The Back Yard
Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

Gardening Q & A: Let the light shine in

By Justin Newcombe

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Landscape gardener and Life columnist Justin answer your questions.

Justin's propagation house is now pumping out the plants. Photo / Richard Robinson
Justin's propagation house is now pumping out the plants. Photo / Richard Robinson

In your weekend project: Room to grow (October 16, 2010) can you tell me please what the roof of your propogation house was - corrugated iron or the laserlite?? Also does it just sit on a concrete or paver base or is it not attached?
- Catherine.

The propagation house I built has laserlite covering the roof and half of the wall area. I used weatherboards on the lower half of the shed.

The floor is made of pavers and is described in a separate story.

I can report that the propagation house is pumping out the plants and looking great.

I have a problem under the big trees in my back yard. There is no more grass as the dogs have been digging like mad. I sow lawn seeds, you name it, did the lawn prep and all that I thought was needed but to my despair the large area is still bare and the wind brings the soil dust into the house.

What do you recommend? Have a great weekend and keep up the good job!
- Brigitte

First off you need to keep the dogs off the emerging grass if you're to have a dog's show of improving your dust bowl. Grass under trees can be very tricky but Kings have a wide range of seed to help. The other problem with trees is that the roots take up the soil nutrients and compete with the grass, usually resulting in compromised grass plants. Topping up the soil will help temporarily but to keep a good lawn in this situation will require a lot of maintenance. Have you thought about mulching under the tree and planting it in garden?

There are heaps of low maintenance options at Kings but you'll still need to keep your pooches on a tight leash until things get established.

Grass grubs are driving me nuts. I have lived in a unit on the river bank for 30 years and it's been an ongoing problem. I am a bit wary about using commercial products as I have an organic garden. I have tried Condy's crystals. Help!
- Raywyne

Grass grubs have a huge habitat ranging from pasture land to the most manicured bowling green. Kings have a product by Yates called Soil Insect Killer. This is a granulated product which dissolves in the soil as it rains or you can just water it in.

A less effective, but organic, alternative is Neem granules which are applied in the same way as the Soil Insect Killer. A biological option is to change your grass type to a tall fescue. Research shows that grass grub damage on tall fescue is significantly less than other types of grass.

Re: Weekend project: One out of the box lunchbox. I teach zerowaste education in schools and am interested in this as a tech project. Is this treated or non-treated ply? Have you tried using and washing it yet? Do you think the glue will hold it together? What glue did you use? I think it's an excellent idea, and am going to make one - what measurements did you use? Thanks for the great idea
- Anna Murphy

I'm pleased to report the lunch boxes were a smash hit sensation with my kids and their friends.

I used a 4mm hardwood ply that was untreated and I glued them together with extra strength PVA glue. Cleaning the box is as simple as giving the box a wipe-out with a damp cloth and a rub down with olive oil every couple of weeks.

I also line the box with paper each morning.

For stubborn grime try rubbing on some baking soda mixed up to a paste with water.

I have changed the lid design slightly as my daughter had trouble opening the lunchbox.

I now have a sleeve made out of ply glued to the inside of the box that protrudes about 3cm proud of the top of the box.

This is covered by a lid which is the exact same dimensions as the box itself and fits around the sleeve. This looks tidier and is easier to put on and take off.

To get the measurements I used two slices of bread side by side. Good luck.

Weekend checklist

* Plant beetroot, broad beans and broccoli

* Prepare onion and garlic beds with seaweed and mulch

* Very last chance to plant wild flowers and bulbs

* Prune your grapevine. Plant cyclamen for wicked winter colour

* Lightly trim hedges, prune roses and deciduous fruit trees.

* Establish positions for winter tree planting and start adding organic material. In clay soil, dig the hole early and dress with gypsum

* Pick up frost cloth from Kings and set up winter cloches.

* Clean out beds not being used over winter and mulch or green crop.

* Plant winter herbs such as sorrel, thyme and rosemary. Split up French tarragon and replant in pots.

* Plant sweet peas in mild areas.

* Do any heavy tree work now , this will help let in winter light and get things set up for some new growth in spring.

* Split up day lilies, dietes, clivia, mondo grass, libertia, flax and astelia.

* Remove plants from patio pots. Trim the roots as well as the canopy and replant in Kings potting mix.

* Protect crops from insect pests with Tui Eco-Pest which controls caterpillars, white fly, aphids, blight and more.

* Lift and store dahlias

* Plant camellias now with loads of new varieties available at Kings.

- NZ Herald

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