Tag Archives: in the garden this week

In the Garden this week: Friday 13 May, 2011

* The Chief Weed Controller here (aka Mark) advises that the weeds are germinating in abundance and to make a weeding round a priority. If you get on top of this wave of weeds, you should have a largely weed-free winter and delayed start to spring infestations, especially if you lay a mulch after dealing to the blighters. We are a bit too wet now and there is not enough heat in the sun to make push hoeing effective unless you rake it all up immediately and remove it. Hand weeding or glyphosate (weed spraying, on a dry day) are the usual techniques for this time of year.

* If you are a less than enthusiastic gardener, get out to do the big autumn clean up before the weather turns cold and miserable. Otherwise you will spend the winter looking out the windows at a messy garden. If you do a trim, tidy and weed now, you can get through the next few months with the occasional mow and raking up the debris.

* Rake up autumn leaves in discreet piles so they can break down to give you rich leaf mould to rake back out onto the garden later. They will rot down more quickly in a heap.

* Cover your compost heap or bin, if you have not yet done so. It keeps the compost warmer and stops the goodness being leached out by the winter rains.

* Gardeners in inland areas should be battening down the hatches in preparation for early frosts. Take cuttings of frost prone plants like fuchsias, begonias and vireya rhododendrons as an insurance. Coastal gardeners probably don’t need to worry about this in our milder conditions.

* Remove saucers from beneath container plants, both indoors and out. It is not good for plants to sit around in cold water during winter. Cut back your watering of indoor plants – they are better kept on the dry side now.

* Part of your tidy up round of the vegetable garden is to sow all vacant areas in a green crop – urgently. Lupins, oats, even plain ryegrass will help. Green crops condition and nourish the soil in preparation for spring planting but even more helpfully, their roots stop the ground from compacting and make it much easier to dig over later, particularly in heavy soils.

In the garden this week: May 6, 2011

• Get green crops sown urgently in bare areas of the vegetable garden. You are running out of time for the seeds to germinate and start growing before winter slows all growth.

• Finish the autumn feeding round as a priority. There is no point in feeding plants which have stopped growing for winter but we still have a little warmth left before the full blast of winter returns to stay.

• Make the final cuts to the root balls of large plants you plan to move soon. You should have cut the first two sides some weeks ago. Cut the other two sides and beneath the plant and leave it to rest for another week or two before moving it. You can move quite substantial plants as long as you have enough combined physical strength (or mechanical equipment) to take a very large root mass with it. Prepare the new location in advance so when you come to do the move, the plant is not left with its roots exposed to drying winds or light for long.

• It is the very last chance to sow seed of quick maturing green vegetables such as mizuna and other Asian greens, spinach and winter lettuce if you are to ensure continued supply through the colder times.

• As winter looms, sowing microgreens in seed trays can be a quick and nutritious harvest, especially if you have a glasshouse, conservatory or large eaves to protect the germinating seeds and to lift the temperature. Pretty well any and every vegetable can be eaten as a microgreen which is when the first half dozen young and tender leaves appear. BBC Gardeners’ World was recommending it as a great way to use up leftover seeds remaining in open packets from last year which seemed sensible.

• The grass seed should be calling you if you still have bare areas to sow. You will get better results if you do it immediately rather than in the depths of winter.

• The very large stinky plant shown on our newspaper’s garden pages last week was in fact the Titan Arum by common name (or Amorphophallus titanum, to be more botanically correct). It has one of the largest flowers in the world and smells so revolting because it relies on tricking beetles and flies that usually feed on rotting meat in order to be pollinated.

In the garden this week: Friday April 29, 2011

Prunus serrula would have been better kept to a single leader when it was a young plant

Prunus serrula would have been better kept to a single leader when it was a young plant

• Get any spring bulbs planted without delay. They need to be growing now to give you the anticipated display later.

• Rhubarb is a clumping perennial and benefits from being lifted and divided. It is a gross feeder and likes really well cultivated soil. So double dig the area (dig, then dig again) and add plenty of compost before replanting big divisions.

• Broad beans can be planted now for harvest in spring. Picked when young and tender, they are truly tasty. If they get away on you and go old and tough, dry them. They are also known as fava beans and are delicious when soaked, skinned and used in bean dishes or added to falafel.

• A reminder to get your strawberry runners planted without delay so they can get established and build enough strength to start cropping on cue in spring.

• It is only tradition that says garlic should be planted on the shortest day of the year. We have had good success planting considerably earlier, in May. The plants are stronger and better able to withstand the very wet early spring weather we can get here when temperatures are still cold. If you are going to plant your garlic early (and long keeping brown onions can be done at the same time), prepare the ground now. Dig it over well, adding plenty of compost and maybe some animal manure. Then leave it to sit for a few weeks before planting. These crops need excellent drainage, but they do better when the soil has settled a little rather than being freshly fluffed up.

• It is good pruning and shaping time on woody trees and shrubs (though best done when the overhead branches are not showering you in water). A good pruning job is when it is not clear by looking at the plant where you have been, despite the mountain of branches on the path beside you. Rather than hacking the entire bush, being selective about which branches you remove or shorten and cutting flush to the main stems makes a big difference. However, there are times when drastic action is required – such as the shabby camellia in Outdoor Classroom this week.

• Most trees are best kept to a single leader – one trunk. Where a trunk is forked near the base, it is a structural weakness in the tree which can lead to it eventually splitting apart. The earlier this is done to a tree, the easier it is to train what remains to a good shape.

In the Garden this week: Saturday 23 April, 2011

• I was wrong. The first wintery blast did not wait for Easter but arrived last Monday morning. Fortunately we should not stay cold for a while yet, but it was a good reminder to make the most of remaining mild autumn weather in the garden. Nothing saps gardening motivation faster than cold, wet conditions.

• Easter should signal the time to be out doing the autumn clean up. Tell yourself that you are working off the extra calories consumed by most of us at this time. Remove spent crops in the vegetable garden and do a weeding round. If you don’t need to use all the area for winter and spring crops, either sow down bare areas in a green crop or at least mulch it to keep the invading weeds at bay.

• Silver beet is a rewarding vegetable to grow for those who are willing to eat it (and apparently some people like it) because you can continue harvesting repeatedly from the same plants. It is also hardy so makes a good winter stand-by. It is best to put in small plants this late in the season. There is not a lot of growing time left before winter.

• In the ornamental garden, the time for autumn feeding is over in colder, inland areas and fast running out in milder parts. The idea of feeding now is to allow the plant to take up the goodness before growth slows down or stops during winter. There is no point in feeding dormant plants.

• Last gasp, too, for perennial cuttings this season. After this, perennials need to be increased by division, not cuttings.

• Slugs and snails are undeterred by the cold. Watch for signs of them around emerging spring bulbs and set up bait stations if need be. We often use a low-sided plastic bottle top such as those from milk containers with a paua shell covering it to stop the bait from dissolving.

• Wrench plants which you intend to move to another site. Wrenching involves making straight cuts down two sides of the plant’s roots now, following up with cutting the other sides in two or three weeks’ time. This reduces the stress on the plant but is only necessary for well established plants which have been in the ground for some time (as in more than a year or two). Plan to take as large a mass of roots as you can physically manage.

• If you have not yet given hedges a tidy up trim, don’t delay on it. Trimming forces a new flush of growth and you don’t want it so fresh and tender that the first hint of frost will burn it off.

In the garden this week: Friday 15 April, 2011

A little attention now will ensure a better winter display from hellebores

A little attention now will ensure a better winter display from hellebores

* It is time to give hellebores (winter roses) a little attention. We go through at this time and cut all the old leaves off, removing them to the compost heap. This gets rid of any aphid infestations, allows the flowers which will start emerging in a few weeks to be visible and the fresh foliage is much more attractive than tired old leaves. You can go through with a slasher if you wish. A weedeater is faster but tends to leave chewed looking stems. Feed and mulch the crowns.

* Most hellebores, particularly the common H.orientalis, are not the most amenable plants to divide. They take several years to build up to a good size so if you plan to divide a clump, make them large divisions. We prefer to go through and remove all the seedlings to prevent too much competition, leaving the large plants alone.

* Autumn is a good time for pruning and shaping most woody trees and shrubs.

* Sow lawns without delay while the weather is still mild. If you don’t do it straight away, you will have to wait until spring because grass seed won’t grow in winter.

* In response to phone calls, the pumpkin crop we grew for hull-less pumpkin seed was called Austrian Oil Seed and we bought it from Kings Seeds. Only the seeds are edible although the pumpkin may be suitable for stock food.

* In the curious world of vegetables, Sydney daughter reports that amongst the various bok choy/ pak choi variants at the market, she found a different veg called kang kong which she thought looked like a weed so she bought some to try. She says it was “quite nice”. Upon looking it up, she worked out why it looked like a weed. It is a convolvulus. I have yet to see kang kong offered here. Most Asian green leafy vegetables are quick maturing so ideal for a short term crop.

* While on the topic of seeds, the new autumn catalogue from Franchi Seeds is available on line at http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz. These are predominantly summer crops but you may like to browse the traditional tastes of Italy in anticipation of sowing seed later in the year. Mark is planning to try some of the tomato crops and I am encouraging him in this because the most delicious tomatoes I have ever eaten were in the south of Italy. By no means are all tomatoes equal in the flavour stakes. Make the most of the pleasant autumnal weather which is brilliant for gardening. We frequently get the first wintery blast over Easter. No matter when Easter falls, the weather gods spy the event, not the date.