Pantyhose the perfect garden aid
KEEP SWEET PEAS CLIMBING UPWARDS
I don’t get annoyed when I snag my pantyhose because laddered tights make the best plant ties. Narrow slices across the legs make fine, flexible strips for sweet peas. Wider strips are sturdier – just right for tomatoes. Waistbands are strong enough for straightening trees. Even the ‘‘seats’’ have a use as hammocks for melons and pumpkins growing up a trellis. Back in April, NZ Gardener gave away 3000 packets of seeds for the Great Sweet Pea Challenge. Of course, I had to have a go too. If your sweet pea plants are anything like mine, they’ll be flopping everywhere by now. Tie in individual climbing stems to the trellis or other framework to encourage upward growth. Flowers will have longer, straighter stems and be easier to pick if the plants are under control. Take lots of pictures! There are prizes for the best arrangement, best individual bloom and best photo of sweet peas in the garden. Send Great Sweet Pea Challenge entries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEASON FOR SUCKERS – APHID ALERT
Inspect new growth of roses, fruit trees, onions, garlic, hedges and swan plants for aphids. Every one you dispose of now won’t contribute to a population explosion later in spring and summer. Aphids are viviparous, which means females lay live babies not eggs. The babies can begin reproducing in a week so populations can build up very quickly. Aphids are sap suckers. They weaken the host plant, transmit viruses and sooty mould grows on the honeydew they secrete. For small clusters use digital control – run your fingers along each twig, squashing as you go. A blast with the hose is effective too and some people even take to their roses with a handheld dust buster. Nipping off aphid-infested stems of swan plants has the additional benefit of keeping the plants compact. Soapy dish-washing water (cooled of course) splashed over onions and garlic deals to allium aphids. Organic sprays include EnSpray 99® Spraying Oil from Grosafe, Organic Insect Control from Kiwicare and Nature’s Way Pyrethrum from Yates. The good news is that aphids are species specific. If the swan plants are swarming with yellow aphids they’ll stay there and won’t hop over to suck on the roses.
REPOT BEGONIA CORMS READY FOR SUMMER
The little pink sprouts on the begonia corm above are the sign that it’s ready to be replanted. The corm spent the winter in a box in the shed away from the rain. In August, it was put outside in a well-lit, frost-free spot out of direct sunlight where it got some rain but wasn’t drowned. Now it’s ready to plant. I grow mine in pots so I can move them to the front when they’re looking wonderful and hide them at the back when they need a rest. Use fresh, goodquality potting mix in a pot with adequate, unblocked drainage holes. Don’t plant too deep. The tuber should be barely covered. Don’t over-water or let the pot sit constantly in water, but do keep the soil constantly moist. Avoid watering the leaves. Place pots where the plants get plenty of light but are out of harsh, direct, midday sun. Stake stems in order to support the heavy blooms but don’t damage the corms. Choose a pot that suits the growth form – tall pots or hanging baskets for trailers and tumblers; sturdy ones for large, erect forms. If a plant in a squat pot turns out to be a tumbler and not the upright specimen you expected, save the day by propping the pot up on a pedestal of bricks or an upturned pot.
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
Longer spring days can trigger bolting in silverbeet, perpetual silverbeet (pictured above) and spinach. The plants decide it’s time to set seed and there’s not much you can do about it. You can slow things down a bit by cutting out the main stem, but it’s a sign the plants have done their dash. Sow spinach seed or pop in some seedlings every couple of weeks for a continuous supply. Grow in a cooler, partially shaded spot over summer. Two sowings of silverbeet a year is enough for most families as plants crop for a long time.