August 14, 2009 In the Garden

  • Heed the news story in our local paper last Saturday. Despite the fact that most of us feel that winter is wet here in Taranaki, we are in fact well below normal rainfall levels and entering some reasonably serious moisture deficit territory. For gardeners in areas which dry out quickly, this means getting a good layer of mulch onto your ornamental gardens before the soils dry out. The mulch will help conserve existing moisture.
  • When planting trees and shrubs, spread a layer of mulch on top of the soil but keep the area around the trunk or stem clear to avoid collar rot.
  • If you are new to vegetable gardening, stockpile leaf litter and get compost bins underway. You can not mulch vegetable gardens once in late winter and leave them for the rest of the summer as you can with some ornamental beds. You need a constant supply of mulch to use in the vegetable garden.
  • We are strong advocates of mulching with compost which adds natural nutrients and allows the build-up of beneficial microbes, insects and bacteria while it enriches the soil. It is also pleasing to the eye, or at least to our eyes. If you don’t have plenty of compost, organic materials such as leaf litter, pine needles, bark chip, wood shavings or, at a pinch, sawdust (if not tanalised) can all add a layer on top to conserve moisture, nourish the soils and to suppress weeds. You need a maximum depth of about 5cm. More is not better.
  • If you are doing a feeding round, spread the fertiliser and then put the mulch on top. It may discourage the dog from ferreting out the blood and bone, stop powdery fertiliser from blowing away, suppress the aroma of the Bioboost and it does get the fertiliser closer to the roots which is where it is needed.
  • Those die-hard lawn fanatics who are still of a mind to use hormone sprays on the grass (and we don’t expect any of you to own up to us), get onto to it now to minimise the potential damage to fresh spring growth on trees and shrubs. No matter how careful you are, the slightest drift will cause considerable distortion and damage to new leaves, particularly on magnolias so get in before such plants break into leaf. Hormone sprays are used to take out flat weeds and broad leaves.
  • The clock is starting to tick on the pruning of deciduous plants. Don’t delay any longer on these.
  • You won’t achieve much by rushing into planting out vegetables and annuals too early. Despite the glorious spring weather last weekend, we will have more cold snaps and early plantings will just sit in the ground awaiting the right temperatures. You are better to start these plants early in pots and trays and keep them in a protected spot for a few more weeks before planting out. However you can keep sowing hardy winter vegetables such as peas, brassicas, carrots and onions.
  • Stay on top of freshly germinating weeds and on terminating the spring crop of slugs and snails.