GAR­DEN­ING Get­ting to know your onions


evenly wa­tered, as stressed plants seem to be more sus­cep­ti­ble to aphid at­tacks. 3. Best face for­ward. The big­gest shards will dis­guise plas­tic pots if the break is turned to­wards the fence. 4. Plant pro­tec­tors. Pot rims safe­guard bulbs while they are dor­mant. 5. Minia­ture gar­dens. Alpines, mosses, suc­cu­lents and other tiny plants look charm­ing in tiny land­scapes or fairy gar­dens. 6. Homes for wildlife. Make a lizard lounge or an in­sect ho­tel. 7. Stor­age shelf. A 60cm tall pot split ver­ti­cally. I placed the pieces up­side­down against a wall and topped them with a wire shelf to hold dor­mant plants out of the way. 8. String dis­penser. Flip a cracked pot up­side­down over a ball of string – pull out through the drainage hole. 9. Pel­let cover. If you use slug bait, put it un­der a piece of bro­ken pot to pro­tect it from the rain and out of the way of birds and pets. 10. Spill pots. Let plants tum­ble out of the break or place pots on their side in the gar­den. Grow a ‘‘river’’ of ground­cover plants that ap­pears to flow out of the pot.

I won’t be us­ing pot shards for drainage in con­tain­ers. This is a gar­den myth that will not die in spite of 100 years of sci­en­tific tests. In­tu­itively it seems so plau­si­ble: roots need good drainage to get enough oxy­gen and wa­ter runs more freely through coarse ma­te­rial. So what’s the prob­lem? Stud­ies show that wa­ter does not move eas­ily from lay­ers of fin­er­tex­tured ma­te­ri­als to coarse­tex­tured ones. The big­ger the dif­fer­ence in par­ti­cle size the more dif­fi­cult it is for wa­ter to move through the lay­ers. The soil has to be sat­u­rated be­fore it drains. So us­ing shards in­creases the chance of wa­ter­log­ging and re­duces the soil vol­ume in the con­tainer. Tidy up the straw­berry patch. Cut off old tatty leaves and ex­tra runners not needed for new plants. Weed the patch, be­ing par­tic­u­larly care­ful to re­move the en­tire tap root of peren­nial weeds like dan­de­lions and docks.

Mulch thickly. I’ve used shreds from the cab­bage trees I had re­moved but other or­ganic mulches like straw, sea­weed in­fused sphag­num moss, peas­traw, post peel­ings or com­post will keep down the 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 weeds and break down to nour­ish the soil.

Pun­nets of straw­berry seedlings are ap­pear­ing in gar­den cen­tres now. They are much cheaper than the large­grade plants laden with flow­ers and fruit that are so tempt­ing in spring.

Plant sev­eral va­ri­eties to ex­tend your har­vest pe­riod.

Grow in full sun in rich, welldrained soil. Plant on slightly raised ridges or mounds if the bed is likely to get wa­ter­logged over win­ter.

Al­low space be­tween plants for air move­ment. Mulch well.

Pro­tect from snails and slugs. A dust­ing of di­atoma­ceous earth from DENZ re­duces the ear­wig pop­u­la­tion.

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