November 20, 2009 In the Garden

And the prize for likely the best flowering anywhere in the world of the beautiful but difficult vireya rhododendron orbiculatum in the week ending November 20, 2009 goes to friends of ours at Oakura, near New Plymouth

November 20, 2009 In the Garden
• If you have grape vines that you pruned in winter, they will be in rampant growth now and you will be needing to shorten the laterals and thin some of the growth. Our Albany Surprise are already starting to flower and we will keep them to one or two per lateral (side shoot) and trim at two leaves past the outer bunch. If you let the growths get too long and heavy, they snap off without warning.
• When you get a good steady rain after a dry spell, such as last Tuesday evening, the snails come out to feed in their hordes. You can get a really good kill rate if you head out with torch and umbrella to their favourite haunts. A foot stamp is environmentally kinder than poison.
• You can keep digging and dividing clumping perennials while they are in full growth. You should be safe continuing to do this up until Christmas or so. Always dig over the ground well and loosen up clods before replanting, preferably adding compost. New roots are tender and fine and will have trouble getting into heavy, compacted soils.
• Deadheading roses can be a big task but it makes a difference to keeping pests and disease at bay. It is best to do it with a bucket at your side and take off diseased foliage as you go, removing all from the site. Roses give maximum flower for your efforts but if you don’t spray them, they do take a little extra care to keep them looking healthy and bountiful.
• Get onto planting kumara runners if you have yet to do them. Keep sowing seeds of corn, salad veg, beans (dwarf, butter and runner) to ensure a succession of crops later. If your courgettes, cucumbers, pumpkins and similar running plants are up and growing well, keep pinching them out after about six strong leaves have formed, to encourage side growths (laterals) rather than just a few long runners.
• Time is running out for picking asparagus. Commercial growers will pick through to Christmas but this a mistake in the home garden. You need to leave sufficient shoots to form a mass of ferny growth in order to nourish the crowns below ground. When you stop picking, give a feed if you have not yet done so and get a layer of mulch on to suppress summer weeds getting a foothold.
• It is still relatively cool so there is time to get tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, melons and pumpkins planted but don’t delay and you are better to buy plants if you have not got your own seed sown in pots and well underway. Keep a copper spray on tomatoes and potatoes if they are already established in the garden. Wet weather followed by warmer weather will almost certainly lead to blight.
• Cover strawberries without delay to beat the birds.
• Anybody who has grown vireya rhododendron species will know that it is difficult to keep many of these alive. So when local friends sent us photographs of their R. orbiculatum with probably over 60 flower trusses this week, we figured that they probably take the award for the very best flowering of this very tricky vireya species anywhere in the world for the week ending November 20. We have never seen such a spectacular orbiculatum before.