Fairies find­ing favour in gar­dens

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - RACHEL CLARE

IN­VITE THE LIT­TLE PEO­PLE INTO YOUR GAR­DEN

Re­cently, while shop­ping at Kings Plant Barn in Hen­der­son, Harry, my six-year-old, lit­er­ally dragged me away from the hy­drangeas so I could check out the range of minia­ture fairy gar­den ac­ces­sories for sale. I tried to re­main strong but I have a weak­ness when it comes to fairies and we went home with a sign post. It’s a slip­pery slope. The myth­i­cal minia­tures col­lec­tion has grown and we’ve now of­fi­cially sub­di­vided with some wee folk who have taken up res­i­dence in one of our raised beds, a com­fort­able height for mini land­scap­ing.

Fairy gar­dens can be made any­where. When I was a kid, an ice cream con­tainer, some dirt and some moss from the drive­way suf­ficed (you can even buy spe­cial moss for fairy gar­dens), but any kind of plant pot with de­cent pot­ting mix will do. Fairies and gnomes pre­fer low-grow­ing plants, such as alyssum, heart­sease, dwarf snap­drag­ons, baby tears, scle­r­an­thus, vi­o­lets, lo­belia and creep­ing thyme.

Do you have wee folk at your place? Email me your pho­tos at in­box@get­grow­ing.co.nz.

PLANT CEL­ERY FOR WIN­TER SOUPS

Wist­ful thoughts of cooler days have made me think of soup sea­son, so I’m pleased that my cel­ery, which I planted months ago and which sat and did not very much for sev­eral months, is thick­en­ing up. Cel­ery con­sis­tently ap­pears on the USbased En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group’s ‘‘Dirty Dozen‘‘ list of foods con­tain­ing the high­est resid­ual pes­ti­cides. I can’t vouch for com­mer­cial grow­ers here, but it’s def­i­nitely worth grow­ing your own.

Cel­ery is a hun­gry crop, so pre­pare the ground well with com­post, or­ganic mat­ter and blood and bone or a gen­eral gar­den fer­tiliser, then side dress it with more blood and bone twice dur­ing the four and a half months it takes to grow to ma­tu­rity. Cel­ery is orig­i­nally a swamp plant, so keep the wa­ter up to pre­vent it from bolt­ing to seed. Plant it suc­ces­sively from now un­til July. Try fast-grow­ing ‘Slow­bolt Polo’ from Eg­mont Seeds or ‘Tall Utah’ or red-and­white-stockinged ‘Pep­per­mint Stick’ from Kings Seeds or buy seedlings at the gar­den cen­tre.

WEED IT BE­FORE YOU SEED IT

All this heat and rain has nur­tured a new gen­er­a­tion of weeds the size of small cats in my peren­nial bor­der. For­tu­nately, be­cause the soil is damp, the weeds have been sat­is­fy­ingly easy to pull out. Not so easy to ex­tri­cate is con­volvu­lus which has snuck through from the neigh­bours’ and is do­ing its best stran­gu­la­tion work. I’m go­ing to take a leaf out of col­league Bar­bara Smith’s book and tack black plas­tic around the bot­tom of the fence line to pro­vide a bar­rier.

Mostly weeds are just plants grow­ing in the wrong place, but if they’re hog­ging space, stran­gling your plants or just un­sightly, dig, hoe or fork them out, roots and all. Adding a 50mm layer of mulch to the soil will help pre­vent new weeds from emerg­ing.

Com­post any weeds with­out seeds. If you have nox­ious weeds, such as trades­cantia, place the weeds in a plas­tic rub­bish bag with a hand­ful of soil and wa­ter, tie up the top and leave them for sev­eral months un­til they’re dead as door­nails. Find out more about in­va­sive weeds at weed­busters.org.nz.

BERRY NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION

What do Bruce Spring­steen and straw­ber­ries have in com­mon? Baby they were born to run. Once straw­berry plants have al­most fin­ished fruit­ing for the sea­son, they send out snaking ten­drils with lit­tle plantlets at­tached to them, which are quickly start­ing to form root sys­tems of their own. The baby plants are ge­net­i­cally iden­ti­cal to the par­ent plant and are the per­fect way to in­crease your straw­berry stock for free. The eas­i­est way to help them along is to peg the plantlets into the ground to se­cure them. Use bent ke­bab sticks or wire. If you’re grow­ing straw­ber­ries in

GET GROW­ING

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 pots, sim­ply place small con­tain­ers of soil or pot­ting mix be­neath each plant­let and peg them in. Once they take root, the um­bil­i­cal cord to the par­ent plant will nat­u­rally shrivel and break over time – or you can snip them off and leave them grow­ing un­til you’re ready to shift them to a bet­ter spot in your gar­den. Be sure to snip off any ten­drils that aren’t at­tached to the par­ent plant as these will take en­ergy from your plant­let.

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