Garden tips for February
The winterless north has now become the summerless north and so gardeners have a few hurdles to overcome in the aftermath of Auckland January floods. We offer some advice here:
The fruit and vegetable garden
Splitting tomatoes – this is usually a symptom of lack of water, but also occurs when there is too much rain. Remove the split ones as soon as they occur and cook into a delicious pasta sauce. Leave healthy tomatoes on the vines a few days to soak up the sun and increase flavour.
Rotten strawberries? Send them to the compost heap! This year strawberry plants have put on lots of leafy growth because of the rain, and that is hiding the strawberries that need to ripen. Gently lift the stems of unripe strawberries to lie on top of the foliage to get exposure to the sun turning them red and juicy.
Fascinating fasciation – another symptom that could be weather induced is cojoined vegetables. Seen here in these zucchinis, it also occurs in cucumbers. Safe to eat, and a wonderful science lesson for the kids.
Leaving vegetables and fruit on the plants a little longer when there’s sunshine will improve flavours and make them less ‘watery’.
Potting and Garden mixes will have depleted nutrients after the recent deluges. Topdress with controlled release fertilisers or take an organic approach by liquid feeding with Aquaticus Garden Booster.
Leek planting time: Remove half of the green tops and plant leeks with Garden Mix into 10mm deep holes - using a pencil works well. The soil will gradually close around the leek.
Thought you’d missed the basil season? Planting or sowing basil seed now is just fine.
Regularly harvesting zucchinis is an absolute must – they grow to marrow size very quickly and there are only so many times you can serve stuffed marrow in a summer season!
What’s bugging the plants after the rain? Larger colonies of snails than usual, so go to war on them. Plenty of whitefly in sheltered humid areas. Use an organic pesticide such as Bugtrol for broad control, but it will need to be repeated weekly. Spray very early before bees are active.
Powdery mildew is likely to attack many edible plants, which will stop them producing good crops. Use a readymade fungicide suitable for control, or make your own spray at home, mixing 1 litre of water with 1 cup of milk and 1 tsp of baking soda. Repeat weekly.
The ornamental garden
Drainage solutions: Our drainage blog has some suggestions for landscaping to add resilience in the garden, by managing water flow in heavy downpours.
Plants that cope with intense water, but can be just as happy in dry periods are the old reliables such as daylilies, Peruvian lilies (alstroemeria), large shrubby salvias. Try these grasses for variation – NZ Oi oi, NZ Carex virgata and Carex secta, ornamental miscanthus.
Order spring flowering bulbs – daffodil and tulip bulbs can be stored in the fridge until May for planting. This helps them break dormancy and grow strongly.
Dahlias are the modern craze – these plants will go on flowering right through autumn if kept watered, staked and deadheaded.
Softwood cuttings of camellias, fuchsias, eriostemons, and lavenders can be struck now. There’s nothing more satisfying than free plants. Youtube offers great ‘how to’s’ on propagation by cuttings.
Hand weeding is easier than it’s ever been at this time of the year because the soil is so soft. Do it now so the desirable plants fill the spaces.