Winter wanderings; garlic, roses, trees, fruits, lilies — the time to plant is now!

Winter has well and truly arrived, though a few deciduous trees are still displaying some good autumn colour around the city. I have seen some beautiful ginkgos around the city with a spectacular iridescent yellow surrounded by a beautiful golden carpet of fallen leaves. A trip to Bason Botanic Gardens on Rapanui Rd is always worthwhile to see the splendour that each season brings to different trees — check it out if you haven't been for a while.

The availability and range of plants for home gardeners relies a lot on the seasons. The start of June signals the main lifting season for production nurseries that specialise in "field grown" plants. Field grown plants are those that are grown in rows out in a field until they reach the desired size for selling to home gardeners. These plants are most successfully "lifted" and potted for delivery through garden centres from May to July, because as the winter arrives plants are in a slower growth phase or dormant. The cooler temperatures, reduced sunshine hours and more frequent wet weather all conspire to minimise water loss from the plant. This is particularly important given that the plants' roots will have been cut during the lifting process and will be recovering from being transplanted.

Plant lines that are field grown are frequently only seasonally available in stores. The main plants that are field grown in New Zealand include roses, deciduous trees and fruits. So if you are looking for anything that falls into these categories then the next month or so is the best time to be searching the stores. If you want a wide selection to choose from, then get in quick as this year many of these nurseries have had record orders. Trees in particular have been rationed as large numbers of plants and trees are going into housing subdivisions throughout many cities.

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Garlic
June is also the main planting time for garlic. These healthy plants have become extremely popular in recent years as cooking shows and the like have shown the wide range of culinary dishes that garlic can be used in.
Growing your own garlic at home has risen in popularity along with all other home grown vegetables. Garlic is easy to grow and suffers very few pest or disease problems and the presence of it in your vegetable garden can actually help other vegetables with it shown to be beneficial when grown close to lettuce and cucumber plantings.
White garlic is the most commonly available and has a strong flavour. Elephant garlic has a strong garlic (but milder than other garlic) flavour. Interestingly it is not a true garlic but is from the leek family. The cloves grow significantly larger than regular garlic, hence the name.

Garlic is generally sold as bulbs which then should be broken up into individual cloves for planting. Garlic cloves should be spaced 10cm apart and approx 5cm deep. The soil should be loosened and dug over prior to planting. The soil should be fertile with good drainage. The addition of compost, blood and bone or potato food is advantageous. The old adage is to plant your garlic on the shortest day and then harvest on the longest. The window for planting and harvesting is in fact a lot larger with plantings being able to be made from April through into July and then harvest in December or January when the tops start to fall over or brown off. At this time they should be pulled from the soil and allowed to dry in a sunny, well ventilated position for 1-2 weeks. Then they should be placed in a dark, dry, well ventilated location where they will store for up to a year.

Lilies
Also time to plant now are lily bulbs. Planted now these will sprout during the late winter then they will grow during spring and start flowering around December. Lilies are easy to grow and can be left in the ground for a number of years. Each year the clumps of bulbs will increase as will the subsequent number of blooms.
They grow best in a sunny situation with rich well drained soil. For great results lilies should be fed with bulb fertiliser three times each year. Once at planting, once before flowering and once after flowering when the plants are storing energy for flowering the following year. Care should be taken to ensure the fertiliser does not come into direct contact with the bulbs.

Lilies are generally either asiatic or oriental. Asiatic lilies are generally earlier flowering and there is a larger colour range to choose from, most are not scented. Asiatic lilies tend to multiply much faster than oriental types. While oriental lilies are a bit later flowering, the flowers tend to be larger and scented. Planting some of each will give you a longer flowering season. Asiatic types are available in stores now, with oriental varieties expected in a few weeks. These are well worth planting for some summer flowering colour.
Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre