Fra­grant herb­s­mak­ing their mark

The Horowhenua Mail - - LETTERS - ROBERT GUYTON

HAR­VEST HERBS

Make use of any herbs you have grown that pro­duce volatile oils. Thyme, as fea­tured across many Cen­tral Otago land­scapes, smells strong­est and best when tem­per­a­tures are high­est. The oils must be some sort of pro­tec­tive re­sponse to heat, I’m guess­ing, so when con­di­tions are ex­tra hot at your place, as they are at mine, the fra­grant herbs are at their best. Mints, de­spite pre­fer­ring to grow in wet­ter parts of the gar­den, are smelling their best right now, so pick­ing now and mak­ing use of them is op­ti­mal. I’ve been us­ing herbs to pro­vide de­light­ful fra­grances for vis­i­tors, cre­ate re­fresh­ing and fresh teas, keep bit­ing in­sects at bay and to gen­er­ally steep my world in lovely smells. My balms and mints and ev­ery­thing else that smells nice, have been plucked, quite hard, and have re­sponded with fresh growth and re­newed vigour. It’s de­light­ful to have bushes of ‘‘smelly’’ herbs grow­ing along­side path­ways through­out the gar­den; brush­ing through them adds so much to the ex­pe­ri­ence of a gar­den ram­ble.

HOW TO COPE WITH BIG DRY

If you live in South­land, or any other re­gion that’s been as dry as a bone for far longer than usual, you’ll have been watch­ing the skies and hop­ing for rain! I didn’t know how long the gar­dens and or­chards here could sur­vive the arid con­di­tions we were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing be­fore the weather fi­nally turned cooler and it rained.

I hoped ev­ery­thing was re­silient and that the time I’ve put into build­ing a water-re­ten­tive soil with lots of hu­mus would pay off. Wa­ter­ing from the mains or tanks of stored rain­wa­ter was an emer­gency mea­sure, I be­lieved – mois­ture cap­tured in the soil by the or­ganic mat­ter con­tained therein should be all that’s re­quired, but when it came to newly planted trees and shrubs, I’d taken out in­surance by wa­ter­ing deeply when­ever I could. That meant care­ful use of stored water for us here, and so I chose the evening to give drinks to my young plants and hoped that a night of re­lief from the sun would give them time to drink deeply and re­plen­ish their wilted leaves be­fore the sun rose again in the morn­ing. It was no good mulching dur­ing the drought – that would do would be to stop any rain that might fall from get­ting to the roots where it was needed. Mulch should al­ways be ap­plied to well-wet­ted soil.

Some of my larger-leaved plants, the gun­nera (pic­tured) or Chilean rhubarb, for ex­am­ple, seemed to ben­e­fit from hav­ing any des­ic­cated leaves re­moved, leav­ing the still­green ones to keep the plant go­ing, but I’m not sure if that’s the case.

Of course it all be­came moot when the sev­eral days’ worth of rain ar­rived and re­vived the gar­den and filled the tanks but it was a les­son worth hav­ing and shar­ing, be­cause as sure as eggs, we’ll have an­other drought and that might be next year and for a longer time, who knows?

KEEP YOUR GOLDFISH COOL IN THEIR POOL

High tem­per­a­tures can cook fish. As the water heats up, oxy­gen lev­els fall, and fish strug­gle to fill their gills. Adding cooler water and pro­vid­ing shade helps. If drought is still a hap­pen­ing thing where you are, you may need to re­duce the num­ber of fish per litre if they’ve been breed­ing.

The creek that usu­ally flows through my for­est gar­den had been re­duced to a trickle by the lack of rain and the na­tive fish weren’t look­ing as happy as they had sev­eral weeks be­fore. I kept an eye on them and had a net at hand. Some na­tive fish can go into a sort of sleep when they can no longer func­tion and I ex­pected these might just hun­ker down in the mud if that’s all they could get. They’d have been hop­ing for rain as much as we gar­den­ers were. Re­ports from around South­land told a sad story for the fish in the de­pleted rivers, and any gar­den­ers keep­ing fish would take a use­ful les­son from this most un­usual sea­son.

CON­SIDER SOME GAR­DEN STATUARY

I’ve avoided plac­ing any­thing other than plants in my gar­den for many years, es­pe­cially avoid­ing the likes of plas­ter gnomes and con­crete deer, but now I’m not so ex­clu­sive. The idea of stone crea­tures sit­ting among my api­aceae and legu­mi­nosae is be­gin­ning to appeal as my gar­den ma­tures, though I’m still a bit cagey about flamin­gos and par­tially draped women shoul­der­ing urns of water. I like the idea of stone crea­tures of the

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

mythic sort, re­lax­ing in the gar­den, though I sup­pose I’m go­ing to have to set­tle for con­crete ver­sions. They’re very good though, go­ing by what I’ve seen in the gar­den cen­tres and there’s a great se­lec­tion to choose from. Those may not be to your taste, but there’ll be some­thing out there that you could en­joy dis­played along­side your flo­ral favourites. The ul­ti­mate would be to fash­ion stat­ues for your gar­den by your own hand, if that’s within your ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Rub­ber moulds are avail­able for the less skilled, which filled with con­crete or plas­ter can pro­vide some de­light­ful gar­den beasts for the imag­i­na­tive gar­dener.

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