What a great summer for growing we have had. The warm temperatures combined with rain have kept soil moisture levels higher than other years.
Shallow rooted plants such as those in flower and vegetable gardens still need regular watering as do recent shrub plantings made in the last two seasons.
Watering is a pleasant job in the evening or early morning and if you are short on time, sprinklers, soaker hoses and watering systems are an easy fix to ensure your plants remain in good health.
Summer allows us to be outside more and indulging in the joy of growing things is far easier and more pleasant than in winter.
Herbs are a practical and useful type of plant to grow. The rewards come quickly in a matter of a few weeks.
If you have no garden, herbs are attractive and great to grow in pots or containers.
Herbs fresh from the garden offer flavour and interest to salads, meats, pasta - in fact, any cooking can be enhanced.
The most-used herbs in New Zealand are basil, coriander, chives, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage and mint. Frequently used are dill, horseradish, hyssop, marjoram, oregano and tarragon, which are generally readily available as plants and often seed from garden centres.
Growing herbs is rewarding and popular.
They are grown mainly for their fragrance or for their culinary value. Many herbs are regarded as medicinal and are cultivated for this or for culinary uses in different parts of the world.
This has been so for thousands of years and today research into medicinal herbs is on the increase. Before the days of refrigeration and the wide availability of food in so many forms, herbs were often an essential part in the preservation and flavouring of food.
Herbs are ideal for growing in pots either as a mixed group or as single specimens. Always plant mint in its own pot because it is so vigorous it will outgrow all the others.
Cold-sensitive herbs such as basil and coriander, if grown in pots, can be brought inside when the weather turns.
For best results herbs should be harvested regularly and given a liquid feed such as 'Ican Fast Food' every fortnight during the growing season. Put down bait for slugs and snails.
Leafy herbs need regular watering. Coriander in particular is prone to going to seed quickly if it dries out.
Doriander in the shade during the warmer months, which reduces the rate at which it goes to seed. This can also be applied to other herbs which you may have these issues with.
There is much interest in what sprays and chemicals have been in contact with the food we eat, this has become a catalyst for some people to grow their own vegetables.
However growing with little use of sprays for pest control can mean crops are less than satisfactory.
Alternative control such as bug netting to cover crops and companion planting - grouping certain plants together - are necessary.
Explore and try some different planting arrangements that will improve home vegetable production.
Herbs as companions
Basil repels white fly and makes a good companion to tomatoes, in the garden and in the kitchen.
It is said to plant three basil plants to every tomato plant for it to be effective. Basil also helps to repel flies and mosquitoes so a pot or basket is handy in the kitchen and near the barbeque.
Basil dislikes being planted near rue. Basil attracts bees for general garden fertility.
Carrots grow larger and healthier when planted near chives.
Chives help delay parsley going to seed. If grown underneath apple trees, chives help to prevent apple scab.
They are also said to help control aphids and black spot on roses. Cooled chive tea, made from the chopped herb with boiling water helps combat downy and powdery mildew.
Coriander repels aphids but don't grow it near fennel as it hinders seed formation.
Fennel repels fleas, so grow it around the dog kennel! Don't grow it in the vegetable garden as tomatoes, beans and caraway don't like it.
Hyssop is good for cabbages and other brassicas as well as grapes. It helps deter white butterfly. It's a good insect repellant if planted in the vegetable or flower garden but keep away from radishes.
Lemon balm improves the growth and flavour of tomatoes as well as attracting bees, which aid pollination.
Mint repels cabbage butterfly, so grow near your brassicas. It also repels fleas, ants and mice. Keep mint and parsley away from one another.
Oregano should be planted near broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to repel cabbage butterfly and improve the flavor of these veggies. It also seems to benefit grapes.
Parsley aids the growth of roses, tomatoes, asparagus, beans and carrots, it is great grown near chives but should be kept away from mint.
Have a great week!
•Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre