July 31, 2009 In the Garden

  • A few mild days mid week were the klaxon heralding spring. In New Plymouth if you look to the right as you drive along Powderham Street between the radio station and the well known liquor store, you will see the campbellii magnolias in all their glory. These are the first of the season to flower every year. Our English snowdrops are starting to pass over and the dwarf daffodils are flowering their little heads off. It is very much countdown to spring. Be prepared for some relapses to miserable, bleak weather as well.
  • It is still garlic planting season but don’t leave it too much longer.
  • Don’t delay on pruning grapevines because the sap will start to move soon and they weep and bleed if you prune too late. However there is no harm in taking a little longer on the roses, wisteria, clematis and hydrangeas.
  • If you are enjoying eating the yellow kiwifruit and want to grow a vine, you will need to try it from your own seed. As far as we know, the fruit you buy in the shops all comes from cultivars still owned by the plant breeders [Hort Research] and not available to buy for the home gardener. There is, however, nothing to stop you from trying your own from seed although there is no guarantee you will get a top cropping one from seed. Mark has several plants which he raised and we will be planting them out in the field to see which is worth keeping. Just use seed from a good specimen of fruit you have bought.
  • Continue sowing broad beans. If you don’t think you like them, try eating them at the juvenile stage and you may become a convert. They are a most useful spring bean and, as an experienced veg gardener noted, once you have harvested the beans, the remaining plant makes a wonderful green crop for digging in to the garden..
  • The optimum time for feeding plants is just as they are about to go into growth which is… [wait for it….drumroll…] now – for most plants. Prune, clean up the garden beds, feed and get mulch on. The mulch is really important if you have poor soils and if you dry out easily in late spring. We still advocate blood and bone or Bioboost as garden fertiliser. Leave the plastic coated prills (Osmocote, Nutricote, Plantacote type) for container plants and don’t waste your money using them in the garden.
  • If you have ugly, leggy or otherwise crusty looking rhododendron plants, now is the time to cut them hard back. For brutal pruning back to bare woody trunk and stems, don’t delay. You are going to shock the plant and you want to maximise its new growth so sacrifice this year’s flowers. Cut back hard, feed and mulch. It won’t flower next year but you should have a really attractive, renovated plant which is bushy and fresh. No guarantees – it is kill or cure with sick plants. You can cut all the foliage off on both rhodos and camellias but only at this time of the year.