Seasonal Garden Tips

Cedar ShuttersGrosso Lavender and Carex BucchaniiDiamond Espaliered Liberty Baujade Apples

Garden Structure

Designs of strong, simple shapes created by paths and edging near the house will make the whole garden look structured and well kept. This is ideal near a dining area, to provide an un-cluttered space in which to sit with a clear mind to enjoy the day. Structure also provides year round form with an interesting view from upstairs windows. Planting can be simple or flamboyant- low maintenance for those with little time, or more intensive for all those lovers of gardening.

Gardening by the Moon

Plants like tides, are affected by our celestial neighbour. The moons gravitational pull affects soil moisture, germination and growth rates.

All crops that produce their yield above ground should be planted during the waxing (new to full) moon. The first week is especially good for crops that have their seeds on the outside, the second week (between the 1st quarter and the full moon) is best for crops that produce seeds on the inside.

During the waning moon (full to new moon) is the time to plant root crops. No planting is to be done on the day of the new or full moon. The best choice for pruning is when the moon path is descending.  Alternatively a waning moon will do. 

Wise Watering

Water early in the morning or at dusk to avoid evaporation wastage. Never water in the middle of a hot, sunny day- water droplets act like magnifying glasses which, coupled with the sun rays, can fry tender foliage and scald fruit.

Gardening Calender Advice

Summer


White Daisy ShastaWhite "Cosmos" at Lavender and Thyme Cottage

The Ornamental Garden

Part one) Trim back your hebes, early lavenders, sage and thymes as soon as the flowers are done. This stops them getting woody and promotes fresh growth and more flowers.

Part two) De-head and feed your roses to get your next late summer flush of roses. If your roses are not sprayed you can make rose-petal jelly, yum! Pick those beautiful flowers in your ornamental garden. I especially like my cream gladioli flowers for the vase.

Part three) Autumn is in the air, the morning and nights have a chill that makes you want to put an extra layer on however the days are still absolutely gorgeous. Weed and feed the garden, but no longer de-head the roses. Have a look around the garden for any seeds that you can collect, place in a paper envelope and store in a dark cupboard for planting late spring. It is also a good time to review the garden and see if the structure of your garden is completely to your liking. At the moment there is probably the start of the plant sales at your local nursery, also you can purchase spring bulbs for planting soon.

The Orchard

Part one) The berries have been fabulous- the gooseberries, red currants, white currants, blackcurrants and loganberries. The fruiting is now coming to an end. Feed your plants well so you will have plenty of fruit next year. Unfortunately our almond all-in-one has become infected with “blast”. Advice we were given from a very experience local orchadist was to remove the gum like ooze and then heat treat the affected area with a blow torch then cover with a poultice of worm castings. We have our fingers crossed as it has been a very productive tree. 

Part two) All the stonefruit has been plentiful this year. It is now a good time to harvest the fruit and create gorgeous jams, chutneys and preserves. Once the fruit is removed spend a little time pruning new year wood to maintain a nice shape- this is especially important for espaliered fruit trees. Wait until Autumn for the pruning of any main limbs. Feed your stonefruit trees for another great harvest next year.

Part three) Autumn will be upon us next month. Most of our trees suddenly look bare, yes they still have leaves but all those lovely fruits have been harvested. At least those cheeky strawberries and raspberries have commenced their autumnal fruiting. We made a delicious strawberry shortcake from them the other day-yum! Keep an eye on diseased plant material and remove from the property with a big tidy up.

The Potager

Part one) Plant seeds, punnets of seedlings- try and achieve a succession of planting so that you have a continual supply of nutritious vegetables. We planted lots of tomato seeds and tomato plants this year so that I could make lots of pizza sauce for our wood-fired pizzas.

Part two) Keep the water up things are getting very dry. All the pumpkins are busy flowering and the tomatoes are starting to ripen. Harvest any vegetables that are ready so the next lot of seeds can be planted in that lovely rich soil.

Part three) Its too late now to plant any seeds,so look after what you have planted. Maybe the odd punnet of winter greens can go in now, but just until the end of the month.

Autumn


Vineyards and Farms Central OtagoEspaliered Fruit Central OtagoWooing Tree Vineyard in Autumn Central Otago

In Autumn, not only are the days closing in, but the temperature at each end of the day is significantly lower. I adore this season as it is so colourful in Central Otago. The vineyards have been harvested and the leaves have turned golden. Poplar and Willow trees lining the hillsides and the lake have breathtaking autumnal coloured leaves. I think this is a pleasent time in the garden as I enjoy planning for the coming seasons. If there are any perennials you want to shift, now is a good time to do so, just ensure you keep the water up. Autumn plant sales at your local garden centre can provide a more cost effective plant for your garden scheme. Ensure though, that the plant is not frost sensitive, if so it would be best to wait until late spring.

At this time of the year, fallen leaves are everywhere—and they’re a great, inexpensive source of organic material for enriching your garden soil. Leaves should be shredded to help them break down in the soil more quickly. If you don’t have a leaf shredder, rake leaves into long, low piles and then run your lawn mower back and forth over them.

Autumn digging is important, not only because it cleans the ground of annual weeds and buries crop residues, but also because it enables winter frosts to penetrate the rough soil surface and so break up the larger clods of earth in a very efficient manner to provide a workable tilth.

The Ornamental Garden

Recently I removed some new wood from my ornamental trees to develop a nice shape, this also allows light into the garden underneath. Any larger limbs are not removed until Winter. The roses are developing beautiful orange/red rosehips. I have planted a few more hostas from my mums garden. I like hosta’s for their architectural leaves, they provide strength in garden design. Plant muscari (grape hyacinth bulbs), to enjoy the rich gentian-blue flowers which contrast nicely with the winter foliage, bare stems and tree trunks. Continue planting tulips, daffodils, bluebells in generous groups, use well prepared soil, deeply dug and enriched with garden fertiliser. Also plant up outdoor continers such as wine barrels, terracotta pots or old coppers.

English rose 'windrush' rosehips in autumn

The Orchard

The fruit trees have been harvested and now the leaves are turning vibrant autumnal colours. The berries fruit producing wood can be removed while the new canes can be reattached to the bamboo teepees for next summer fruiting. The gooseberries with prickly stems can have some central branching removed, this will make life less prickly at harvest time.

Autumn Colours Espaliered Gourmande and Conference Pears"Gourmande" Pear at Lavender and Thyme CottageEspaliered Fruit on fence stella cherry variety

The Potager

In the first month of autumn you can plant seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi, these will be great for an early spring harvest. Plant any green crop seed to improve your soil for spring planting.

Winter


Mountains in Central OtagoMountains in Central OtagoMountains in Central Otago

Part one) Winter commenced with temperatures cooler than this time last year. The Queenstown Winter Festival commences at the end of June and fortunately unlike last year there is a good coating of snow on the Pisa mountains. In the garden conditions are what is expected for this time of year. I have some broad beans starting to sprout in the ground. I like to do this each year because it makes a wonderful nitrogen rich green crop. The next crop will be garlic which I like to plant just a week or two after the shortest day. One concern I do have in the garden is my beloved pesky lemon and kumquat bushes, you would think I should give up growing them in our environment by now, but since I love citrus my sensibility has left me. So what I like to do instead is shroud them in large bubble plastic wrap and then some frost cloth to protect them from terminal frost damage. Also watch out for very early bud formation on your fruit trees. We don’t want these to be zapped with the next cold snap. You may need to cover them similar to the citrus. Otherwise the trees in the garden are now bare branched with lots of sparrows and black birds perching for some respite. The hornbeam hedge is holding onto its dead chocolate coloured leaves, these look very nice as they coordinate with our french cedar shutters.

I have been fortunate in the last couple of years. My good friend Erika has given me some wonderful raspberry canes. She had an amazing summer harvest from these plants last summer, so I am hoping they will do me plenty of berries as well. For my raspberry patch I have placed bamboo canes in the corner garden to create a decorative teepee, although raspberries can become unruly I am hoping the effect will be quite sweet. It’s very important to watch out for suckers and remove them as soon as possible otherwise you will end up with raspberry plants taking over. My mother has given me some little perennial treasures for the garden to plant now- nerines, hostas and lovely velvety red polyanthus. This month I have covered select areas of the garden with pea straw, this rots down and improves soil structure and keeps weeds at bay. However, I do tend to avoid pea straw around rose beds, fungal spores may be present in the pea straw which could infect your roses.

Part two) Now it’s mid-winter and the snow has finally arrived- its wonderful to see the sparkles of sun reflecting on the mountains. Now is the time to do nothing in the garden, grab yourself a good coffee, put your feet-up and peruse the kings seed catalogue for tasty heirloom vegetables. I also find it enjoyable to sketch planting layouts for my potager garden- if you do the same remember to consider colour, texture, symmetry, succession and companion planting with your flowers and vegetables. Keep warm and cosy!!

Part three) Near the end of winter it’s a good time to prune those roses. Remember, old-fashioned, english and modern roses all require different pruning techniques. Now the days may be starting to warm up and you’re tempted to plant those newly acquired seeds. Please don’t,  it’s just too early in Central Otago. What I recommend instead is for you to refer to my planting guide “vegetable potager” on this web-site for some local planting guidance.

Spring

45 degrees parallel, pisa district, central otagoPerriam Cove, foot bridge, Pisa Moorings, Central OtagoSugarloafs, Pisa District, Central Otago

Spring is a wonderful time of the year, full of promise for the summer ahead. All the lovely perennials have commenced poking their little heads out of the ground in anticipation of warmer days.

Our plum and almond trees were the first fruit trees to flower, they have gorgeous double white flowers. The daffodils are also out- my pick would have to be the cream varieties with just a hint of yellow.  This year I have developed a purple and red flower scheme alongside the driveway, this border is under-planted with lots of blood red tulips which will make quite a display before the lavender commences flowering.

Bluebells in springSmyrna Quince in FlowerApple Blossom Liberty Espaliered Apples

I have been busy removing dead leaves from perennials and the strawberry plants so the sun can get through to the new buds. Just try to be a little cautious of frost as it can easily zap new growth in these plants. We will soon de-thatch the lawn, we have a terrible problem with grass grub which leaves unattractive dead patches over the lawn. This is a difficult problem to treat, there are chemical products available to destroy grass grub but we prefer to not use them-  we quite often have picnics on the lawn.

When you start to see rapid growth of your plants it may be opportune to apply an organic fish fertiliser. Apparently this diluted fish emulsion is fabulous for encouraging flowers and fruit set. Sounds good to me!!

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