A guide to suc­cess­ful wa­ter­ing

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT GUYTON


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.


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.

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