Time to sort out peren­ni­als



Worn out peren­ni­als that have been flow­er­ing their socks off all sum­mer can be ti­died up now. Cut stems back to the crown or base of the plant and if there’s any new growth, then cut just above it. In very cold ar­eas, don’t cut back so se­verely. Leave some woody stems to pro­tect the crown from frost. Shred or com­post the old growth ex­cept for dis­eased leaves and un­wanted seed­heads. Don’t be too swift with the se­ca­teurs though.

Spare the se­dums, echi­nacea and other flow­ers that hold their shape well and feed birds over win­ter. Now that we’ve had some rain but the soil is still warm, it’s a good time to plant those gar­den cen­tre im­pulse pur­chases or any di­vi­sions taken from es­tab­lished clumps. Pic­tured here is He­le­nium ‘Lord of Flan­ders’ which can grow to 1.5m. The deep bronze-red flow­ers on stiff, erect stems start in mid-Fe­bru­ary and last un­til late au­tumn. Buy plants by mail or­der from Marsh­wood Gar­dens



Pro­tect­ing eggs is just one use for egg car­tons. Apart from be­ing a stal­wart of preschool craft projects and stor­ing Christ­mas or­na­ments, they are handy gar­den gad­gets too. They’re of­ten touted as be­ing good for rais­ing seedlings. The idea is to plant the card­board seg­ment along with the seedling so the roots are not dis­turbed. I’m not con­vinced by this method. I don’t think the seg­ments hold enough seed rais­ing mix and they dry out eas­ily. But if it works for you, go for it. At my place, car­tons that aren’t passed on to chicken-own­ing friends end up as the top in­su­la­tion layer in my worm farm or com­post bin. They’re also ex­cel­lent hold­ers for pota­toes while they are chit­ting so the shoots don’t get knocked about. Egg car­tons are good for stor­ing tulip and hy­acinth bulbs while chill­ing in the fridge too as they al­low good air cir­cu­la­tion.

NZ Gar­dener edi­tor Jo McCar­roll foils birds by pick­ing her figs early and keep­ing them in a handy egg car­ton un­til they’re ripe enough to make figs in spiced brandy. Ripe figs are so soft they squash eas­ily if car­ried in a bag. For more in­for­ma­tion on figs and how to grow them, see Kate Mar­shall’s fea­ture in the April is­sue of NZ Gar­dener, on sale now.


Ev­ery year I grow cleome (spi­der flow­ers) as a catch crop to at­tract green shield bee­tles away from my beans and toma­toes. Cleome are en­thu­si­as­tic self-sow­ers. Ev­ery flow­er­ing stem pro­duces many long slim spi­dery pods. When ripe, the pods ex­plode and send seeds in all di­rec­tions. I haven’t had to buy seed for years – I just move op­por­tunis­tic seedlings to bet­ter lo­ca­tions. Sur­plus seedlings are easy to pull out so mine have not be­come weeds. Some par­tic­u­larly pretty white ones cropped up in the mixed patch of pink and pur­ple cleome this year. I’ve saved some seeds. I’m not sure if they’ll come true but it would be nice if they do. My town­house is built of or­ange bricks which make an un­for­tu­nate colour com­bi­na­tion with pink and pur­ple! Pick the seed pods as they start to turn brown but be­fore they’re com­pletely ripe. If you leave it too late the slight­est touch trig­gers a seed-dis­pers­ing ex­plo­sion. Spread seeds out on a paper towel in a well­ven­ti­lated place un­til they‘re com­pletely dry. Store in an air-tight con­tainer (with a packet of sil­ica des­ic­cant if pos­si­ble) in a cool room or the fridge. Cleome seeds don’t stay vi­able for long so make a note in your diary to plant them next spring or early sum­mer.


Shal­low-rooted crops in a big con­tainer don’t need all that ex­tra pot­ting mix. I usu­ally use big chunks of poly­styrene to save on mix and make the pot lighter but half-full con­tain­ers work too. Seedlings get off to a good start as they are shel­tered from the wind and are easy to cover with frost cloth, bird net­ting or clear plastic as re­quired. Don’t try this with root crops or plants with big root sys­tems and

be aware that shal­low pot­ting mix in a small pot dries out much more quickly than a larger vol­ume.


Warm tem­per­a­tures plus rain equals weeds. Pull them out now be­fore they take over. Give cit­rus their au­tumn feed. Spread fer­tiliser when rain is fore­cast so it gets wa­tered in eas­ily. Sow green crops in beds not needed for win­ter crops. Sow broad beans, beet­root, spinach and peas, and trans­plant bras­sica seedlings. Thin out rows of car­rots, radishes, beet­roots and turnips. Deal to black aphids on onions with a dose of soapy wa­ter. It’s your last chance to tackle scale with sum­mer-strength spray­ing oil.

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

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