Blossom is the key to quality fruit
ENJOY THE SHOW
Blossom is queen right now and paying attention for the short time it’s on display is the least you can do. Fruit trees devote a huge amount of their energy to advertising their readiness to produce through their spectacular arrays of blossom and the bees respond accordingly. So, I believe, should we. The Japanese hold festivals to pay homage to the blossoming of the cherries, as do we New Zealanders (at least those who live in Alexandra and Hastings), and there’re few celebrations more heartwarming than a blossom festival. In the home garden or orchard – and many home gardens these days are part-vege garden, part orchard – growers are taking time to appreciate and enjoy the show provided by their fruiting trees: plum, apple, peach and apricot. Blossom doesn’t last forever. In fact, one decent gale and it’s gone, so if your trees are alight with bloom, get outside and among it. Picnics are recommended and even poetry readings have a valid place where blossom reigns.
Soggy conditions in parts of the country (the wet parts) are causing problems with accessing gardens. Those boggy impediments range from having gumboots so weighed down with clinging mud that they can barely be lifted, to garden beds having to be renamed as small lakes. Whatever the degree of innundation your garden may have suffered, it’s widely accepted that you shouldn’t walk on the soil, for fear of driving all of the oxygen out of it and rendering it unfit for planting. Make paths and walkways through your swamps – use stepping stones or rounds of tree-trunk. Better still, stay off the ground till it’s tillable.
PROTECT EVERYTHING FROM EVERYTHING
The spring garden is a vulnerable one and spring is a tempestuous season, meaning everything is under threat of sudden destruction: blustery winds can reduce a thriving flower garden to a mess of potage, and hail can turn what’s left to confetti. Keeping those elements off your young seedlings or pansy blooms is challenging unless you are growing undercover in a tunnelhouse, but there are ways to reduce the chances of shredding-byweather. Cloches, glass or plastic protect against everything bar insects and molluscs.
Weather events of the rough sort are countered by a well-anchoured cloche and even cold air is kept at bay, as under the clear skin of a cloche, the air can be several degrees warmer. At this time of year, lettuces benefit greatly from protection from unexpected cold, and cloches suit them perfectly, but slugs don’t care about them. Molluscs such as they and snails march, on their single foot, right on in and settle down to dine. The most effective way to keep their numbers down to next to zero is to visit the plants they yearn to dine on at night, with the aid of a head torch, and pick them off your plants, then consign them to a fate I’m reluctant to describe here, but is final and fatal.
Perennial herbs and flowering plants are rousing from their winter slumber now and throwing up this year’s growth, signalling a willingness to be divided and multiplied. Goldenrod, comfrey, French sorrel and lemon balm all accept division at this time of year and show no ill effects from being sliced, diced and relocated for the greater good. You can multiply your stock of those perennials with the fall of a sharp blade (emphasis on sharp – I use a bastard file and use it often on the edge of my spade) and they will comfortably establish new outposts throughout your garden, with the support of a little judicious watering in the drier parts of the country. It’s surprising just how robust those perennials are and how keen they are to spread their influence.
At present, I’m trying to divide and multiply goat’s beard, a coarsely named but beautifully flowering perennial that by all reports doesn’t respond well to being chopped from the parent plant and replanted elsewhere, so if there’s a reader who has done this successfully, I’d like to hear from you.
I’ve gone ahead and made the cut and am on tenter hooks while the relocated clumps bed in.
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
FEED THE HUNGRY
Rapid growth from annual vegetables can only happen if there’s nutrient available to the roots and leaves of rapidly growing plants. Water well and include food in the drink, particulary at this time of the growing cycle when leaf formation is critical. Floppy seedlings of vegetable plants signal a failure in the system that sometimes cannot be corrected. Keep plants erect and sprightly by watering them as needed and boost their growth rates with nutrientrich supplements, such as seaweed liquid feeds and herb teas brewed from comfrey, grass clippings, pony poo and worm wees.