There is precisely no gardening going on here this week as we meet and greet visitors – just the daily garden equivalent of housekeeping with the mower, the blower vac, hose, leaf rake and push hoe. It is a good exercise in keeping a garden looking sharp by maintaining freshly mown lawns and defined edges.
Start deadheading rhododendrons as they finish flowering. Oiling your fingers (olive oil is fine), means you don’t get the sticky residue hanging on. If you only have a few plants, deadheading all of them certainly tidies them up but if you have many, then take the time to work our which ones set seed and give these priority. Try and avoid breaking off the new shoots which are coming through just underneath the spent flower.
Be vigilant now on weeds. Early season control saves a great deal of work later on. It is warm enough now to push hoe and on a fine day, the sun will dry them to a frazzle. You can only do this if you catch them before they reach seeding stage. If you let them get too large, you really need to cut off and remove the seed heads or you are just spreading the next generation.
Do not delay on laying garden mulch before summer. It needs to be down before the ground dries out. Laying mulch suppresses many germinating weeds, conserves moisture, improves the look of a garden and if you are using a nutritious mulch (compost) it adds nutrition and structure to the soil. It is a myth that laying pea straw adds nitrogen to the soil because the peas store all the nitrogen in their roots not their tops. If you are worried about your carbon footprint look for local alternatives – we don’t grow peas commercially in Taranaki and your cheap garden mulch is shipped from points quite some distance away.
Top priority in the vegetable garden is getting the crops in which have the longest growing season – melons, aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins, kumara, Florence fennel and corn. You can continue sowing peas but it might be a little late for getting the Christmas Day harvest through in time unless they are already growing. Keep sowing the salad veg for continued harvest (lettuce, mesclun, radishes, micro greens). You can get sowings of basil and coriander in now from seed. Making pesto at home is so easy that that you will wonder why ever bought it.
Plant main crop potatoes if you have not yet done so.
Last year’s notes tell me that we had a triumph eating our first bowl of home grown strawberries at this time. We certainly won’t be achieving that milestone this year. I don’t think there is even a hint of red visible yet. This can be attributed to the use of a cloche last year.