Home' Central Canterbury News : May 1st 2013 Contents 10 CENTRAL CANTERBURY NEWS, MAY 1, 2013
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Prepare gardens for the cold
TIME TO ACT: Along with the rain and waning warmth come snails.
This column is adapted
from the e-newsletter Get
Growing from New Zealand
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.
GO HUNTING FOR
SLUGS AND SNAILS
The rain's here at last and not a
moment too soon, as the soil is
still fairly warm. In other words,
it's perfect planting weather.
Now's the time to get all those
waylaid summer plant purchases
into the soil, so they can get their
roots established before winter.
Flower and vegie seedlings
should grow steadily for a few
more weeks in most areas.
There is less urgency with
deciduous trees and shrubs, as
these are now settling into their
Along with the rain and waning
warmth come snails.
A stroll across my lawn the
other evening was set to a
soundtrack of squelching shells.
If you haven't put down bait, do
it now. Or go on a nocturnal patrol
and squash as many as you can.
WHACK DOWN WEEDS
While the end of the drought is
surely something to celebrate,
we'll feel the sting in its tail yet.
A weed seed backlog spanning
several months, coupled with a
warm and now very wet autumn,
will see the soil erupt over the
I predict an epic winter of weeds
-- at least until the cold knocks
Resist the urge to indulge in
Just because you didn't plant
something, doesn't mean it's
Weeds are simply plants we
Among all of the useless weed
seedlings that will try to annex
your garden soon will be untold
self-sown flowers, herbs and
vegetables from last season.
Learning to recognise the good
among the bad is a valuable skill
for any gardener and one that can
only be acquired by close observa-
tion: smelling and even tasting
things as they emerge.
A watch, wait and see approach
is one of the real secrets to a
For example, I haven't sown
rocket, giant red mustard, radic-
chio, or fennel for years. I just let
them go to seed each year and
keep an eye out for their seedlings
as they pop up.
Dandelions, thanks to their
parachuting seeds, crop up every-
where and are often talked up as
tasty wild salad greens.
Fact is, though, they're pretty
ghastly, but they are loaded with
minerals and trace elements
mined from the subsoil via their
deep tap roots.
This makes them a first class
tonic for chooks, which don't seem
to mind the revolting bitterness.
Therefore, I don't consider
dandelions to be weeds. They're
free chook food.
Chickweed is much loved by
hens too, but can be a nuisance in
the garden, choking out vegie see-
dlings and cloistering too many
slugs for my liking.
Chuck it in your compost heap if
you're not game to eat it either.
While unsightly to many, a thick
blanket of weeds is useful on fal-
low or resting garden beds.
They're a cover crop, of sorts.
In summer, weeds prevent the
soil from baking and provide shel-
ter for beneficial insects.
Over winter, this living mulch
stops the topsoil being washed
away or compacted by heavy rain
When it's nearing time to
replant with proper crops, haul
out the weeds, leave their roots
exposed to the sun for a few days
and then dig the lot in as natural
PLANT MORE BULBS
Garden centres are still crammed
to bursting with gorgeous bulbs,
but they won't be there forever.
Daffodils never disappoint and are
a welcome proclamation of spring
in the depths of winter.
My favourite by far are mini
hoop-petticoats. Plant in tubs.
SAY BYE TO SUMMER
Harvest the last of your warm
Basil will soon succumb to
strong winds and root rot. Make
pesto with your last fresh leaves.
I brought in my last cornos
peppers yesterday and not a
moment too soon.
I'm smitten with these much
They're a delight in the garden
and make an efficient use of
Although more reliable in cooler
districts, Brussels sprouts can and
do crop well elsewhere.
For winter crops, your plants
should be knee-high by now --
they're best sown in January -- but
in warmer regions you can still
slip in a punnet or sow seeds for a
late spring crop of sprouts.
Start seeds in trays and cover
Keep them moist until germi-
Transplant them when the see-
dlings have two to three sets of
Excessive nitrogen delays head
formation; feed infrequently.
Keep an eye out for slugs,
snails, whitefly, caterpillars and
Plants are cold-hardy, surviving
sleet, snow and frost, snails,
whitefly, caterpillars and aphids.
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