In the Garden this Week – October 15, 2010

• I headed overseas for three weeks and came home to find that I had successfully missed two weeks of hideous weather and the season had changed completely in the third week. The pressure is on in the garden. Most plants are putting on their main growth spurt for the year and that includes the weeds. If you can eliminate the first round of germinating weeds this season, you can do a lot to break the cycle.

• When you have done a weeding round, pile on the mulch to nourish the soil, suppress the next series of weed seeds which will be wanting to germinate and stop the garden from drying out over summer. We favour a thick layer of compost which we make ourselves (but you need to make sure your compost is free of weed seeds). Leaf litter, bark or woodchip, calf shed shavings, old silage, barley straw, pine needles or pea straw are other options.

• Get woody trees and shrubs planted as soon as possible. That includes any new hedging and fruit trees. They need time to settle in and make some fresh root growth before the heat and dry of summer. This is even more important if you live close to the coast where soils are usually lighter or in South Taranaki which dries out faster than the north.

• The cold snap earlier this week was a good reminder as to why it does not pay to rush planting out summer vegetables like tomatoes, capsicums and corn. Labour Weekend is the traditional time but it may pay to wait a little longer until it is clear that we are consistently warmer. These plants don’t like cold changes.

• Get peas sown now. You are running out of time for this season. Planted now, you may have your timing right for fresh peas for Christmas dinner.

• You should be planting out main crop potatoes and in warmer areas, kumara runners can go in soon. Kumara need a long growing season.

• If you have your vegetable garden dug over and prepared for planting, go in with the rake every few days. You will keep cultivating the soil to a fine tilth and hoeing off successive waves of germinating seeds.

• If you persist with the opinion that our native plants are boring, take a look at the island bed on Courtenay Street outside the fire station. It stopped me dead in my tracks from right across the road and I had to go and have a closer look. It is as good a combination of plants as you will ever see. The fact that they are natives is almost irrelevant to the fact that it is just an exceptionally pleasing and interesting small public planting.