· While Labour Weekend is the traditional time to get the The Great Summer Veg Plant Out done, the lingering cool temperatures, wind and rain have mitigated against it this year. The soils have not had much of a chance to warm up yet. Don’t rush it especially if you are in a cooler, inland area. A week or two is neither here nor there.
· Priority for planting out when conditions are suitable are the crops which require a long growing season which include aubergines, capsicums, cucumbers, both rock and water melons, kumara, tomatoes and corn. If you have starter plants of these in small pots under cover, be careful about planting them straight out in the open in either blazing sun (unlikely) or torrential ran. You may need to give them some protection while they get established. Cut off soft drink bottles can work as can plastic bags held up by sticks if you don’t have a cloche. A single sheet of newspaper will protect them from the bright sun. You can avoid this by hardening them off gradually over several days by exposing them to a few hours of direct sun only.
· If you are not planting out the little plants yet, make sure that they don’t get set back by being held in pots that are too small or by forgetting to water them. They rarely recover well from such set-backs.
· Clematis are rocketing away and most need something to climb up. If you leave them any longer, you will cause a lot of damage trying to get them to grow in the right direction. A bamboo tepee is a quick and easy solution.
· The caterpillars that chew holes in our native cordylines (cabbage trees) are at their most active. These are the progeny of a native moth (which is why NZ cordylines overseas look so clean and smart). On small plants, running your hands up the base of the tufts of leaves can effect a good kill. On larger plants, if you want clean foliage, you will have to spray with an insecticide. If you look, you may be surprised at what other greeblies your cordyline is hiding, including slugs and snails.
· Esteemed colleague, George Fuller, tells us that it is not a rust that causes orange blotching on renga renga lilies (arthropodium) but in fact a nematode (or wire worm). These critters can build up in a patch over time so if it worries you, it may be necessary to resort to using a systemic insecticide. A systemic insecticide is one that the plant absorbs as opposed to contact insecticides which only kill with a direct hit. The nematode is actually in the plant and it is the same one that attacks chrysanthemums and black currants, answering to the name of afelenchoides ritzemabosi.
· As evergreen azaleas finish flowering, it is time to trim them. These are a forgiving plant which means you can trim back to bare wood and they will shoot again but do not delay if you plan on cutting hard because you want the plant to be flushing with spring growth to help its recovery.
· It is safe to plant both green beans and runner beans now. These are very worthwhile crops for the home gardener, giving good yields and planting successional crops of green beans two weeks apart will extend the harvest season.