Countdown to outdoor summer receptions
Any garden maintenance done now will allow you to have a more relaxed time during Christmas and New Year’s receptions.
Some jobs like big weed flushes are best done a week or so before party time. Garden beds look a bit bare and trampled after some serious weeding and need time to refill.
Water abundantly and straw abundantly. Not only is it beautiful, but you will also help the flower beds take care of themselves when you go.
Trim the hedges lightly to maintain a clean appearance. Mow the lawn (at the highest setting this time of year) and clean the edges.
Sweep the paths and scrub or throw in water if necessary. Wash the exterior of the house, especially cobwebs under the eaves, and clean the windows. Don’t forget to clean the birdbath as well.
Take a critical look at the garden work area / shed / dump. Could it do with a storage and a throw? Get rid of any places where water can collect and stagnate as this is where mosquitoes breed.
Stay on top of watering – paying special attention to containers.
Install outdoor lights everywhere. Solar lights are cheap and easy to install because there is no hassle with outlets. Choose from long straight ropes or multi-branch sets for trees and pergolas.
Keep roses, annuals and perennials dead. It’s amazing how regular grooming refreshes the look of the garden, and you will stimulate another bloom of flowers. Fill in the gaps with pot color.
For DIY wooden banners and cute zero waste Christmas decorations made from materials picked from the garden or found in the pantry, see the december issue of New Zealand gardener.
* Fruit fortresses and insect barriers: DIY crop protection
* Grow edibles for just one dinner
* What are the bugs on my beans?
Last minute garden maintenance guide
It’s not easy to have the garden looking its best all the time. If you’ve spent more time ticking off the current list and sorting out salads than trimming hedges, here are some tips for a last-minute titivation.
Make the entrance attractive. Sweep the path and the door. Hang a wreath and some solar lights. Splash on colorful and flowering potted plants. They don’t even need to be planted – just group them together in a large pot near the door. Hide tired potted plants around the back.
Then focus on the seating area. Wash cobwebs from furniture. Sweep the bridge. Assemble pots of herbs and flowers near the barbecue. Pick a large bouquet of flowers and set the table. Light lots of citronella lanterns and candles. (The after-dusk entertainment hides a multitude of omissions!)
Relax, enjoy the company – visitors come to you, not to mention the weeds!
Plant the seedlings immediately!
If you’re like me, you might end up with seedlings and cuttings languishing in trays that wither as soon as you turn your back. It is important to plant them now, to prevent them from eventually wilting unnecessarily. It will also give them time to settle down and harden up a bit before they are left to fend for themselves if you are away on vacation.
Plant the seedlings in the evening or early in the morning rather than during the hottest times of the day. I soaked mine in a tray of water with a little seaweed tonic to make the transition even smoother. Give the seedlings some shade for a few days. Use shade cloth or newspaper draped over short bamboo stakes.
If you have a vacation this year and have time to garden, sow basil, beans, zucchini, beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes, silver beets, and spinach. For those in the south, you can also start with parsnip and swede.
Bolting is beautiful
Much like in an unhappy romance, some plants are serial bolters. Hot weather, longer days, and water stress cause some plants to flower and seed quickly. Arugula, dill, and brassicas are particularly susceptible to this behavior, but cilantro is the queen of bolters. Keep the plants moist and add a layer of mulch around the roots.
If you have room in the garden, let a few vegetables go to seed. The bees will be given an extra portion of food, and you can use the flowers to garnish salads and stir-fries, or harvest the seeds after flowering.
In the flower garden, plants that die a graceful death are also appreciated. At home, the self-seeded orlaya filled in the gaps all spring. It’s starting to elongate now, but the drying stems are tall and the maturing seed heads are still attractive. I’ll leave a few plants for next year’s spring presentation and remove the rest. Leftovers pass easily through the chipper and end up in mulch.
Sowing kidney beans and climbing beans
No matter what type of bean you prefer, just make sure you have seeded enough to provide a constant supply in the summer.
“Scarlet Runner” climbing beans are still a favorite with many gardeners as they are true perennials, which means they keep coming back year after year.
However, if you prefer French green beans, now sow the annual “Blue Lake Runner” or kidney beans such as “Top Crop”.
I find it better to sow bush beans every six weeks, rather than waiting for the plants to flower again after their first main harvest, because you never get that many beans the second time around. Sow the beans directly, in full sun, spacing the seeds 20 to 30 cm apart. Keep well watered once they start to form pods, as fast growing beans are the most tender.
Watch out for tomato blight
There are two main types of blight that attack tomatoes: early and late, and both are more prevalent in wet weather. They are two distinct species (downy mildew is Alternaria solani and mildew is Phytophthora infestans) but their names are confusing as late blight can arrive early in the season.
Downy mildew causes leopard-like spots on the foliage and rotten spots at the bottom of the fruit. This downy mildew can be avoided by improving air circulation around the base of the plants by removing older foliage during the season, while downy mildew appears quickly and instantly ruins your harvest.
Downy mildew sees blackened areas on the stems, withered foliage, and rotting fruit from the stem end. In wet weather, the entire plant can wither, turn yellow, and hike up the toes in less than a week.
If you regularly lose your tomatoes to late blight, consider growing them in a completely different part of your garden that is open to the wind. To prevent (or lessen the impact) of late blight this summer, you can also spray fungicides, such as Fungus Fighter or Copper Oxychloride as a preventative measure. Spray once a fortnight during the growing season. When spraying, don’t overdo it: applying these chemicals at higher concentrations than stated on the package can damage the tender foliage.
To improve your chances of getting a good crop of tomatoes, thin out the lower leaves (do this on a dry day using a clean pruner) and be careful when watering to soak the soil, not the foliage. . Mulching after heavy rains also locks in soil moisture, keeping plant roots cool.
Some tomato varieties are more resistant to late blight than others, so try a mix of hybrid and old types. And don’t be put off by the occasional crop failure: some years the weather just conspires against the tomato growers!
Also feed the tomatoes from now on, using a liquid fertilizer enriched with potassium for fruit quality. Regular watering is also essential, otherwise you will end up with blossom end rot.
Gardening by the moon
From December 3 to 5, cultivate the soil. Check hoses and sprinkler systems. The fertile period begins on December 6. It’s a busy time for all gardeners. The weather is warm and the growth is prolific. Sow and transplant leafy vegetables of all kinds. Do not prune anything yet.
Gardening by maramataka
As we approach the true summer season, or Raumati, we are maintaining the crops rather than establishing them, so we are following the maramataka to determine how to support the growing crops. December 5 is Whiro, the first night after the new moon; with Rākaunui, the full moon, December 19. Unless you plant long-season crops late (those with a single harvest each summer like taewa, kūmara, corn, and pumpkins); the best days for the maintenance of the māra fall around the full moon, the 8th and 19th in particular. The time leading up to the Tamatea phase – December 8-10 – is also good for working in the vegetable garden.
For other short-term crops like leafy vegetables, there are two periods to follow: the early period of Haohaoata or night (evening) of December 7 to prepare and sow seeds directly and the days that follow (December 8-9 ), and the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Perennial crops or orchards follow a different cycle and have few needs this month – just make sure their health and nutritional needs are met. The Tamatea phase, from December 10 to 13, is the best time for this.
This is the season for the senses. Observe the māra and the impact of nature, both positive and negative. Don’t disturb the plants during the hottest part of the day, work in the morning or evening to minimize the effect on them, and they will respond better to maintenance. Dr Nick Roskruge