Home' Northern Outlook : July 10th 2013 Contents Plan and prep now for spring
This column is adapted from
the e-newsletter Get Growing
from New Zealand Gardener.
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There s still time to plant peonies,
those lavish kings of the
Although roots and small plants
are sold in spring, they rarely
perform as well as those planted
in winter, when they can focus
their energy on establishing
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 at 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 egg-
plants 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 deserves special mention, as
it s up and away in many parts
of the country, but not quite
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 slowly be tormented into
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. Dig-
ging 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 actu-
ally perfectly edible, and the
leaves as well as flowers can be
used in salads and soups etc. The
small bulbs can be roasted and
28 NORTHERN OUTLOOK, JULY 10, 2013
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