A guide to successful watering
If you’re restricted by local decree to hand-held watering, prepare for lengthy visits to your most needy plants. A quick top-coating of water can do more harm than good, failing as it does to reach the deeper roots and encouraging those near the surface to venture even closer to the danger zone. A good soak takes longer but is better for getting your garden through a dry period.
If you have mulch in place, be sure to water beneath the covers as mulches can repel water as easily as they retain what’s already beneath them and always water deeply first before applying a mulch.
If watering with rainwater collected from your roof, you’re more fortunate than gardeners who have to use town-supply water treated with chlorine and other chemicals, as many of the very minute organisms that live in the soil don’t flourish with their addition, but needs must and water is vital to plant health during norain periods. When giving small seedlings a drink, warm the water before offering it to them– a cold shower makes plants cringe just as it does humans!
Check beneath your brassicas for eggs. Ordinarily, I’d recommend checking your hen’s nests but in this instance it’s the eggs of white butterflies we need to locate – and destroy. They’re everywhere now, those flying cabbage-munchers, only it’s not the butterflies that eat the leaves of your cabbage, cauli and kale, it’s their offspring – caterpillars with bottomless stomachs, apparently, with nothing better to do than munch on the brassicas you planned to serve up as coleslaw or green accompaniment to a roast dinner.
White butterflies are enigmatic creatures, spectacular in their ability to avoid capture when on the wing. Have you ever tried catching one by hand? They’re masters and mistresses of the air, nimble and quick, despite their ridiculous body-to-wing proportions and easy-to-see livery.
Spraying them with a highpressure hose, or at least one that has your thumb pressed down hard on the end, does nothing! They laugh in the face of water jets! They dance to their own merry tune, despite your attempts to bring them down from the sky with town supply! It’s best to ignore the parents and go for the children – their caterpillars make easy pickings after dark when, armed with a headlight and a steely resolve, the caring gardener visits the sleeping brassicas in search of the fattening caterpillars that do the damage and transforms their plump bodies into smear with a well-coordinated thumb and forefinger. Getting in even earlier, in time and in the day, a morning visit to the cauli and cabbage and a lift of the leaves will expose the eggs – tiny clusters laid the day before by the white aerial acrobats – which can be reduced to smear without guilt and to great effect.
HYDRATE YOUR HENS
They, like all birds, at this time of the year and in these dry conditions, need to rehydrate regularly. Hens get some moisture from the food they eat, providing that includes succulent greens picked fresh from the garden, but on top of that they need access to fresh drinking water. A bowl, refilled daily, would do, though they’ll foul it with their carryingons, so a purpose-bought or -made watering device that sits or hangs off the ground and refills automatically, is best. To improve the health of your hens, fill your watering vessels with rainwater (chlorine is not a favoured flavour amongst the hen set), and add a clove or two of crushed garlic to boost the health of your birds. Garlic acts as an antiseptic in small-scale water supplies and protects your hens from vampires at the same time. If for no other reason than the laughs you get from watching hens drink, heads thrown back and beaks pointed to the sky, it’s worth providing your hens with water through the summer season. Dehydrated hens, shrivelled and bleary-eyed through want of a drink, aren’t a good look.
Think about and plan for tui in your garden. Tui are extraspecial New Zealanders, kiwis, you could say, and bring a unique quality to any garden they deign to visit. Their song is transporting and beguiling, evocative and unmistakable. They’ll sing too, if encouraged, by simple provisions that will gladden their tiny hearts
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
and encourage them to share their joy in the form of a cascade of notes that can make the surface of your goldfish pond or G&T quiver!
Tui love to drink fresh nectar, especially that which is presented in flowers high enough above ground to ensure safety from cats. Harakeke, sometimes called ‘‘flax’’in more tongue-tied parts of the country, is perfect for tui and they’ll regularly visit any flowering Phormium tenax you might have in your garden.
If you’ve not tasted the nectar of a flax flower, te wai of the pua korare, you’ve barely lived, as any fluent-in-English tui will attest. It’s sweet stuff and keeps coming once the flower it collects in is emptied.