This list of gardening tips will be extended periodically so drop by from time to time to see if there’s something new that can help you.
In early autumn sow manure crops in areas that would otherwise lie idle – lupins, vetches, oats, mustard, phacelia, buckwheat are some. These plants use any nutrients left over from the last crop and these are returned to the soil when the manure crops are dug in. For more information see http://www.kingsseeds.co.nz/Tips++Techniques/Seed+Sowing+Suggestions/Green+Manure++Cover+Crops.html
Did you know goldfinches love cornflower seed heads? Let some go to seed as birdseed.
Bees love onion flowers. Why not let one or two go to seed for them?
If your vegetable garden is looking bare and empty you can add some colour by planting some flowering plants such as pansies, primroses, polyanthuses or Iceland poppies, or whatever grows in your zone. The perennial polyanthuses and primroses can be moved to a shaded place somewhere else when you want to plant your vegetables.
No flowering plants? The ground frozen hard? Fill some pots with soil, stones or whatever you have on hand and create your own ‘plants’ from pieces of evergreen shrubs (they’ll last longer if you use soil or something wet). Even bare twigs can be arranged artistically – add some tinfoil buds if you like. Use your imagination and have some fun making them.
Bird-feeders with food not only add colour and movement to the garden but it comes to life with movement, colour and sound when the birds visit.
February (Northern Hemisphere) Start sowing your summer vegetables. Sweet peas look great in the vegetable garden – sow them now. Winter prune currants and gooseberries now or any time up until early spring – while they are dormant.
Muddy walk-ways can become compost makers. Place carton cardboard (pizza boxes are ideal) along the walkways. Newspaper topped with straw is good too. Over time they will turn into dark compost, which you can shovel on to the garden.
As the soil starts to warm up and frosts are fewer (early October in New Zealand) it’s time to plant vegetables for Christmas. These include broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, beetroot, spring onion, radish, silverbeet and spinach.
Raspberries. Separate new canes from fruiting canes by tying them to different part of their support system (stakes, trellis etc) Avoid crowding canes together in order to prevent disease.
Avoid dirty vegetables by spreading a 1-2 inch layer of mulch around each plant. This will also keep the weeds down.
Lettuces – interplant with alyssum to control aphids.
Peppers – Pinch off early blossoms as they appear. This will enable the plants to grow larger. As a result they will produce more and larger fruit a little later in the season. Early blossoms tend to produce small fruit.
Raspberries. If you grow raspberries, the middle of summer is time to give them some attention. Cut out the cane that have fruited and cut back strong, new canes by one quarter. Tie in the new canes to supports if you have not already done so, feed them with an organic fertiliser or a layer of compost, and water.
Spinach and Silver Beet (Chard): Sow some radishes amongst these to stop leaf miner attacking them. The leaf miner will attack the radish leaves instead. This doesn’t matter because you eat the roots of radishes, not the leaves.
Sweet Corn – can be harvested when the silk tassels die off. You can tell when the corn is fully ripe – the ears point at a 45 degree angle off the main stem.
Summer prune fruit trees once the fruit has been harvested. February onwards in the Southern Hemisphere
To encourage ladybirds into your garden provide them with a source of pollen. They especially like coriander, dill, calendula and angelica.
To get rid of cabbage caterpillars. Mix equal parts baking soda and flour. Dust plants infected by cabbage worms (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc.) This mix is effective in killing them.
If your radishes fail to produce a vegetable root but they still have a healthy top, your soil lacks potassium and phosphorus.
Lawn clippings make an excellent mulch and fertilizer. A half-inch layer discourages weeds and helps with moisture retention. As they break down they add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil and encourage the growth of microscopic soil organisms.
Milk is a Soil Food Milk can be sprayed on compost and the garden where it benefits the soil micro-organisms. Raw milk is best but any milk will provide food. It is recommended that a 50% dilution with water be used. Spray the mixture on the soil before planting anything.
Milk will also kill soft-bodies predatory insects such as aphids. Spray it directly on to the insects.