Coffee sacks a useful tool
TAKE A HANDY COFFEE SACK CARRIER BAG
Cafe´s often give away coffee sacks free, or for a small donation, and they have all sorts of uses in the garden. The pictured carrier is just the right size to lay on the ground to catch pruning clippings and it works well as a boot liner too.
To make a carrier, unpick the string from the side seams of a coffee sack. (Don‘t throw away the string – it‘s perfect garden twine.) Pick a sack that has a seam down one side and across the bottom so you end up with a square piece of hessian.
Sow sturdy ribbon webbing (buy from Spotlight) around the sides to form carry loops at the corners and strengthen the edges.Sacks are also ideal for storing autumn leaves while they rot down. They are prettier than black garbage bags and come with their own ventilation. I tried growing potatoes in sacks but found they dried out too quickly. Instead I use sacks to disguise grow bags of potting mix and ugly plastic pots.
DIVIDE YOUR PRIMROSES AND POLYANTHUS
The four Ps. Along with pansies, primulas, primroses and polyanthus are reliable for cheerful flowers through winter. There can be some confusion with the names, however, as polyanthus, primula and primrose are often used interchangeably. That’s understandable because primroses and polyanthus are both members of the primula genus which has around 400 species.
The name primula comes from the Latin primus or first as they are among the first of the spring flowers.
Primroses (Primula vulgaris) have clusters of flowers on erect stems arising from a rosette of basal leaves. Flowers can be single or grouped together as an umbel on a single stem. They are often yellow but have been bred in many other colours. Polyanthus, meaning many flowers, have larger clusters of flowers held above the leaves on sturdy stems. They are hybrids of the cowslip (Primula veris) and the common primrose (Primula vulgaris).
Polyanthus have been extensively hybridised and come in a wide range of often multicoloured petals. There are also auriculas (Primula auricula), the subject of much interbreeding for display by Florists Societies during the 18th and 19th centuries.
These perennials should not be confused with Primula malacoides, aka fairy primrose, which is a winter and spring flowering annual. The flowers look more delicate and the stems are much taller (to 30cm).
When it comes to bedding plants, more is more! A generous patch looks better than a sparse sprinkle dotted about. Luckily it’s easy to bulk up your stock of plants. Over a season, primroses and polyanthus grow into clumps of easily divided plantlets called crowns. Dig up each plant, shake or wash off excess soil and tease the roots of each crown apart. Trim off any woody or dead bits and replant. Keep moist until they are established. Feed with dried blood or tomato fertiliser when buds start to form.
It’s getting a bit late in the season but in warm areas there’s still time to start Primula malacoides, pansies and their mini relatives – violas –from seed in trays. Seedlings are also available in punnets or as potted colour from garden centres.
WHEN TO LIFT AND MOVE DAFFODILS
Daffodils don‘t need to be lifted and stored every year but if they look like the ones above, then it‘s time to give them a bit more elbow room.
Ideally, move them before they start to sprout as they will be easier to handle. Dig up the whole clump with a fork. Shake or rinse off excess soil. These daffodils had 1-2cm roots that needed to be gently teased apart. Refresh the soil with compost and bulb fertiliser and replant a few in the original spot. The rest can be given away or replanted elsewhere in the garden or in pots. The smallest baby bulbs are unlikely to flower this spring. I planted them separately in a large shallow tub to grow on for a year before finding them a new home in my garden.
REJUVENATE YOUR RHUBARB
After four or five years, rhubarb clumps get crowded and form smaller leaves with thin stems. Clear away most of the leaves, then chop the clump into 2-3 pieces with several buds and as much root as possible. Bigger chunks will establish faster. The new plants are going to be in the same place for years so it’s worth giving them a good start with the rich nutrients they require. Dig
a big hole and half fill with compost and fertiliser. Old books talk about using a 45cm layer of manure and handfuls of woodash. Neither of these are easy to come by in the inner city so I make do with compost plus half a bucket of sheep pellets and a handful of Nitrophoska. Let new plants grow for a year before picking from them.
GROW ORCHIDS OUTDOORS
Cymbidiums might look fragile but they are easy to grow in the garden, either in pots or the ground. To get a good display, stake each stem. The plastic clips shown are available from garden centres. Each spike lasts for a couple of months. Feed with high nitrogen food in spring and early summer for fast growth. Change to a high potash food from summer to winter for flower formation. Watch out for snails!
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