” You have only to think of the front gardens you drive past in summer that are planted up almost entirely with dwarfs to realise how lacking in character and individuality they are. Such plants never get off the ground; they are mere colour explosions.”
The Well Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd (1973)
Summer lawn care
Set your lawnmower a notch higher for summer, or several notches higher if you are one who scalps your lawn. It is a myth that if you cut your lawn very short, it will need less mowing. In fact if you cut it very short, you weaken the grass growth to the point where it is likely to die off over summer and what you get instead is an invasion of weeds. Paspalum, kikuyu, summer grasses and flat weeds – all will thrive in the vacuum you are creating. Without exception, good lawns and turf are cut a little longer. If you have neglected, long, rank grass (which can happen at holiday homes), don’t try and get it down in one hit. Cut first on the highest setting. Wait a few days and then cut a second time to the desired length. Your grass is less likely to go into shock and die over summer.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.
• Try planting up simple pots as Christmas gifts but get them done now to have them looking at their best in a few weeks time. Punnets of annuals are ridiculously cheap to buy. Planted now, three small plants (plugs, they are called) will fill a pot which measures around 20 to 25cm across. I still remember my splendid summer combination years ago of blue ageratum and cerise petunias. Or you can find cheap herb plants if you want to give an instant herb garden. Ceramic and terracotta pots are inexpensive these days, especially the classic terracotta type despite the fact they still seem to be imported from Italy. This is a good activity to carry out with children and will go down well with grandparents as it shows thought and effort. The cheapest potting mix is fine for annuals but keep the pots well watered and protected from slugs and snails while they settle in.
• With summer coming, set the level on the lawnmower a notch higher. Cutting the lawn very short does not mean you reduce mowing. Instead it tends to stress the grass so the weeds move in.
• If you have onehunga weed in your lawn, you have left it late to spray it but it is the one really bad weed which we think justifies a chemical assault. It is the weed that puts tiny prickles into any bare feet that dare tread upon it. There is a targeted spray called, we understand, Prickleweed Killer which doesn’t kill off the desirable grasses. If there are any children in your life, get onto dealing to it this weekend as your first task. Do not let this weed go to seed.
• Apples will have set their fruit for the year which means that if you had a codling moth issue in the past which you have not done anything about, odds on the larvae are scaling the trunk now to reach the fruit, if they have not yet made the journey. This means it is too late for pheromone traps which are designed to catch the moth before it lays eggs. You will either have to put up with moth eaten fruit or resort to some insecticide spray. Apparently lavender bushes or nasturtiums planted below will discourage infestations in the future but we have yet to see proof of this. It may be worth a try but I would keep to lavender because it is likely that rampant nasturtiums will engulf your entire apple tree. Tipping new growths by hand will largely deal to the leaf curling midge which attacks the very ends. Unroll the leaves and you may find a small pink creature inside. You either nip them off or spray them.
• The end of this month means you are running out of time to plant kumara, yams and any other type of sweet potato. Give these priority along with tomatoes. Potatoes planted now will be a late crop so you don’t want to delay on these either.
• It is four weeks until Christmas so get quick maturing salad vegetables in this week for harvesting at that time. It is much nicer to head out and pick your own mesclun, rocket, microgreens and radishes.
• If you are a fan of monarch butterflies, you will need to get swan plant seed in urgently to get the autumn crop through to feed the late caterpillars. Real enthusiasts will also be sowing seed trays of zinnias, marigolds and other autumn crops of annuals to feed the butterflies.