NZ Lifestyle Block - - Garden Diary - JANE BELLERBY True blue from Veron­ica ‘Ox­ford Blue’.

• En­joy the glow­ing colours as spring pro­gresses.

• Get onto any emerg­ing weeds while they are still small.

• Stock­pile mulch for later in the sea­son, in­clud­ing sea­weed, lawn clip­pings and old hay. If you mulch heav­ily be­fore the ground truly warms, it acts as a re­verse in­su­lat­ing layer, trap­ping in the cool and slow­ing growth.

• Sort through the seed box, have a big clean-up and make lists of what you want to grow this spring and sum­mer. Chat with fel­low gar­den­ers and con­sider buy­ing bulk seeds and shar­ing.

• Clean seed trays and con­tain­ers and fill them with seed mix, ready for sow­ing over the next weeks.

• ‘Work­ing’ flow­ers such as cal­en­dula, phacelia, nas­tur­tiums, and buck­wheat can be sown around fruit trees and will help see off un­wel­come in­sects and pro­vide gar­den colour as well.

• As win­ter crops fin­ish, chop in the last of the fo­liage, add ma­nure, and cover with a light mulch to sup­press the weeds but not too deep or you’ll in­hibit the soil warm­ing process. Or use black plas­tic.

• Chop down cover crops and treat as above.

• If you haven’t limed, do so now but not at the same time as us­ing ma­nures or fresh nitroge­nous mat­ter such as grass clip­pings - al­low a few weeks in­be­tween.

• Clear ex­cess growth from around fruit trees and ap­ply fer­tiliser.

• Let spring fever give you a good time of energy and joy with all the new growth com­ing out of win­ter’s aus­ter­ity.

I’m not al­ways greet­ing the Au­gust gar­den in a state of seren­ity. Of­ten the win­ter clean-up isn’t fin­ished and the re-growth takes me by sur­prise. There’s also usu­ally a big list of ‘to do’ plans or projects!

But it’s not worth wor­ry­ing about when the daffs are flow­er­ing, the kowhai goes crazy, and the new green growth gets all bright and zingy.

Yel­low, blue and green take cen­tre stage in our Au­gust gar­den. I know, I know, green is a con­stant but my point is that now it starts to re­ally ping. It’s all so bright and fresh and full of prom­ise: spears and buds pok­ing through the earth, new leaves form­ing on branches, shoots emerg­ing from peren­nial clumps, and all be­gin­ning their head­long rush into growth. It’s noth­ing short of mag­i­cal with their im­plicit prom­ise of warmth, re­newal and growth.

The daf­fodils, with all their bold yel­low­ness, make wide im­pres­sion­ist splashes across the lawn, un­der trees and in ran­dom self-sown places. Daf­fodils are such a fleet­ing and sym­bolic cliché of spring, only the most jaded could not be charmed, while the prac­ti­cal among us are heav­ing sighs of re­lief at their ease of growth which equates to min­i­mal work for max­i­mum beauty.

The blue spring flow­ers are also emerg­ing, in­clud­ing the vi­o­lets, for­getme-nots and one that al­ways takes me by sur­prise, Veron­ica Ox­ford Blue. This sprawl­ing lit­tle plant grows fast, easily di­vides to cre­ate more plants, and it’s a true in­tense blue in colour that makes a great im­pact. De­spite some cat­a­logues claim­ing a sum­mer-long flow­er­ing, here it does its bril­liant blue thing in spring, then qui­etly con­trib­utes a lit­tle car­pet of bronze and green for the rest of the year.

It’s the be­gin­ning of seed­ing time for both flow­ers and food so con­tain­ers and pots can be filled, ready for sow­ing. I put pop­pies in an old baby bath last year and they grew pro­lif­i­cally. This year I’m putting in the seeds of deep red pop­pies from a

DUR­ING SUM­MER I keep on top of the weeds which makes the spring clean-up eas­ier. It’s not too hard to gather all the brit­tle, spent growth and toss it as a good, light, seed­less mulch around a fruit tree. I add some fer­til­ity to the soil such as old horse ma­nure and a light cov­er­ing of sea­grass for weed sup­pres­sion. In another six or eight weeks, we’ll be en­joy­ing easy-to-grow and sublime spring veg­eta­bles from what is bare earth this month.


About this time of year I start dream­ing of spring. Colour­ful seed cat­a­logues feed my fan­tasies of Eden-like gar­dens lush with sump­tu­ous fruit and not a bug in sight. Ab­sence def­i­nitely makes the imag­i­na­tion se­lec­tive.

In Au­gust, this far south at least, the ground is still cold, wet and de­cid­edly dor­mant. But in the green­house I’ve grown a grid of mi­cro­greens, pro­tected from the hail and souther­lies.

My back-up plan worked too, so our win­dowsills are freshly dec­o­rated with con­tain­ers of radish, beet­root, rocket, var­i­ous bras­si­cas, dill, chervil and fen­nel... or they were un­til the cook scalped them. He was ini­tially scep­ti­cal, but is now cut­ting and munch­ing fresh greens with gusto and look­ing for more.

With a lit­tle ex­per­i­men­ta­tion you will find your own favourite cool weather mi­cro­greens, many of which can be grown on to larger size if de­sired. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started.

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