5 minute gardener: what to do this weekend

Peastraw, autumn leaves, pine needles, grass clippings and untreated sawdust all make great mulch.
SANDRINE BOUVIER/ 123RF

Peastraw, autumn leaves, pine needles, grass clippings and untreated sawdust all make great mulch.

Here's what to tackle in your garden this weekend.

BED TIME

Time to put your ornamental garden to bed for the winter.

If you haven't already done so, remove spent annuals and cut back spent perennials to within a few centimetres of the soil. That said, leaving seed heads does provide food for birds and insects, and old stems make good homes for spiders and the like. Grasses, too, may be left – they can look good all winter, giving the lower levels of gardens some visual interest.

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The likes of daylilies, hostas and phlox can be divided and transplanted.

Leave some dried grasses and flowers like these dill seeds to feed the birds over winter.
VVVITA/123RF

Leave some dried grasses and flowers like these dill seeds to feed the birds over winter.

Add a compost mulch to the beds – not right on top of the perennial stubs but around them. (Do not fertilise, however.)

Now add a layer of peastraw - if it's available in your part of the country, if not, use another type of straw or similar matter. Those with access to farmland could try gathering pine needles from shelterbelts where stock shelter and spreading this over the garden.

Plants that particularly like this acidic pine mulch are marigolds, snapdragons and zinnias; garlic, onions and potatoes; blueberries, raspberries and strawberries; rhododendrons, azaleas and pieris. Most vegetables benefit a dressing of it in the soil every three years or so.

Plant fruit trees now.
GSTOCKSTUDIO/123RF

Plant fruit trees now.

Leaves and grass clippings are also useful for winter mulching. Mulching now will provide some frost-protection for new or tender plants and help suppress weeds. Sawdust (from untreated wood) can be spread among azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. Or add it to the compost heap in layers with other brown materials, such as leaves; or green materials such as lawn clippings and weeds.

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EDIBLES

Order fruit trees and prepare the ground for them by incorporating generous quantities of compost into the planting hole.

Spray copper on stone fruit trees with fungal diseases, such as brown rot and leaf curl. Clearing up all fallen leaves and fruit will also help stop the spores wintering over.

Dig in horse manure (often sold on the roadside in rural areas) into where your potatoes are to grow. By planting time it should be suitably broken down and ready to feed your new season crops.

Tidy up the strawberry bed or plant new ones and tuck them in with a thick layer of mulch.
OMMB/123RF

Tidy up the strawberry bed or plant new ones and tuck them in with a thick layer of mulch.

Topdress rhubarb with well-rotted manure and/or compost. Rhubarb is what is known as a gross feeder, that is, it needs rich soil.

Weed strawberry beds. And there is still time to plant new ones - somewhere sunny with well-drained soil. Suggested companion plants for strawberries include borage, chives, oregano, thyme, lettuce, spinach, spring onions, nasturtiums and marigolds.

 - NZ Gardener

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