A fortnightly series first published in the Weekend Gardener and reproduced here with their permission.
With our annual garden festival (now the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular) over, it is back into the garden with a vengeance. The festival is incredibly important to us but standing on concrete all day every day for ten days on end, meeting and greeting visitors is far more tiring than a hard day in the garden. Unless we have a very wet spell, it is late for planting out woody trees and shrubs. Large plants will now be heeled into the vegetable garden because it has very well cultivated soil and offers easy planting and growing conditions, to be relocated next autumn. Any planting now requires wetting the root ball thoroughly. We plunge the plant, pot and all, into a bucket (or a drum for large plants) until the bubbles stop rising which means the root ball is saturated. This can take anything up to 30 minutes. Once a root ball has dried out, it is very hard to get it to take up water again without soaking.
We will continue planting out perennials, particularly hostas and bromeliads. Perennials in full growth can be divided now, as long as they are well watered and planted into well dug soil where they can get their roots out easily. We mulch with compost as a matter of routine, to enrich the soil and to keep moisture levels up in the soil before summer arrives. It also controls weeds, as long as you make a hot compost mix which kills any seeds in the composting process.
1) The daffodils in the lawn need to be lifted and separated. I will only replant the large bulbs. They have been there for many years and the flowering is now greatly reduced which means that either they need dividing or we have a problem with narcissi fly in them. If I leave it any longer, I won’t remember exactly where the bulbs are because the grass will cover them.
2) Narcissi fly are on the wing. They look like a small blowfly but with a yellow abdomen. Removing all foliage from narcissi bulbs will reduce problems as long as I cover the bulbs with dirt so the narcissi fly can’t lay its eggs in the hole left from the foliage. Mark also stalks the flies individually with a little sprayer of Decis, which is a synthetic pyrethroid.
3) Label overcrowded patches of spring bulbs which need lifting and dividing when they are dormant over summer.