August 7, 2009 In the Garden

  • Temperatures are inexorably creeping upwards and that means an explosion of slugs and snails. Waitara gardener, Alathea Armstrong reports that she caught no fewer than twenty of them partying and feasting on her emerging delphiniums. If you choose to use slug bait, remember that one bait can kill several. Reduce the danger to birds and hedgehogs (nature’s controls) and to pets by never spreading it thickly like fertiliser. Placing a bait or maybe two under a shell or a lid will keep the bait active and out of the way. Slug bait is designed to attract the targets which is why you do not need to carpet the garden hoping they will trip over it. Keep your packet of slug bait somewhere safe too and don’t leave it on the door step. Always wash your hands after touching it.
  • To avoid using toxic baits, get out with a torch for night time sport and reduce the population. Use a thick spread of cheap baking bran around special plants. Mulch with pine or rimu needles. Create a circle of sand, sawdust or egg shells around vulnerable plants. Place hollowed out citrus shells to provide a house for them (and don’t forget to do a terminator round each morning) or leave a partially buried, half empty can of beer to attract them. Stay on top of the problem from the start, which is now.
  • As sasanqua camellias finish flowering, it is time to trim and shape them. If you want to have a go at some creative pruning or topiary, sasanqua camellias are a good starting point. If you make a bad mistake, fresh foliage will hide it within a fairly short space of time. If you get it right, a shaped and trimmed mature camellia can be a wonderful feature plant and act like a punctuation point in the garden.
  • There is evidence that marigolds can repel some of the pesky insect infestations in the vegetable garden, although it is unlikely that one or two plants will do much. You probably need lots of them. However, they will feed good butterflies like monarchs and can be dug in as a green crop later so it is worth a try. Sow them from seed now. It is miles cheaper than paying for a nursery to produce a punnet of half a dozen plants for you. Tagetes are the recommended marigold family for this purpose though there is some evidence that calendula will work too.
  • If you are wanting to plant fruit trees, don’t procrastinate. While there is plenty of time left for planting, garden centres will have their largest selection available now and if you hang about too long, sure as eggs they will sell out of the ones you want. Hawera Plum, Apricot Fitzroy and Monty’s apple are all local(ish) selections.
  • In the veg garden you may like to get fennel seeds in now for an all round useful and long lived new vegetable. It is not bullet proof as a crop but its harvest is certainly useful. Dig in green crops.