9 things to do in your garden now

NZ GARDENER
Last updated 11:00 11/08/2014
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NZ Gardener
GLOBE ARTICHOKES: Pretty enough to grow in your ornamental borders and, as a bonus, their edible buds are a spring treat too!

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Spring is in the air this month but don't jump the gun - the soil in August is still cold, often water-logged and crops won't thrive if you act too soon! However if winter has caused a bit of cabin fever for you, you can get out and get on with these nine things to do in the garden. 

Grow Watercress

Growing your own watercress is safer than going foraging. Wild watercress can lead to food poisoning, as this peppery salad green is known to suck up contaminants. Sow your own (try 'Aqua Large Leaf' from Kings Seeds) in pots or trays of seed-raising mix and, once growing well, dunk your seedlings into a bucket of water. Change the water every couple of days and rinse before eating.

Plant ferns

Get new ferns in while soil is cool and moist. Ferns like to settle in damp shady areas, and now is the ideal time to plant them. Avoid spots that are frost-prone. Our favourites for shady areas are the clay-loving Asplenium oblongifolium; Blechnum discolor, with its black new foliage, and the ground fern, Blechnum penna-marina.

Establish new berries

Give berry bushes space, sun and good support. Raspberries, boysenberries and thornless blackberries do best in an open situation (air circulation reduces the risk of fungal diseases that can spoil your crop). Train the canes up trellis or along wires.

Give lawns some TLC

In warmer parts of New Zealand lawns will respond to a top-dressing of fertiliser around now. If your grass is full of lawn weeds though, ease them out first or spray with Yates Turfix. Don't sow bare patches until the overnight temperatures are well above freezing.

Tidy up

Dispose of the last of autumn and winter's growth. Ditch spent flowers, seedheads from salvias, perennial grasses, cannas, and the like to expose basal shoots of new growth.

Rotate your crops

It's a simple strategy for soil - and plant - health. Crop rotation doesn't need to be complicated. Just don't plan the same veges in the same location year after year. Draw a plan now.

Try to be patient

August tends to be the coldest, wettest month. If it feels like all your veges are growing at a snail's pace, you're right. Few crops prosper in cold, waterlogged soil. Make life less miserable for young plants with plastic or glass bell jars or a cheap fabric cloche - just drape frost cloth over stakes - to keep the soil a little warmer and drier.

Check for scale

Post rose pruning, check for scale insects. These flat, white insects can usually be found on the lower parts of the stems of your roses. They hibernate in situ and will spring into action when the weather starts to warm up. Grab yourself a firm brush and scrape the blighters off the stems, then follow up with a spray of a mineral oil such as Yates Conqueror Spraying Oil, to suffocate the damaged insects.

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Sow globe artichokes

Globe artichokes are pretty enough to grow in your ornamental borders but their edible buds are a spring treat too. Sow now and your plants will produce their first thistle-like buds in late summer.

See more great gardening advice at NZ Gardener

- Fairfax Media

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