With spring just around the corner, Justin Newcombe says it's time to get reacquainted with your garden.
Even if you are looking out the window right now and things are looking a little bit soggy, it is time to get organised. It is all too easy to miss the boat in the garden, as it is all about being prepared. That said, it's not the end of the world if you don't get everything under way for spring and summer now. Even just a bit of a tidy-up and an afternoon outside feeding the lawns and getting reacquainted with your garden is worthwhile. But if you're feeling keen, I've compiled a list of the top five things you can do to make the most of that all-important early season growth.
1. Plan your vege garden
Planning is important because there are so many variables in gardening and once the plants are in the ground and growing it's too late to change things around. Consider using crop rotation or at least not planting the same types of crops in the same place twice. Use sun and shade wisely as some plants require lots of sun while others will bolt or wilt if they don't get a little protection from the summer sun. I've found companion planting worthwhile, especially incorporating flowers into my vegetable garden.
2. Start seedlings
Get everything under way. It all grows from now on, so pay close attention to your plan - which should include an idea of when to germinate seedlings. The other way to go of course is to just buy them ready to plant from Bunnings. And don't forget to plan for succession. There is no point having everything ripening at once (probably while you're on holiday) and then having a bare garden to deal with for the rest of summer. Once the main body of plants are under way, follow up by sowing and planting crops in small but frequent amounts.
3. Build up garden beds
Before you get your plants in the ground prepare the ground. I trench in bull kelp from Auckland's west coast, which helps condition the soil. Dress heavy soils with gypsum and blood and bone. Another method I like is no-dig gardening, which is about building soils up and is perfect for those of you with heavy soil. The idea is to build up a new layer of soil after each crop harvest. For more information check out my earlier story, "Making a living sandwich".
4. Feed lawns
With the ground warming, it's time to get stuck into those lawns. Dress with lime to kill off any moss growing around the base of the grass plants. The grass plants will take up nutrients easily at this time of the year and I can highly recommend urine. Most people do a double-take when I say this but why not? Urine is relatively harmless, especially when it's fresh and best of all, it's free. Urine is easy to apply, just mix it five parts water to one part urine and spray. If urine doesn't appeal, go with granulated fertiliser. A dressing of organic material like compost can also reap positive results.
5. Turn your prunings into mulch
If you have loads of midden - that's garden talk for branches, hedge trimmings and leaves - then you may want to consider hiring a mulcher. A mulcher is a great way to dispose of midden, turing it into a wonderful coarse material known, not surprisingly, as mulch.
Though this is too carbonic to use directly on the vege garden, it's perfect for garden paths and under trees. To make a path, simply cover the area you wish to make into a path with deconstructed, flattened cardboard boxes.
Place pongas or other edgings along the perimeter and cover the cardboard with mulch. No need to dig, or even mow the lawn. The mulch should be really thick and will need to be topped up annually. Use the same process as the path (cardboard, edging, mulch) to mulch under trees - fantastic for improving soil conditions and for moisture retention.