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

Gardening: Advice for summer seedlings

By Justin Newcombe

1 comment

Landscape gardener and Life columnist Justin answers your questions.

Plant your summer seedlings before mid-November. Photo / Richard Robinson
Plant your summer seedlings before mid-November. Photo / Richard Robinson

I'm trying to be very organised this year and have started growing seedlings for summer veges. Our winter ones went in late and are still producing, so I don't want to rip them out just yet. How long can I wait to plant summer vege seedlings so that I'll still get a good crop?
- Jacob Dinning

I wouldn't leave it any later than the middle of November. If your seedlings get big, you'll have to pot them on. But really Jacob, if I had to choose between Brussels sprouts and tomatoes then it's just going to have to be tomatoes. As painful as it is, I suggest you bite the bullet on the winter vege, yank them out if need be and chalk it up to experience.

Could you tell me how to get rid of blackberry? Our property has nice native plants on it but every year the blackberry comes back.
- Sally Rossi

Without using some pretty serious sprays which you wouldn't want near your lovely bush, the most successful method I've seen is to dig the crown out of the ground.

You can try removing the stems with a lawn mower or weed eater and then smother with old carpet (there's plenty of that at the dump). This will also stop seeds in the soil from growing once they have germinated. You need to try and do this before the fruit appears, as blackberry spreads from seed really easily. You can tether goats within range of the blackberries but out of range of the bush. If you use the goat method take care to give the goats plenty of water and shelter. If anyone else has suggestions for Sally please write in and let us know.

Our potatoes started off well, but over the past couple of weeks the leaves went crinkly and have now been stripped by something. We can't see anything, not even under the leaves. We don't like to use poison, so a suggestion of a natural spray would be appreciated.
- Leni

It's got to be slugs. Go out at night with your torch and look on your plants and the surrounding soil. It's not the big ones that do the damage but the little ones that live in the ground. These little guys have made me a very, very sad man at times. Don't just throw them into the neighbour's yard either - slugs and snails have an unbelievable homing instinct. They'll be back at yours in a couple of days. If you really don't want to do slug patrol at night, try using Quash which you will find at Kings.

I would like to make a raised garden bed like the one you made for the North Shore Hospital creche. Could you please tell me the dimensions of the wood you used? Also is it necessary to concrete it into place for it to be stable?
- Kirsten

I used macrocarpa sleepers which are 200x100mm in diameter and 2.1m long. The planter box was 2m long by 1m wide. It might not be necessary to concrete the sleepers into the ground. I've always concreted mine so I couldn't say for sure. If you do go ahead without concrete let me know how you get on. Even if it's a bit hairy.

Weekend checklist

* Plant spuds. Kings has an excellent range of seed potatoes.

* Start seeding tomatoes but be careful about putting the young seedlings out too soon. A cold snap can really knock the young plants back.

* Plant basil in trays from seed. It is quite fine and is easy to get a carpet. I plant it under tomatoes and usually in semi-shade over summer. In full sun I find it tends to bolt (go to seed).

* Plant your avocado trees as soon as it is warm. Plant in plenty of compost with sheep pellets, then mulch heavily.

* Mulch to retain moisture. Straw is my favourite but you can use seaweed, compost, or speciality mulches from Kings. I don't mulch my potatoes - I'm terrified of slugs finding a home next to my plants.

* Slug patrol. Go out at night with a torch and catch the blighters in the act. Most gardens are crawling and it's actually good fun.

* Test your soil by using a PH kit from Kings. It's really easy to do and you get to see what your soil needs and what will grow best in which part of your garden.

* Prepare all summer beds now. Use copious amounts of sheep pellets (I like to collect cow poo), blood and bone and other composted organic matter.

* If you have heavy soil try a no-dig garden (I'll show you how to make one in a forthcoming issue).

* Spray your roses weekly with garlic and baking soda spray, or use Shield from Kings (take care to follow the safety instructions methodically).

* Mulch citrus with compost. If they are budding up with new blossoms then mulch with seaweed. If your trees are showing signs of nutrient deficiency (yellow leaves and bud drop) treat with magnesium which you can get at Kings. Ask for Sequestrone Plant Tonic.

* Trim hedges.

* If your lawn is a bit thin or has big winter patches in it, re-seed it now. Mow it short, rake in sand and then rake grass seed through the sand. Don't let it dry out. If you have moss then dress with gypsum.

* Turn your compost ... again

For more gardening tips see

* To ask Justin a question, click on the email link below.

- NZ Herald

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