The vagaries of spring hit last Sunday when our 20C-plus days disappeared and a lingering cold front came through. The rain should see us in good stead for a while and is certainly good for plant growth.
I was lucky enough to have some time off and visit some gardens in the Taranaki Garden Festival. There are so many spectacular gardens, if you have not been then I recommend you diary this as an event to visit next year. One of the standout plants in some of the gardens was the roses – all in bud and coming into flower as they do at this time of year.
I rate roses highly – I marvel that in winter you can buy a rose bush which is a few dormant sticks from the garden centre, and by mid-November the same plant will be 60-80cm tall with multiple stems and blooming furiously.
Roses are such good plants too for picking and bringing indoors. The colour of picked rose blooms offers vibrancy and life, while the scent can bring feelings of tranquillity and long forgotten happy memories from childhood.
Roses can be used to gain formality from a row of the ever-popular iceberg standards, providing a grand entrance to a home or business and offer direction along a pathway. Bush roses included in a mixed garden planting can be used to bring colour in a more informal way where different plant combinations offer a springboard effect through the year to create continuous beauty and interest.
A couple of standout roses to look out for are Mum in a Million and Lasting Love.
Mum in a Million offers an absolutely unbeatable scent and a deep pink old-fashioned style bloom that is very much in fashion. Mum in a Million is available as both a bush and a standard rose which offers numerous ways to include this in your garden.
Lasting Love is a deep dusky red hybrid tea rose that is ideal for picking. It is strongly scented and repeats flowering for month after month. It is a strong grower and is super healthy with low susceptibility to pest and disease.
There are so many more roses I could mention. It is worth a visit to the garden centre at the moment just to see so many different beautiful roses coming into bloom. So call in and see us - as the saying goes, slow down and take some time to smell the roses.
The ideal growing conditions for so many plants are also the ideal conditions for insect pests.
Insect pests proliferate faster than proverbial rabbits and can stunt or kill a plant. Many ornamentals tend to be hardier to bug infestations and ride it out as beneficial insects such as ladybirds, or other natural predators such as birds and hedgehogs, bring the ecosystem into balance.
In the vegetable and fruit garden, however, this is not the case. Plants succumb and a harvest is lost to unattended insect pest infestations in a matter of days or a few weeks. Prevention is the best resolve. Healthy plants are more resistant to insect infestations. This comes from plants being well fed and watered.
There are some useful items to aid this further in the form of "bug net". This is a very fine mesh-like cloth that is sold off the roll by the metre in the garden centre. As long as the covered plants or vegetable beds are pest free when they are covered then this method works pretty successfully. This has been made more convenient with the arrival to New Zealand of a recently marketed product Fruit and Vegetable Bags. With five sizes available these can be used to cover a particular plant or a group of plants protecting them from bugs.
With all vegetable crops it is important to take action to control them when they first appear; therefore the likelihood of a population explosion of these harmful little critters is reduced. There are two products that are excellent for insect control on vegetable plants - bee-friendly Yates Mavrik and Yates Success. Both are effective and can be used on many vegetables, fruit and ornamentals for the control of a wide range of insect pests including psyllid, caterpillars, aphids and whitefly. Yates Success also is the best control available for codlin moth and thrips.
One of the more frustrating insect pests to deal with is the potato/tomato psyllid. When they are first active in the garden, they are smaller than can be seen without a good magnifying glass. The psyllid injects a bacterial pathogen into the plant which once infected can't be treated. Therefore, if you wait to see damage it will be too late. The psyllid is easily controlled with Yates Mavrik or Yates Success which prevents the opportunity for infection. With the warmer weather and insect pests active, now is the time to start spraying potatoes and tomatoes for prevention of the devastating potato/tomato psyllid.
Another problem in the garden is when young seedlings have been planted out. Being small they are particularly vulnerable to damage. Slugs and snails are common culprits and are easily controlled by slug bait, beer traps or nightly torch missions with a bucket. They tend to vanish during the day, but a substantial population can often be found at night.
A less suspected culprit, but often quite destructive, is attacks from birds. There are a variety of methods that can be used to protect against birds and include bird scare tapes, hang DVDs or other sparkly items which reflect light which scares the birds. The use of wire netting cloches and covering with bird netting are highly effective methods.
Keeping an awareness of weather conditions is vital for protecting susceptible plants from fungus diseases such as mildew, botrytis and rust which can appear quickly and devastate a crop. High humidity and rain combined with warm temperatures are the triggers and once on a crop it is difficult to remedy. Watching for such conditions and then using a preventative spray of Grosafe Freeflow Copper is recommended. This spray is BioGro organically certified which is a big plus.
Have a great week.
• Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre