Frogs can be your garden’s friend
INVITE AMPHIBIANS INTO YOUR GARDEN
Frogs need your help. Their various habitats have been largely lost to our developments, rural and urban, and they are facing other threats from the way we humans live. Species such as the Golden Bell and Australian whistling frogs need clean water – that is – water that is free of manmade pollutants including pesticides and herbicides, although their ponds need not look clear.
They need insects to eat too, so a habitat where insects are poisoned as a result of our need for unblemished fruit and vegetables is going to be unsuitable and potentially deadly to them. All things considered, a thoughtful gardener can easily establish conditions that frogs enjoy and so invite them into their gardens. I have little brown whistlers in mine (pictured) and more specifically, in the barrel that sits at the centre of my forest garden, partly filled with water and a skerrick of frog. It’s cool and clean and (I have to assume) full of insects, as the little frogs look well fed. If every gardener had a similar habitat in their own garden, there would be the possibility of froggy croaks all around town and that would be a wonderful thing – tomy ears anyway.
THIN YOUR APPLE TREES
If your apple trees are anything like mine, the fruit will be clustered together like bunches of grapes. These bunches will need to be released to save them from pushing each other off the stalk or failing to reach full size. Picking some off is the answer to overlysuccessful pollination. This leaves space for remaining fruit to swell, so the crop will be heavier despite fewer individual fruits. Some people wait until the fruit are larger before thinning, then use the pickings to make jelly, but I will have to move early, so heavy is the crop. It’s traditional to remove central fruit first, then decide how rigorously you want to thin, based on how the cluster looks. I scatter the thinnings (under trees that are not apples) to avoid creating a haven for insects or organisms that could adversely affect my crop.
COLLECT AND SOW SEEDS FROM BIENNIAL PLANTS
Alexanders, parsnips, carrots and fennel that set their seed from late spring onwards reproduce best when their seeds hit the ground while still tender, rather than later on when the seeds have hardened. Sweet cicely (pictured IMG_7087) is perhaps the most striking example of a biennial from the apiaceae or umbelliferae family.
This flowering herb can keep a gardener waiting for over a year for reproduction by seed, if those seeds are left to turn black and hard. Many of them will still sprout, but not until a long period of waiting has passed and the expectations of the gardener significantly fallen. In nature, such plants shed seeds en-masse and their replacement seedlings emerge quickly. Storing such seeds in jars for sowing the following year is the least effective method of keeping those species and varieties going.
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO YOUR NATIVE TREES
Many native trees are flowering at the moment and the beauty of those blooms are often overlooked. Members of the coprosma family are displaying their ribbon-petalled flowers now and unless you stop and look closely for them, you’ll not notice their subtle, but beautiful display. The bees are taking note of what’s on offer though, and you will likely see them helping themselves to the nectar of the This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz coprosma flowers. If you’re really lucky, there will still be flowers on the native lemonwood, which will delight you with their rich, velvety texture and deep colour. The scent of the lemonwood – both flowers and leaves – is both intoxicating and bewitching and they are well worth seeking out. Moths are powerfully attracted to the blooms which seem to exude their strongest scent at night, when the moths are flying.