We fortunately missed any significant effects from Cyclone Hola as it passed New Zealand. We have some good autumn weather and, boy do the weeds keep growing and the lawns looking lush! It is certainly a good time to be taking advantage of the autumn planting season.

Autumn is well known as the best time of year to be planting new gardens and renovating existing ones. The advantage of planting during the autumn season is that plants have a much greater rate of success and establishment. Planting through these months enables plants to get their roots well established during the cooler months when soil moisture is greater before next summer arrives and the dry weather puts stress on plants.

After a very dry start to summer and much stress on plants, the latter part of summer has been an easier one for many trees and shrubs as regular rainfall has meant little summer stress has occurred for many plants and gardens.

The prolonged warmth this summer has been highly favourable in the vegetable garden, record temperatures and high sunshine hours has resulted in high yields in crops such as beans and corn. My cucumbers also performed super well and the tomatoes too have had a long and high yielding fruiting period. The high sunshine hours meant my 'day neutral' aromas variety of strawberries that performed so poorly last summer, have produced a great crop of berries this summer.

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My summer crop of broccoli has grown very well with a spray of Mavrik while spraying the tomatoes has kept the white butterfly caterpillars at bay. It has certainly been a great summer for the garden!

The season of autumn and its cooler temperatures mark the start spring bulb planting season; at this time of the year there are ample supplies of spring bulbs available in the garden centre but the supplies never last long. So buy your bulbs now even if you are not quite ready to plant yet.

Here is information on some lesser known bulbs that I think are something well worth growing;

Spraxis; these delights produce star shaped blooms on the ends of long arching stems in the spring. They are very easy to grow, they prefer a sunny well drained position. There are 3 colours available this year moonlight, sunshine and skyline.
Bluebells - 'Scilla King of the Blues' produce a stunning array of blue flower spikes. They naturalize very easily with very little care required for years to come. They can be planted any time from March to May and a semi shade spot is best planted in groups under the canopy of large trees.

Grape Hyacinth – Muscari; produces each spring flowers of rich cobalt blue on 10-15cm stems. They are quite hardy and tolerant to most conditions in the garden. For a bold effect plant in stand alone clumps or as a group in a border. Plant 3-5cm deep and 4-5cm apart in well worked soil. To keep the bulbs grouped they can be planted in large pots or a bowl placed just below the soil surface. Fertilise each year using Tui bulb fertiliser or similar.

Crocus; are said to 'herald the coming of spring' being a hardy early spring flowering bulb. They grow well in shady cool spots or under deciduous trees in bold groups. They make a great show when grown in bowls. For best results from planting in containers use a good bulb potting mix and place in a cool shady spot until shoots appear and then bring them inside or close to the house as they start to flower.

Have a great week.

Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre


More from Gareth Carter:

Gareth Carter: The tough get growing
Plant bulbs for a spring display
Gardening: Autumn's around the corner and there's work to be done