In the Garden: June 4, 2010

• Queen’s Birthday Weekend may herald the first arrival of new season’s rose plants in many garden centres but it also marks Arbor Day. Planting a tree will do more for the environment than planting a rose. If you can’t tell a good variety of tree from a cheap filler tree, then get some advice from somebody you trust.
• If you buy bare rooted roses (as opposed to ones in planter bags or pots), don’t let their roots dry out at any stage. Plant them immediately, trimming any ragged or damaged roots. Roses are best in full sun with rich, friable soil. Plants will have had a quick prune before being despatched from the nursery but you usually need to follow up with a tidying prune at some stage after planting. We will bravely tackle rose pruning made simple in a few weeks time in Outdoor Classroom.
• The recent run of dreary wet weather has meant that our soils are pretty waterlogged. It is a good rule of thumb to avoid walking on garden beds where possible, but even more important when soils are we. Many experienced vegetable gardeners keep a couple of long boards lying around. These can be handy to act as a straight edge for planting in rows but their primary use is to walk on when soils are wet. The board will disperse your weight and greatly reduces soil compaction. They should be used at all times in conditions with heavy soils which does not generally apply in Taranaki – think the mud and clay of Auckland, Manawatu or Dunedin and be grateful for our friable volcanic soils.
• If you have positions where you often take a shortcut across a garden or have to stand in the same spot in order to weed, think about placing a stepping stone or paving slab to stand on to avoid continual compaction.
• Lilies of most descriptions, rhodohypoxis and pleione orchids are all dying down now and can be lifted and divided if required. With pleiones, the large central bulb becomes mushy and black, never to appear again and it is the green back bulbs which will grow and flower.
• Rocket much prefers cooler weather (it bolts straight to seed in summer) and makes a good winter crop in pots or a seed tray.
• Bringing outdoor furniture in under cover for winter greatly extends its life expectancy. We know this from experience.