Down in the patch

As soil temperatures rise, we need to start thinking irrigation alternatives for summer. Micro-irrigation systems are great for raised beds, greenhouses and conventional plots. If your garden is exposed to wind it is better to use drippers rather than spinner sprinklers. Drippers target the water to the individual plants and keep foliage dry, thus discouraging fungal diseases.

The other alternative is a rubber soaker hose made from recycled car-tyre rubber. The porous "weeper" type relies on a low water pressure and is ideal run off a drum of water collected from the roof of your home or garden shed. This soaker hose can either be installed 15 to 20 centimetres below the soil surface or left on the surface and covered with mulch. Being compatible with standard 13mm garden hose fittings, one can create a network across the garden and even connect to a timer for the ultimate in cutting down manual watering time.

Climbing beans are always a good summer standby crop and don't necessarily have to be grown on a permanent frame. Bamboo teepees are ideal and can be easily tucked away in a corner. Try something different this year and go for the golden climbing butterbeans, yard longs, Italian flats or climbing limas. All these are easy to grow and will be a conversation piece in the garden and at the dining table.

With Christmas approaching, a visit to your garden centre will give you lots of gift ideas for the gardeners in your family. Handcrafted wood dibblers, innovative garden string holders complete with cutters, secateurs, Niwashi cultivators, moon planting calendars, bird feeders, AdaptaGrow wooden kitset gardens and soil-testing kits are a few ideas. For out-of-town green-fingered folk, send a garden gift card.

Be sure to keep feeding fruit trees until autumn. Monthly topdressing with conventional fruit tree fertiliser or bi-monthly with a granulated slow-release type will ensure good- sized fruits and also help the tree's immune system fight fungal diseases. Regular sprays with a bee-friendly insecticide and fungicide combo will also keep fruit clean and healthy.

These tips have been supplied by Adrian McLeod and his crew at Fairfields Garden Centre on the outskirts of New Plymouth.

Taranaki Daily News