Home' Christchurch Mail : July 11th 2013 Contents 12 CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, JULY 11, 2013
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Plan and prep now for spring
This column is adapted from
the e-newsletter Get Growing
from New Zealand Gardener.
To subscribe to Get Growing
visit the NZ Gardener website
at nzgardener.co.nz, and click
on the Get Growing tab.
To subscribe to NZ
mags4gifts.co.nz or call 0800
mags 4 gifts.
There s still time to plant peonies,
those lavish kings of the
Although roots and small plants
are sold in spring, they rarely per-
form as well as those planted in
winter, when they can focus their
energy on establishing really
Climate permitting, peonies
aren t fussy plants. They re prone
to a few fungal diseases and the
usual array of insect pests, but
aren t as sickly as roses.
Canterbury-based peony breeder
Paul Simmons is all about sim-
plicity when it comes to the
objects of his botanical ardour:
Plant peonies wherever you d
plant cabbages -- in full sun, away
from any competing trees and in
well-drained soil .
He assures me it really is that
simple. While it s true that peon-
ies do best in regions with harsh
winters, they can deliver the
goods in warmer climates too.
PREPARE NEW BEDS
Now s a good time to expand
established garden beds and dig
Soil should be relatively work-
able (assuming it isn t frozen!)
and weed growth slow enough to
manage. With spring planting still
a long way off, you can work in
loads of fresh organic matter and
manure without fear that it will
burn the roots. By spring it will be
well-rotted and ready to nourish.
Before turning the first sod,
think about how much space you
actually need -- and how much you
can manage. Huge gardens are
nice, but they re a lot of work and
can look a right mess if neglected.
Also, consider how much water
you can spare in summer -- or how
much you re prepared to pay for it.
Turning lawn into garden? I
used to laboriously scrape turf
away before digging new beds but
I no longer bother. Any grass that
survives being hacked up and
buried is easily uprooted later on.
After all, rotary hoes don t bother
with such niceties. New beds dug
from straight turf are often pro-
ductive in the first season, but the
soil can lack texture and friability.
Add as much organic material as
you can, and if it s really heavy, a
good dose of dolomite lime. Old
Gib board can also be soaked until
crumbly and dug into the soil.
Made from almost pure gypsum, it
significantly reduces clumping
and poor drainage, as well as
improving nutrient uptake.
Although not much use on its
own, old potting mix is a source of
pumice and carbon-rich organic
matter, excellent for digging into
If you get into the habit of emp-
tying out old pots into a large tub,
you ll soon end up with a surpris-
ing quantity of the stuff.
Spare a thought for your trusty
tools this time of year.
Keep them clean and dry
between use, to prevent rust. Oil
anything with moving parts, and
sharpen blades and spades. A
sharp spade can take a consider-
able amount of work out of
gardening, particularly when
turning over new beds.
Just like cars, lawnmowers ben-
efit from a periodic once-over with
a mechanic. This is most logically
done when grass growth is at its
slowest. A good technician will
check the spark plugs, and clean
out fuel lines and air filters, as
well as sharpening or replacing
the blades. This can add years to
the life of your machine.
PLAN FOR SUMMER
It s time to start thinking about
your summer crops. Beans, gourds
and tomatoes are still a long way
off, but peppers and eggplants
can be started indoors over the
next month or so. They ll need
some serious molly-coddling
indoors until mid-October, but
should return the favour once the
COMBAT WINTER WEEDS
With growth all but halted, now s
the time to get on top of winter
weeds. If left, oxalis, chickweed
and buttercup form tangled
clumps and may start to flower.
Apart from robbing crops of
nutrients and blocking light,
weeds provide shelter for slugs
and snails, which become more
active as we head toward spring.
Weeds should be composted with
grass clippings to ensure a good
seed-killing hot rot. Alternatively,
rot them down in water to make a
potent liquid fertiliser.
CONTROL ONION WEED
Of all the winter weeds, onion
weed (Allium triquetrum)
deserves special mention as it s up
and away in many parts of the
country, but not quite flowering
yet. This admittedly rather pretty
member of the onion family forms
great swathes over time and
perpetuates by copious windscat-
tered seed and rapidly dividing
bulbs. It s infuriatingly hard to
eradicate and any attempt results
in much oniony stench. The fact
is, once you ve got onion weed,
you ll never truly be rid of it, but
it can be slowly tormented into
reluctant submission. The trick is
to keep cutting it down to ground
level -- again, again and again.
Unable to produce seeds and in a
state of constant regeneration, the
bulbs will slowly starve to death.
Digging up the bulbs just tends to
spread them around and most
herbicides (of the kind you d want
anywhere near your garden any-
way) will only kill off the tops. As
an aside, onion weed is perfectly
edible and the leaves as well as
flowers can be used in salads and
soups etc. The small bulbs can be
roasted and pickled too.
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