The freshest of fresh salads – so easy
PLANT A SALAD BOWL TO BRIDGE THE HUNGRY GAP
A container full of cutand-comeagain salad greens makes harvesting a breeze. Just pick a leaf or two off each plant – straight into the salad spinner and workday lunches are sorted. Good choices are spinach, loose leaf lettuces, coriander, mesclun, rocket, Asian greens, mizuna, mustard, radishes and beets.Microgreens can be popped in too.
Greens grown rapidly don’t get a chance to be bitter so it’s worth cosseting the container in a warm place where you can give it daily attention. Keep it evenly watered and liquid feed weekly with seaweed fertiliser or worm tea.
Cover with a cloche for protection from birds, cats and the weather. Salad greens grown this way can be much closer together than those in the garden. Picking leaves daily makes more room and if necessary some seedling can be thinned out. Plant a new container in two to three weeks ready to harvest when the first one is finished.
PLANT GLADIOLI BULBS FOR SUMMER
Gladioli come in so many colours there’s one for every planting scheme. There’s a choice of slim, delicate or large ruffled blooms. Being tall and slim they fit in around spring flowering plants, ready to strut their stuff when the early bloomers have done their dash.
Corms are in garden centres now. Choose firm, chunky ones that haven’t dried out or gone soft. Plant any time from now until the end of December. They flower around 100 days after planting so if you plant a batch every couple of weeks you’ll have months of blooms.
Plant 15cm apart and 8-10cm deep in a sunny place with good drainage. In flower borders, blooms make a bigger impact planted in groups among other plants rather than lined up in a row. However, gladioli are excellent cut flowers so can be grown in rows in a cutting garden or even the vege patch.
Tall varieties may need staking – either a stake per corm or a framework of stakes and string for a groups of plants to grow through. Keep evenly watered so the soil is just moist. Uneven watering can lead to bent spikes as the plants go through periods of slower and faster growth. Mulch to retain moisture and cut down on weeds. Don’t use animal manure or high nitrogen fertiliser.
For cut flowers, select stems which have only a couple of florets at the bottom starting to open. Cut the stem without crushing so it can take up water in the vase. Leave behind the foliage which will nourish the corm for next year’s flowers. Place cut stems in lukewarm water to prevent wilting.
Sap-sucking thrips can be a nuisance in hot, dry weather especially on plants stressed by lack of water. A blue sticky trap smeared with petroleum jelly will trap some but if numbers get out of control spraying might be needed.
PROTECT BIRDS FROM STRIKING WINDOWS
One garden task I’d rather avoid is burying wood pigeons which have died after crashing into a window. Thousands of birds are killed or seriously injured this way each year. One way to prevent bird strike is to apply decals that reflect ultraviolet light, which birds can see but we can’t. To birds the decals glow brightly, giving warning of an obstruction. They are available from Bird Rescue Whanganui/ Manawatu Trust. Have you got a tried and true method for preventing bird strike at your place? Send your suggestion to email@example.com.
PEST PATROL FOR SLUGS AND SNAILS
Walking to work very early one damp morning I spotted hundreds of snails on the white picket fences lining street after street of Ponsonby villas. It reminded me to go on a snail hunt at home.
A snail can lay up to 120 eggs at a time every six weeks or so. Every snail disposed of now won’t be around to contribute 500 or more babies to the potential explosion over the rest of the season.
My usual hunting technique is to take a late evening stroll with a bucket of hot water and a torch, but this year I have a new weapon. It’s
a nifty beanie with built in LED lights so I’ve got both hands free to gather the blighters.
Top snail hangouts at my place
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 are on the strappy leaves of dietes and bulbs, under the rims of glazed pots and among bromeliads. You can even make tempting places for them to hang out so you can gather them up easily. Half grapefruit skins placed upsidedown are ideal. Prop the skins up slightly on one side so slugs and snails can slither in underneath.
Feed the corpses to the thrushes and blackbirds the next morning.