Make hay while sun shines

20:34, Jul 16 2012
CHOP CHOP: It's a good time to prune roses, assuming the day is warm.

Blue skies, sunshine and frosty mornings do a lot of good in our gardens.

Maybe the weather will favour the gardens for a while? Make hay while the sun shines is an old saying, and one which gardeners should adhere to at this time of the year.

From about 10am or 11am, on a winter's sunny day, to about 2pm or 3pm is a pleasant time to get a few gardening jobs done.

So what should we be doing in the garden right now?

Prepare for spring is the answer and let the winter frost do its work.

Vegetable and flower gardens that are bare of productive plants are likely to be in fodder crops or weeds. (Weeds make good fodder crops too.) In these two areas you should apply 250 grams of soft lime per square metre and then slice off the weeds or fodder crop at ground level. Leave the foliage where it falls on the garden bed and sprinkle animal manure over then cover with wet newspaper or cardboard. Apply a layer of purchased compost over this and your gardens are ready for planting later on and fairly weed-free for a time.


If the garden is fairly bare of weeds or fodder crops, then spread about 5cm of mushroom compost or an animal manure- based compost over the soil with lime/dolomite powders. After applying you can also enhance the natural soil life with a drench of MBL (Magic Botanic Liquid) and Mycorrcin. What we are looking to do is build up the humus in our soil by feeding the soil life that make the humus.

Many of you will be looking at pruning roses and deciduous trees at this time. Grapevines should be pruned as soon as possible to prevent the bleeding when the sap rises. Roses and fruit trees can be pruned from anytime now on, but likely best before the end of this month. There is a danger with pruning as it opens up the plant to possible diseases and two of the worst of these are die-back and silverleaf. Silverleaf spores are carried by moisture and breeze during cooler, damp conditions. Pruning should be done in the middle of a sunny day when its a bit warmer and drier and more pleasant for yourself.

Get seed potatoes now for sprouting and greening up by placing the potatoes in trays in a warm room and when sprouted move outside to a better light situation but a frost- free spot such as under trees or a carport.
Prepare the ground for planting them by applying gypsum.
Those of us that applied a spray of Vaporgard to our more frost-tender plants about two to three months ago should think about another spray soon, which will take us out beyond the frost times, hopefully.

emember if there are several frosts in a row, extra protection besides the Vaporgard will be needed.
Now is the perfect time to move any plants, shrubs or trees that need to be moved.

You can cut back the plant if it's an evergreen then spray both sides of the foliage with Vaporgard. This takes the stress off the reduced root system when lifting and makes for a far greater success in transplanting.

When spraying Vaporgard prior to lifting, wait about three days before lifting and relocating.

Tomato plants will soon become available for those that like an early start. You can also start by germinating some seeds now for growing in containers and then later planting into glasshouses or gardens. It is most important that seedlings, once germinated, obtain as much sunlight as possible, ideally from directly overhead. Glasshouses are ideal to grow them in, or a conservatory. A spray of Vaporgard will help protect them from cold and frosts in either situation. Keep their mix on the dry side - little drinks to slightly moisten will help prevent wet-weather diseases.

Seeds of hardy plants, flowers and vegetables can also be germinated for planting out later and as long as these seedlings are placed in a sheltered good light situation they should do well. Start buying the packets of seeds that you want to grow this season.

Problems? Phone me on 0800 466 464 or email

The Southland Times