With Michael Coulter

N.I.W.A said, ‘Mild winter – outbreaks of southerlies’…They were exactly right.

It was the 4th – warmest July on record for N.Z…  Very warm in the South, dry in the North.  A very warm July was experienced in the South Island.  Mean temperatures for July were well above average across most of the South Island.

In July, 2013, Auckland was the warmest and driest, Tauranga was the sunniest, Christchurch was the coolest, Wellington was the wettest and Hamilton was the cloudiest of the six main centres.

I was recently in Hamner and the temperature was 18 degrees. Really nice and it makes you want to get cracking.  But there is no advantage of getting a head start.  The Nor’easter in springtime cools things down.  We can still get a southerly blast with snowfall.  So don’t be in a hurry.  Be patient.

Time to think about planting a few seeds in your glasshouse.  Mid August plantings will be ready to plant out at the end of September.  It’s also time to start ‘chitting’ your potatoes. There’s been good news on the potato psyllid.  In the last seven years, a tiny sap-sucking insect called the tomato – potato psyllid has caused major damage in the potato industry in New Zealand.  Research conducted by the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University , using the southern ladybird as a biological control agent.

The first batch of these potent predators have recently been released on an organic potato crop at Hororata.

This time of the year is beautiful.  I noticed lime trees in Hamner with their bases planted with snowdrops.  Springfield Road had a Kowhai in full flower.  Early camellias and rhododendrons are also flowering slightly earlier than usual.

I have sprayed all my stone fruit with Copper Oxychloride.  Repeat this process in a further 14 days.  This will help prevent leaf curl and brown rot.

With variegated trees and shrubs, take out all the green shoots.  Get rid of it.  Prune your shrubs when they have finished flowering.

How hard can I prune my variegated bush?  Hard as you like  –  they are as tough as ‘old boots’.  With hebes – don’t cut back to brown wood.  Cut back by half or one third.

Small fruit on citrus trees ? Response to the cold conditions. When pruning daphne, don’t just nip off a bit but take a piece of the branch as well.

I noticed they had to mow their lawns in Hamner.  Apply lawn fertilizer quite regularly. In the beginning of winter we had a good snowfall.   The trace element, nitrogen, is found in snowfall.  Likewise, when thunderstorms bring hail, that also contains plenty of nitrogen.

Apple tree has canker.  Are they a ‘reddy’ colour ?  More than likely be woolly aphids. Spray this week with Conqueror Oil.   Do your roses as well.  It’s clean-up time.

You can plant snow peas and ordinary peas at this time.

How hard do you prune winter sweet ?  Ask yourself are you pruning to produce more flower or just thinning out.  Cut back as hard as you like.

Hellebores are a treat this year.

Dave Adams said his water well, monitored by Environment Canterbury, was well up.

And HIS cyclamen is still flowering profusely.