What to do in the garden this week – Stuff.co.nz

what-to-do-in-the-garden-this-week-–-stuffco.nz

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KELLY HODEL/STUFF/Waikato Times'Strawberry Blonde' bred by Rob Somerfield, won the Best New Zealand Raised Rose at the 2018 Pacific Rose Bowl Festival at Hamilton Gardens.December rose care Roses need more water than you expect and do much better with a deep soak two or three times a week depending on the weather. An irrigation system aimed at the roots is best. Set to water in the morning or evening – not during the hottest part of the day. If you only have a few roses, standing hose in hand is a pleasant enough way to while away a summer evening. There may be other thirsty plants nearby and if you’re dexterous you can get on with deadheading with the other hand and avoid wetting your feet while giving the ground a thorough soak. A thin dressing of lawn clippings makes a good summer mulch – but only if you’re sure the lawn has not been sprayed. A whiff of weedkiller can kill roses so take particular care when spraying weeds on paths or lawns nearby. Most once-flowering roses will be over by now, but you can encourage repeat bloomers by regular picking for the vase and deadheading.PIXABAY/StuffDried rose petals are useful for potpourri as they retain their scent. Whip up a batch of homemade potpourri Make your house smell like summer all year round with scented potpourri. Collect 6 cups of rose petals, 2 cups of rose buds, 2 cups of marigold or blue corn­flower petals, ½ cup of bay leaves, 1 cup of rose leaves. Lay them out in a warm, dry, airy place for a couple of weeks to dry. Petals are quicker to dry than whole flower heads. Make sure the flowers are fully dry before mixing with 2 tablespoons of powdered orris root, 10 drops of rose oil and 5 drops of ylang ylang oil. Stir together gently by hand and leave to mature in a paper bag. You could also use lavender for scent and add calendula, zinnia and strawflower petals for colour and harvest fragrant leaves too, like lemon verbena and rose geranium and experiment with other fragrant oils.BARBARA SMITH/GET GROWING/StuffGladiolus triste ‘The Bride’ corms (left), sternbergias and grape hyacinths. The gladioli are the offsets from five corms that sat in the same pot for at least six years. Lift and divide potted bulbs Small bulbs can survive in containers for years but eventually overcrowding will lead to poor flowering. When the foliage has died back naturally, let the pot dry out so it is easy to separate the dormant bulbs from the old mix. It’s a treasure hunt – you may be surprised by how many bulbs you find. Bulbs can be replanted straightaway or stored in a cool, dry, dark place until autumn if you want to use the container for something else. The advantage of replanting them now, in a pot or in the garden, is that you won't run the risk of forgetting to plant them in autumn. Also, they’ll get going next season as soon as the conditions are right, so they may well flower earlier than if they’re planted late due to a memory lapse on the part of the gardener. If you haven't got room for them in the garden so have to put them in a pot, and you don't want to look at bare soil in the meantime, pop in some annuals for summer and autumn colour while you are waiting for spring bulbs to reappear next year. Freesias, grape hyacinths, ixias and daffodils naturalise very well and more or less look after themselves if you've got a spot for them in the garden. They don't need to be lifted and only need some bulb food once a year and perhaps watering if it's very dry – only if they're in leaf – not when dormant. If you'd rather store them, let them dry out and brush off any soil. Don't put them in a plastic bag. Use a paper bag, cardboard box or netted bag (an onion bag or similar) so they don't go mouldy. Use surplus bulbs to plant up more pots or garden beds or share with friends or local gardeners. Bag up some for sale on your garden club trading table too. Not only will you spread the joy of your favourite bulbs, you are also taking out a form of garden insurance. If you lose your own plants you’ll be able to replace them from the bulked-up stock growing at your friend’s place.BARBARA SMITH/GET GROWING/StuffBrassica seedlings don't take up much room in a seed tray. Is it worth growing cabbages, kale, broccoli and cauliflower from seed? The answer (as is so often the case) is, “It depends”. If you are feeding a crowd, and you’ve got lots of growing room, or you like trying different varieties then sowing seed is cheaper. If you sow direct into garden beds it’s arguably easier too. Seedlings get off to a good start in warm soil, and growth won’t be checked by transplant shock later in the season. In a garden bed they’re less vulnerable to lack of moisture too but seedlings grown in seed trays over summer run the very real risk of frizzling to a crisp while you’re off at work or away for a weekend. On the other hand, brassicas take up a lot of garden space for many months. They’re also magnets for white cabbage butterflies and their very hungry caterpillar babies. It’s easier to protect a tray of seedlings than to barricade rows of plants with metres of insect mesh. If you are short of space, brassica multi-packs with two each of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are an easy solution, but you’ll have to accept the limited range of varieties on offer. For something less run-of-the-mill, look for compact varieties like ‘Space Saver’ mini cabbages which is suitable for growing year round in most areas or varieties that crop repeatedly over several months like ‘Tasty Stems’ broccoli which has a central head and many side shoots which can be harvested as needed. Both from Kings Seeds.RACHEL OLDHAM / GET GROWING'Bhut Jolokia' chillies supported by a wire frame. Plant more chillies and capsicums They like it hot and December-planted seedlings might well overtake any you planted out at Labour Weekend, especially if you splash out on the large-grade plants that should be available at the garden centre now. They are more expensive but much quicker to fruit, and a good choice if you are in a region with a shorter summer – or else grow this crop in pots, which you can move around to take advantage of sunny spots and heat sinks as the weather cools down. Both chillies and capsicums are super productive plants and will appreciate some support, especially capsicums, whose brittle stems can easily break under the weight of the fruit. Stake the plants at planting time and tie the stem and fruit bearing branches regularly onto the support. Keep the water up (especially in pots) and feed every fortnight with liquid fertiliser (tomato food is ideal).How to use mulch and why you should. Get your garden ready for the holidays And that means mulch, mulch, mulch. Even if you laid mulch earlier in spring, give everything a good soak then add a new layer of grass clippings, compost (bought or homemade) or whatever other organic matter you have to hand, especially if you are heading away. A well-mulched garden will look after itself for at least a week without watering, and possibly longer if there’s no wind.123RF/StuffSow leafy greens including perennial spinach, silverbeet, spinach, lettuces and brassicas. Gardening by the moon The fertile period continues until December 16. It’s busy time for all gardeners. The weather’s warm and growth is prolific. Sow and transplant annual blooms and edible crops that produce above ground including leafy vegetables, peppers, tomatoes and sweetcorn. Don’t prune anything just now. Gardening by the maramataka As we approach the true summer period, or Raumati, we are maintaining crops rather than establishing them, so we follow the maramataka to determine how to support growing crops. December 5 is Whiro, the first night following the new moon; with Rākaunui, the full moon, on December 19. Unless you are late planting long season crops (those with a single harvest each summer such as like taewa, kūmara, corn and pumpkins); the best days for maintenance of the māra fall around the full moon, the 8th and 19th in particular. The period leading to the Tamatea phase – December 8-10 – is also good for working in the vege garden. For other short-term crops such as leafy vegetables, there are two periods to follow: the early period of Haohaoata or night (evening) of 7 December for preparing and sowing seed direct and the days that follow (December 8-9), and the days between Christmas and New Year. Perennial crops or orchards follow a different cycle and have few needs this month – just ensure their health and nutrition requirements are met. The Tamatea phase, December 10-13, is the best time for this. This season is one for the senses. Observe the māra and the impact of nature, both positive and negative. Don’t distress plants in the hottest part of the day, work in the morning or evening to minimise the effect on them, and they will respond to maintenance better. Dr Nick Roskruge
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