Blos­som is the key to qual­ity fruit



Blos­som is queen right now and pay­ing at­ten­tion for the short time it’s on dis­play is the least you can do. Fruit trees de­vote a huge amount of their en­ergy to ad­ver­tis­ing their readi­ness to pro­duce through their spec­tac­u­lar ar­rays of blos­som and the bees re­spond ac­cord­ingly. So, I be­lieve, should we. The Ja­panese hold fes­ti­vals to pay homage to the blos­som­ing of the cher­ries, as do we New Zealan­ders (at least those who live in Alexan­dra and Hast­ings), and there’re few cel­e­bra­tions more heart­warm­ing than a blos­som fes­ti­val. In the home gar­den or or­chard – and many home gar­dens these days are part-vege gar­den, part or­chard – grow­ers are tak­ing time to ap­pre­ci­ate and en­joy the show pro­vided by their fruit­ing trees: plum, ap­ple, peach and apri­cot. Blos­som doesn’t last for­ever. In fact, one de­cent gale and it’s gone, so if your trees are alight with bloom, get out­side and among it. Pic­nics are rec­om­mended and even poetry read­ings have a valid place where blos­som reigns.


Soggy con­di­tions in parts of the coun­try (the wet parts) are caus­ing prob­lems with ac­cess­ing gar­dens. Those boggy im­ped­i­ments range from hav­ing gum­boots so weighed down with cling­ing mud that they can barely be lifted, to gar­den beds hav­ing to be re­named as small lakes. What­ever the de­gree of in­nun­da­tion your gar­den may have suf­fered, it’s widely ac­cepted that you shouldn’t walk on the soil, for fear of driv­ing all of the oxy­gen out of it and ren­der­ing it un­fit for plant­ing. Make paths and walk­ways through your swamps – use step­ping stones or rounds of tree-trunk. Bet­ter still, stay off the ground till it’s till­able.


The spring gar­den is a vul­ner­a­ble one and spring is a tem­pes­tu­ous sea­son, mean­ing ev­ery­thing is un­der threat of sud­den de­struc­tion: blus­tery winds can re­duce a thriv­ing flower gar­den to a mess of potage, and hail can turn what’s left to con­fetti. Keep­ing those el­e­ments off your young seedlings or pansy blooms is chal­leng­ing un­less you are grow­ing un­der­cover in a tun­nel­house, but there are ways to re­duce the chances of shred­ding-by­weather. Cloches, glass or plas­tic pro­tect against ev­ery­thing bar in­sects and mol­luscs.

Weather events of the rough sort are coun­tered by a well-an­choured cloche and even cold air is kept at bay, as un­der the clear skin of a cloche, the air can be sev­eral de­grees warmer. At this time of year, let­tuces ben­e­fit greatly from pro­tec­tion from un­ex­pected cold, and cloches suit them per­fectly, but slugs don’t care about them. Mol­luscs such as they and snails march, on their sin­gle foot, right on in and set­tle down to dine. The most ef­fec­tive way to keep their numbers down to next to zero is to visit the plants they yearn to dine on at night, with the aid of a head torch, and pick them off your plants, then con­sign them to a fate I’m re­luc­tant to de­scribe here, but is fi­nal and fa­tal.


Peren­nial herbs and flow­er­ing plants are rous­ing from their win­ter slum­ber now and throw­ing up this year’s growth, sig­nalling a will­ing­ness to be di­vided and mul­ti­plied. Gold­en­rod, com­frey, French sor­rel and lemon balm all ac­cept di­vi­sion at this time of year and show no ill ef­fects from be­ing sliced, diced and re­lo­cated for the greater good. You can mul­ti­ply your stock of those peren­ni­als with the fall of a sharp blade (em­pha­sis on sharp – I use a bas­tard file and use it of­ten on the edge of my spade) and they will com­fort­ably es­tab­lish new out­posts through­out your gar­den,


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: get­grow­ with the sup­port of a lit­tle ju­di­cious wa­ter­ing in the drier parts of the coun­try. It’s sur­pris­ing just how ro­bust those peren­ni­als are and how keen they are to spread their in­flu­ence.

At present, I’m try­ing to di­vide and mul­ti­ply goat’s beard, a coarsely named but beau­ti­fully flow­er­ing peren­nial that by all re­ports doesn’t re­spond well to be­ing chopped from the par­ent plant and re­planted else­where, so if there’s a reader who has done this suc­cess­fully, I’d like to hear from you. I’ve gone ahead and make the cut and am on ten­ter hooks while the re­lo­cated clumps bed in.


Rapid growth from an­nual veg­eta­bles can only hap­pen if there’s nu­tri­ent avail­able to the roots and leaves of rapidly grow­ing plants. Wa­ter well and in­clude food in the drink, par­tic­u­lary at this time of the grow­ing cy­cle when leaf for­ma­tion is crit­i­cal. Floppy seedlings of veg­etable plants sig­nal a fail­ure in the sys­tem that some­times can­not be cor­rected. Keep plants erect and sprightly by wa­ter­ing them as needed and boost their growth rates with nu­tri­ent-rich sup­ple­ments, such as sea­weed liq­uid feeds and herb teas brewed from com­frey, grass clip­pings, pony poo and worm wees.

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