Home' Greymouth Star : March 9th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
In the Garden
8 - Thursday, March 9, 2017
ince the 1960s, plastic has
become so widely used
that it is almost impossible
to imagine a world — or
garden — without it.
Older readers will
remember buying bundles of plants
wrapped in newspaper or trees with
scrim around the root ball, while pots
were terracotta, garden stakes were
bamboo, seed trays were wood and peas
grew on wire netting. Plastic changed
Yet plastic is not new. Its forerunner,
Parkesine, dates back to 1862 and
the first true plastic, Bakelite, was
invented in 1909. The change is our
ever-increasing dependence on plastic,
most of it derived from petrochemicals,
which is why it takes forever to break
down in landfills and the ocean.
Burning plastic produces a cancer-
causing chemical, so recycling is the
only way to go. Most people are familiar
with the triangles stamped on plastic
containers. Inside the “chasing arrows”
is a number that shows the plastic
type. The coding system identifies the
polymer (chemical compound) type, as
each has to be recycled separately.
Before putting plastics in the recycling
bin, canny gardeners can get some extra
use out of them. For example, my two
resin chairs were going to be thrown out
by a neighbour who was moving house.
They were covered with green mould
but an afternoon’s scrubbing brought
them up as good as new — and saved
me about $30.
I saved even more with another
“rescue”, more than 9m of plastic mesh
on a trailer of rubbish destined for the
tip. I asked my neighbour if I could take
it (he thought I was mad but agreed)
and saved about $60.
Keeping an eye out for freebies is
good for the environment as well as the
budget, so here are some I’ve tried. —
Plastic mesh cutlery trays are better
than purpose-built seed trays, as they
have ready-made divisions and seeds do
not get mixed.
Ice-cream containers are good for
seedlings. Put holes in the bottom for
drainage and chop up the lids to make
When the plants are in their
permanent homes, strips of pantyhose
can be used to tie them without cutting
A plastic milk or soft-drink bottle
with top and bottom removed makes
a shield around a tender plant or can
isolate a weed so it can be sprayed
without harming nearby plants. Before
spraying, trim the weed so it is just
below the top of the plastic.
Milk containers can also make
airtight containers for granular
fertilisers. Label them clearly.
Save laundry-powder scoops for
measuring lime and fertilisers. Write on
the handles products and how much a
As a temporary frost cover, fix a
heavy clear plastic bag over tender
vegetables like runner beans, gradually
lifting it as the weather perks up.
I’ll never be as clever as a neighbour,
though. For his garden, he took old
car tyres — many of which are now
produced from plastic compounds —
and created two swans, one white and
Gillian Vine has a gardening blog
at gillianssoutherngarden.blogspot.com .
Twenty essential edible herbs and how to grow
them features in the March issue of the New
Zealand Gardener magazine.
To win a copy send your name, address and
daytime phone number to.—
New Zealand Gardener
C/- Greymouth Star
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Strictly one entry per household. Entries
close on March 15.
To chill or not to chill. It is an age-old
question and one I get asked every year in the
lead up to spring bulb planting.
So what is the answer?
Yes — you may need to chill your spring
flowering bulbs, but only tulips and
hyacinths. And it is only essential if you
experience fewer than five frosts a winter. But
even if you do get enough natural chilling in
winter, fridge chilling can still give benefits
— taller stems and earlier flowering.
Tulips and hyacinths are native to areas
which experience quite cold winters and
they need this cold period for the bulb to
complete the development of the flower
bud deep inside. Sure signs you should
have chilled your bulbs are if they produced
unusually short stems or the bulbs failed to
flower at all.
Done correctly, chilling your tulips and
hyacinths will result in perfect spring flowers.
Here are my tips for optimal bulb
1. Do not start chilling until late March —
too early and you will stunt the flower bud
2. Use a paper bag. It is very important
the bulbs can breathe and plastic bags cause
sweating and rot may develop.
3. Keep the bulbs to the side of the fridge,
not at the back where the cooler plate may ice
up and damage them, or where condensation
may cause mould to develop.
4. Never put bulbs in the freezer! The
freezer is too cold and will kill your bulbs.
5. Keep fruit out of the fridge while you are
chilling your bulbs. Ripening fruit releases
a gas called ethylene which can cause severe
damage to the developing flower bud in
the bulb. If you cannot keep fruit out of the
fridge, include an ethylene-absorbing sachet
in the bag with the bulb. This will prevent
ethylene damage and suppress mould growth
(they ’re actually really good in the veggie
compartment too, to make your veggies keep
Once you have chilled your bulbs for
around eight weeks it is time to start planting
in mid to late May when soil temperatures
Before you plant, work the soil with a fork
to a depth of 25cm. This is deeper than the
bulbs need to be planted but will allow their
new roots to easily push further into the soil.
Then plant your bulbs around 15cm deep —
it is cooler down there. Once planted give
your bulbs a light watering.
In cooler parts of New Zealand you can
plant tulips and hyacinths successfully in
pots, but because pots warm up so quickly,
even in winter, I do not recommend them for
Apply a bulb fertiliser (available from your
local garden centre) once the shoots emerge,
water well and you can expect your bulbs to
put on a spectacular show come spring.
— Visit www.nzbulbs.co.nz
with Gillian Vine
The two chairs were going to be thrown out.
Laundry scoops make handy measures.
A garden sculpture made from a car tyre.
A garden centre’s recycling initiative.
To chill or not to
Crisp slices of pear on a cheese platter,
delicious pear tarts and cakes and refreshing
savoury salads are just some of the ways pears
can be enjoyed.
Pears are high in dietary fibre and a good
source of potassium and the peak pear har vest
season runs from late summer into autumn.
You do not need to have a large garden to
be able to grow a pear tree. Dwarf varieties
such as Waimea Nurseries Garden Belle only
grow to around 2.5m tall so are perfect for
both small gardens and growing in pots.
Pears are also great for espaliering, where
the trees are trained to grow flat against a
wall or trellis, so take up very little room.
Pears do best in cool to temperate zones,
with different varieties requiring different
levels of ‘chilling hours’ to maximise the fruit
yield. Check the pollinator requirements
for your chosen variety, as some need to be
planted near a suitable mate to be able to set
fruit. Other wise try a double grafted pear
tree where two compatible varieties are part
of the same tree and will ‘self ’ pollinate.
Pears are most commonly planted during
winter as bare rooted trees however can also
be available as potted trees which are great
for planting during autumn
Coriander is a polarising herb. You either
love it or hate it!
For coriander lovers, seed can be sown
during March, direct where the plants are
to grow. It makes an ideal container plant, as
the pot can be positioned in a partly shaded
area which receives just morning sun. This
will help keep the coriander cooler and delay
it running to seed. Keep the pot moist and
har vest the leaves regularly to encourage
fresh new foliage.
To promote lots of fragrant and tasty
coriander leaves, feed regularly with veggie
and herb liquid plant food, which is rich in
nitrogen to promote leafy green growth.
Not so wonderful
Are grasses like kikuyu and couch creeping
into garden beds and close to trunks of trees
and shrubs? Or dandelions and thistles
popping up in among your precious petunias?
The start of autumn is a great time to get
your weeds under control, before they have
an opportunity to flower and set seed.
Weeds also compete with your garden
plants for nutrients and water and grass
growing right up to trees will absorb much
of the valuable moisture and nutrients before
they even reach the tree roots below the soil.
Carefully spot spray weeds in and around
garden beds, ensuring spray does not contact
wanted plants. Trees will benefit from having
their root zone free of grass.
Create a grass free halo around tree and
shrub trunks by spraying the grass with Zero
and then apply a layer of mulch around the
root zone once the grass has died. This will
help to keep the roots moist and reduce weed
and unwanted grass growth.
If you have ever thought about growing
your own garlic, autumn is the time to your
get your gardening gloves on and give it a go.
Garlic is such a delicious ingredient in so
many recipes and think of the brag factor of
ser ving up home grown garlic bread, roasted
garlic or aioli.
Find a sunny spot in a garden bed that you
can dedicate to growing garlic for around
8 months. It does take a while to grow
and mature. Ideally the soil should be well
drained and on the slightly acidic side (pH
of around 6).
Raised garden beds are ideal for growing
garlic. You can also grow garlic in a pot — the
bigger the pot the easier it will be to maintain
(and the more garlic you can grow), so choose
a pot that ’s at least 30 cm in diameter.
Mix blood and bone into the garden soil
or potting mix. This helps increase the
amount of organic matter in the soil which
attracts earthworms and soil microbes, helps
retain moisture and nutrients in the soil and
promotes better soil structure.
It is best to buy fresh garlic cloves from
a garden centre as garlic purchased in a
supermarket may have been sprayed with a
sprouting inhibitor and is unlikely to grow.
Plant the garlic cloves around 4cm deep
with the pointy end facing up, leaving around
10cm between each clove.
After planting, water the garden bed or
pot well and apply a 5cm layer of mulch like
sugar cane or pea straw. This will help keep
the soil moist. When the first garlic shoots
emerge through the mulch, start feeding
every fortnight and water regularly.
After around 8 months, or when a few of the
leaves start to die back, it is time to har vest.
Hang har vested plants (with the leaves still
attached) in an airy sheltered spot for about a
month to dry and cure, then it ’s ready to use.
The bright little petaled faces of pansies are
one of the delights of the cooler months.
Whether you have a bare spot in a sunny
or partly shaded garden bed or want to
brighten a courtyard or balcony with some
flower packed pots, pansies provide a splash
of happy colour.
Pansy Joker Mix is an early flowering mix
of blotched and straight colour blooms
in shades of yellow, mauve, orange and
burgundy that will flower delightfully over a
Sow seeds in trays of seed raising mix and
transplant out into sunny or partly shaded
garden beds or containers when the seedlings
are around 5cm tall. To create an additional
wow factor, combine pansies with late winter
and spring flowering bulbs like daffodils,
jonquils tulips, hyacinths, freesias, hyacinths
and anemones, which become available from
March. The pansies will provide a beautiful
carpet of flowers and then the bulbs will pop
through the pansies and begin their gorgeous
Whether you whizz it up in a green
smoothie, use in a stirfry, bake into chips,
add to a frittata or mix in with pasta or rice
dishes, kale is a healthy and versatile veggie
that has become increasingly popular over
Kale is rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary
fibre, as well as having the health benefits of
other plants in the brassica family.
Kale can be sown directly where they are to
grow or sown 6mm deep in trays filled seed
raising mix and the seedlings transplanted
into a sunny or semi shade spot when around
Kale can also be grown in containers,
making it ideal for courtyard and balcony
Not only for the veggie patch, it has
attractive grey foliage and provides a lovely
contrast when mixed with flowers in garden
It is important to feed leafy veggies like kale
with a nitrogen rich complete plant food,
that promotes green leaf growth.
Supplied by Yates
March gardening jobs to do
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