Fragrant herbsmaking their mark
Make use of any herbs you have grown that produce volatile oils. Thyme, as featured across many Central Otago landscapes, smells strongest and best when temperatures are highest. The oils must be some sort of protective response to heat, I’m guessing, so when conditions are extra hot at your place, as they are at mine, the fragrant herbs are at their best. Mints, despite preferring to grow in wetter parts of the garden, are smelling their best right now, so picking now and making use of them is optimal. I’ve been using herbs to provide delightful fragrances for visitors, create refreshing and fresh teas, keep biting insects at bay and to generally steep my world in lovely smells. My balms and mints and everything else that smells nice, have been plucked, quite hard, and have responded with fresh growth and renewed vigour. It’s delightful to have bushes of ‘‘smelly’’ herbs growing alongside pathways throughout the garden; brushing through them adds so much to the experience of a garden ramble.
HOW TO COPE WITH BIG DRY
If you live in Southland, or any other region that’s been as dry as a bone for far longer than usual, you’ll have been watching the skies and hoping for rain! I didn’t know how long the gardens and orchards here could survive the arid conditions we were experiencing before the weather finally turned cooler and it rained.
I hoped everything was resilient and that the time I’ve put into building a water-retentive soil with lots of humus would pay off. Watering from the mains or tanks of stored rainwater was an emergency measure, I believed – moisture captured in the soil by the organic matter contained therein should be all that’s required, but when it came to newly planted trees and shrubs, I’d taken out insurance by watering deeply whenever I could. That meant careful use of stored water for us here, and so I chose the evening to give drinks to my young plants and hoped that a night of relief from the sun would give them time to drink deeply and replenish their wilted leaves before the sun rose again in the morning. It was no good mulching during the drought – that would do would be to stop any rain that might fall from getting to the roots where it was needed. Mulch should always be applied to well-wetted soil.
Some of my larger-leaved plants, the gunnera (pictured) or Chilean rhubarb, for example, seemed to benefit from having any desiccated leaves removed, leaving the stillgreen ones to keep the plant going, but I’m not sure if that’s the case.
Of course it all became moot when the several days’ worth of rain arrived and revived the garden and filled the tanks but it was a lesson worth having and sharing, because as sure as eggs, we’ll have another drought and that might be next year and for a longer time, who knows?
KEEP YOUR GOLDFISH COOL IN THEIR POOL
High temperatures can cook fish. As the water heats up, oxygen levels fall, and fish struggle to fill their gills. Adding cooler water and providing shade helps. If drought is still a happening thing where you are, you may need to reduce the number of fish per litre if they’ve been breeding.
The creek that usually flows through my forest garden had been reduced to a trickle by the lack of rain and the native fish weren’t looking as happy as they had several weeks before. I kept an eye on them and had a net at hand. Some native fish can go into a sort of sleep when they can no longer function and I expected these might just hunker down in the mud if that’s all they could get. They’d have been hoping for rain as much as we gardeners were. Reports from around Southland told a sad story for the fish in the depleted rivers, and any gardeners keeping fish would take a useful lesson from this most unusual season.
CONSIDER SOME GARDEN STATUARY
I’ve avoided placing anything other than plants in my garden for many years, especially avoiding the likes of plaster gnomes and concrete deer, but now I’m not so exclusive. The idea of stone creatures sitting among my apiaceae and leguminosae is beginning to appeal as my garden matures, though I’m still a bit cagey about flamingos and partially draped women shouldering urns of water. I like the idea of stone creatures 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 mythic sort, relaxing in the garden, though I suppose I’m going to have to settle for concrete versions. They’re very good though, going by what I’ve seen in the garden centres and there’s a great selection to choose from. Those may not be to your taste, but there’ll be something out there that you could enjoy displayed alongside your floral favourites. The ultimate would be to fashion statues for your garden by your own hand, if that’s within your capabilities. Rubber moulds are available for the less skilled, which filled with concrete or plaster can provide some delightful garden beasts for the imaginative gardener.