Homes

Summer Diary

When the heat is on…here’s what to do in the garden

**Weed

**Keep an eye out for the insidious creep of determined weeds such as wandering Willie, convolvulus, privet, moth plant and honeysuckle, which often go unnoticed over summer. Hand-weeding is a good option for minor infestations. Serious problems require stronger tactics such as Vigilant Herbicide Gel, a convenient and effective weedkiller widely used by DoC, which combats many difficult-to-kill weeds. Check the lawns for signs of onehunga (prickle) weed. Spray with Yates Prickle Weedkiller from time to time, in autumn.

**Prune

**A little judicious trimming is needed over the summer months, mainly to maintain good looks. Climbers are the main culprits, constantly sending out long whippy growth, which needs to be trimmed or tied in as it grows. Lightly trim any shrubs which have just finished flowering – but never prune hard in high summer as it exposes the undergrowth to scorching, rather like a good dose of sunburn. Deadhead summer-flowering plants to maintain vigour and encourage further blooming.

**Feed

**Summer heat zaps energy from plants, especially unfit plants. It’s therefore imperative to liquid-feed actively growing or cropping plants at least fortnightly, with seaweed or fish fertiliser to boost both energy and harvest. Roses, citrus and subtropical gardens – all of which are either flowering, beginning to fruit or in the midst of their most active growth phase – require a mid-summer feed to keep them healthy and actively growing. Lawns also benefit from a booster feed about now, to keep grass growing vigorously and weeds at bay.

**Water

**Keeping up with watering over summer is an endless task, especially watering containers. Ease this burden by mixing Saturaid and water crystals into the potting mix of all containers. To keep potting mix cool and moist for longer periods, follow up with a mulch of stones. If you’re going away, move small containers to the south side of the house and place on large water-filled plastic saucers. Give the entire garden a thorough soaking three days out from leaving and again the night before you go. This should hold it over, but you may need to ask a neighbour to water the vege patch.

**Harvest

**Regular harvesting of summer crops is important for several reasons. Firstly, veges taste best when young and tender. Secondly, frequent picking gives the plant more energy to put into new growth in the case of salad greens or further flower production (hence more fruit) in the case of fruiting plants. Thirdly, mature fruit invariably attracts disease, which quickly spreads in warm humid weather. Check your vege patch daily to keep on top of quick-cropping plants.

**Watch

**Check plants for outbreaks of pest and diseases, which thrive in warm summer weather. The odd infestation of aphids is easily dealt with either by rubbing them off with your fingers or spraying plants with soapy water. Check under leaves of shrubby plants for signs of scale (small raised bumps on leaves) and thrips (mottled silvery patches on leaves overlaid with tiny dark spots). if you find these, spray with Bayer’s low-toxicity Confidor and follow up with a summer oil spray.

Tip: If you have a problem with caterpillars, use a low-toxicity garden spray like Yates Success or ocGregor’s Pyrethrum.

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