply so the prices will keep rising. Only buy grafted nut trees from a creditable outlet. Don’t waste time with seedlings which may never fruit adequately. Walnuts are the easiest to cope with here and the bigger the nut the better. Macadamias can be grown in optimum conditions of warmth and protection. If you grow pine nuts, when it comes to extracting the kernels, you will see why they are so expensive to buy. We are not aware of anybody being particularly successful with hazelnuts or almonds in Taranaki.
• The common edible walnut is juglans regia. What we have growing as a weed through the Uruti Valley in particular is the Japanese walnut (ailantifolia or sieboldiana). Its only redeeming feature is its autumn colour. In every other way it is a noxious self seeder which is not even good for firewood let alone fruit and we would have been better off had it had been left in Japan.
• We were amused to notice some thermal underwear for sale in The Warehouse. NZ made and Woolmark accredited, it was in the shade of red common to many arboreum rhodos. Clearly somebody thought that because alongside the other colours labelled such things as Charcoal, Slate and Sand, these red thermals were labelled with the colour of Rhododendrum. Shame nobody in the production process could spell.