Pan­ty­hose the per­fect gar­den aid



I don’t get an­noyed when I snag my pan­ty­hose be­cause lad­dered tights make the best plant ties. Nar­row slices across the legs make fine, flex­i­ble strips for sweet peas. Wider strips are stur­dier – just right for toma­toes. Waist­bands are strong enough for straight­en­ing trees. Even the ‘‘seats’’ have a use as ham­mocks for mel­ons and pump­kins grow­ing up a trel­lis. Back in April, NZ Gar­dener gave away 3000 pack­ets of seeds for the Great Sweet Pea Chal­lenge. Of course, I had to have a go too. If your sweet pea plants are any­thing like mine, they’ll be flop­ping ev­ery­where by now. Tie in in­di­vid­ual climb­ing stems to the trel­lis or other frame­work to en­cour­age up­ward growth. Flow­ers will have longer, straighter stems and be eas­ier to pick if the plants are un­der con­trol. Take lots of pic­tures! There are prizes for the best ar­range­ment, best in­di­vid­ual bloom and best photo of sweet peas in the gar­den. Send Great Sweet Pea Chal­lenge en­tries to: mail­box@nz­gar­


In­spect new growth of roses, fruit trees, onions, gar­lic, hedges and swan plants for aphids. Ev­ery one you dis­pose of now won’t con­trib­ute to a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion later in spring and sum­mer. Aphids are vi­vip­a­rous, which means fe­males lay live ba­bies not eggs. The ba­bies can be­gin re­pro­duc­ing in a week so pop­u­la­tions can build up very quickly. Aphids are sap suck­ers. They weaken the host plant, trans­mit viruses and sooty mould grows on the hon­ey­dew they se­crete. For small clus­ters use dig­i­tal con­trol – run your fin­gers along each twig, squash­ing as you go. A blast with the hose is ef­fec­tive too and some peo­ple even take to their roses with a hand­held dust buster. Nip­ping off aphid-in­fested stems of swan plants has the ad­di­tional ben­e­fit of keep­ing the plants com­pact. Soapy dish-wash­ing wa­ter (cooled of course) splashed over onions and gar­lic deals to al­lium aphids. Or­ganic sprays in­clude EnSpray 99® Spray­ing Oil from Grosafe, Or­ganic In­sect Con­trol from Ki­wicare and Na­ture’s Way Pyrethrum from Yates. The good news is that aphids are species spe­cific. If the swan plants are swarm­ing with yel­low aphids they’ll stay there and won’t hop over to suck on the roses.


The lit­tle pink sprouts on the begonia corm above are the sign that it’s ready to be re­planted. The corm spent the win­ter in a box in the shed away from the rain. In Au­gust, it was put out­side in a well-lit, frost-free spot out of di­rect sun­light where it got some rain but wasn’t drowned. Now it’s ready to plant. I grow mine in pots so I can move them to the front when they’re look­ing won­der­ful and hide them at the back when they need a rest. Use fresh, goodqual­ity pot­ting mix in a pot with ad­e­quate, un­blocked drainage holes. Don’t plant too deep. The tu­ber should be barely cov­ered. Don’t over-wa­ter or let the pot sit con­stantly in wa­ter, but do keep the soil con­stantly moist. Avoid wa­ter­ing the leaves. Place pots where the plants get plenty of light but are out of harsh, di­rect, mid­day sun. Stake stems in or­der to sup­port the heavy blooms but don’t dam­age the corms. Choose a pot that suits the growth form – tall pots or hang­ing bas­kets for trail­ers and tum­blers; sturdy ones for large, erect forms. If a plant in a squat pot turns out to be a tum­bler and not the up­right spec­i­men you ex­pected, save the day by prop­ping the pot up on a pedestal of bricks or an up­turned pot.


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: get­grow­


Longer spring days can trig­ger bolt­ing in silverbeet, per­pet­ual silverbeet (pic­tured above) and spinach. The plants de­cide it’s time to set seed and there’s not much you can do about it. You can slow things down a bit by cut­ting out the main stem, but it’s a sign the plants have done their dash. Sow spinach seed or pop in some seedlings ev­ery cou­ple of weeks for a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply. Grow in a cooler, par­tially shaded spot over sum­mer. Two sow­ings of silverbeet a year is enough for most fam­i­lies as plants crop for a long time.

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