It continues to be a dry month with the city missing the hoped for rain on Wednesday night.

We are lucky in Whanganui that we have a good water supply and no water restrictions. A handy hint to ensure watering in the garden is the most effective is to water in the evening or early morning so as more water is absorbed into the soil and not evaporated before plants can use it.

The use of a mulch on the soil will also help conserve soil moisture, keeping plants healthier. A good product is 'Natural Bark Feeding Mulch'. It is a bark based mulch with added hydraflo (for water retention) poultry compost, & gypsum. This product is designed to fertilise, improve soil structure & retain moisture.
It is great spread around plants in the garden to retain soil moisture. It creates a suitable environment for surface feeding roots essential for healthy growth, It will protects the soil from compacting and erosion during heavy downpours. It adds organic matter to the soil and controls weed growth & improves appearance of garden beds.

For plants in pots that are drying out quickly each day I recommend adding 'Debco Saturaid'. This product is a granular soil wetter that makes for better absorption of water when it is applied deeper into the root system. Used by professional growers, it can be applied also to lawns and garden beds.

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Two of my favourite plants that are coming into their own now providing brilliant colour for the summer are Hydrangeas and Salvias

Sally Fun Salvias
The family of salvias, long known for their hardiness to drought, hot sun and constant flowering from summer through to the autumn months, in a diverse range of colours. Salvias are part of the mint family, also referred to as sage. Like the herbs, the leaves are delightfully aromatic when crushed.

There is a relatively new series of salvias that have really caught my eye. 'Sallyfun Salvia' have been bred in Israel for optimal garden performance in regards to both hardiness and floriferous. Two eyecatching varieties in deep blue colour are 'Blue Tune' and 'Deep Ocean', this contrasts spectacularly well with 'Sallyfun White' in the series. These are reputed to flower from spring until the first frost in all areas as well as through the winter months in warmer areas.

They can also be grown in pots on the patio for colour, right through the summer bbq season or it is great in the garden where it will reach 50cm high, providing brilliant colour.

Roses

Roses have always been a favourite flower in the garden. Modern varieties with their superb colour range, flower, form and many with fragrance make them irresistible for garden display or for cut flowers. Summer pruning or 'trimming' is usually done from now through to February. It consists of a tidy up, removing any dead branches or those showing dieback by cutting back to the bud about 5cm below the dead section. Any unproductive stems which have not produced good flowers or new shoots can also be removed. It is important to distinguish between 'water shoots' and 'briar shoots'. The former are tall vigorous, sappy shoots which suddenly develop from the crown of the plant (above the bud union) or from an old cane, while the latter arise from below the bud union. Always leave the 'water shoots' because they contribute to forming the future framework of the bush. They can be cut back when the wood is fully matured in winter. An application of rose fertiliser such as 'Tui Rose fertiliser' or 'Novatec' can be given now or in January to encourage further repeat flowerings. Scatter fertiliser around the plants (keep clear of the main stem) and lightly rake into the soil. Where the soil is mulched, the fertiliser can remain on the surface as the nutrients will wash down to the soil below. Always apply fertilisers when the soil is evenly moist and water well afterwards to disperse the nutrients to the root zone.

Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre.
More by Gareth Carter:
Gareth Carter: Gardening trees for spring
Gardening: Show me the way to Tamarillo
Keeping the grass greener
Make the most of your planting time