In the Garden this week: October 29, 2010

A remarkably useful square of high density foam packing

A remarkably useful square of high density foam packing

• Advice this week is out of the do- as- I-say school, rather than our usual efforts to lead by example. This is the only week of the year that there will be no gardening happening here as we, along with other garden openers, are completely committed to garden visitors. So the first suggestion for locals is to get out and visit a few of the many gardens open for your pleasure this week.

• Winter has at least gone once and for all and after a slow start, we are rushing headlong into warmer and drier weather. Start a watering routine now on baskets, pots and containers. They dry out really quickly and a little water often is always better than a flood when they start wilting or dropping leaves.

• It should be safe now in all areas to get the summer vegetables planted out – corn, capsicums, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, aubergine, basil, yams, lettuce, kumara and the rest. If you are a novice, this spring planting will give the quickest results to keep you motivated.

• Try and avoid compacting your garden by walking on it where possible. Quick maturing leafy crops, such as are being planted now, like light, friable, well tilled soil. Having a board to walk on is the traditional way of avoiding stomping the soils.

• Another warning about hormone sprays (commonly used on lawns) – earlier in the season we counselled against using them as deciduous trees, and particularly magnolias were coming into leaf. At this time we advise against them if you have grapevines or tomatoes, or indeed kiwifruit. All are very susceptible to the slightest hint of spray drift. Our overall advice is to manage your lawn in other ways if possible and only turn to hormone sprays as a last resort.

• The window of opportunity for planting melons with reasonable chance of success is narrow. Get them in asap because they need a long growing season. Watermelons are easier than rock melons but both need maximum heat and sun. Your chances of harvest will reduce greatly if you live inland where temperatures are cooler.

• Deadhead pieris (lily of the valley shrubs) to keep them flowering well next year.

• Some of the most useful pieces of equipment that we have were free – squares of thin, high density foam which came as packing around something. As convenient kneeling pads, they leave the expensive kneeling stools for dead. They cushion the knees, don’t let moisture through, repel dirt and are as light as a feather to carry around.