With Michael Coulter

How’s your Spring? It has been a traditional hot/cold start to spring.  It was predicted.

It was relatively stormy October, with more frequent southwest winds and lower pressures than usual affecting New Zealand.  These south-westerly winds produced a rather cool October for the south and the west of the South Island.

Of  the six main centres in October 2012, Christchurch was the driest, Hamilton the wettest, Dunedin the coolest and also the cloudiest, Tauranga the sunniest and Auckland the warmest.

We have also had the odd frost.  As I continually say; ‘A good gardener is a patient gardener’

As granddad always said ‘Don’t plant your tomatoes until Show Weekend’

People always want to plant too early.  Now is the time to plant beans, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes, silver beet,  rhubarb, cabbages and potatoes.

Leave your runner beans to shoot away.  My friends got checked and frosted but will still come away.

Is anybody picking broad beans yet?  Mine were planted in June.  I always plant in pots and transplant them out later in the season.

I’m also picking strawberries, but it’s a race to beat the damn birds to get them.

Rhododendrons have mainly finished flowering, so prune and trim.  I reduce mine by up to fifty per cent.

A couple of things I’ve noticed. Mildew on the apple trees.  Powdery mildew shows up as a greyish-white powdery coating on terminal shoots and leaves. Do not confuse this with the normal hairiness of twigs and leaves.  Powdery mildew is mainly a problem on Granny Smith, Gala and Braeburn apples.

Never spray insecticides when the tree is in bloom as it will kill the bees that pollinate the blossoms.  If powdery mildew is not controlled your bloom next year will be affected.  Also keep an eye on your roses.

Check on your stone fruit trees.  Curly leaf on my nectarines. A good idea is to pick a leave and leave it on a hot window sill.  Leave for a while and come back and check on it and you will normally see it crawling with bugs.  Spray with insecticide. 

Q;      I have mildew on my sweet peas.
A;      Normally indicative of the weather conditions.  I have noticed that sprays seem cheaper to buy at Bunnings.

Q;      I have lichen on my dogwood and rhododendrons.
A;      Don’t worry about it. Indicative of good healthy air.  Lichens are remarkable in that they can tolerate the most extreme environments, thus they can live in hot dry places as well as arctic conditions and the wettest of rain forest.  Although they can tolerate salt spray and immersion in water they are not aquatic. Lichens can live on soil, woody debris, rocks, tree bark, tree leaves, other lichens, desert sand, animal bones and rusty metal. If it bothers you use a wire brush to remove it.

Q;      My rhubarb has bolted to seed
A;      Needs a good feed and water.  My Bok Choy bolted to seed.  Upon inspection I found the ground was really dry.  Feed nitrophoska on your rhubarb.

Q;      Bugs are eating my strawberry plants.
A;      Probably slugs or snails.  Go out at night with a torch to catch them.

Q;      How do I get my lawn looking good?
A;      Nitrophoska..  I tried Urea on my lawn and ended up with a dark green lawn that needed mowing every second day.  Have you noticed little brown beetles flying around. They are the grass grub, the larvae or immature stages of the common brown beetle.  They hatch on the surface in a 10 – 14 day cycle. Treatment at that stage will fix the problem.