Digger Dan’s gardening tips

Digger Dan gives us the lowdown on what needs to be done in our gardens.

Harvesting garlic: this is the time of the year when your crop of garlic can be harvested – once the garlic leaves show symptoms of drying out, dig out the whole plant and shake the soil off it. Trim off the roots and (in warm dry conditions) lay the bulbs on the garden soil for a day or so to dry off. Now the garlic is ready to be dried: Hang in bunches or dry laterally under cover for at least week.

Hazelnut pollination: lately Digger’s been munching on ‘Uncle Joe’s’ Marlborough grown hazelnuts -once you taste these you’ll never eat the imported ones. In the growing passion to grow food those of you who have planted your own nut trees should be aware that your  hazelnut trees can prove tricky where pollination is required: While many hazelnut trees are monoecious (they have male and female flowers), the flowering times can be out of sync meaning that female flowers are not always fertilized because the male flowers  have finished. If this appears to have happened to your trees make a note to plant extra varieties such as ‘Kentish Cob’ or ‘Merveille de Bowiller’ – these are great pollinators.

Greedy green caterpillars: it’s time to watch out for green looper caterpillars on the undersides of tomato plants (they find tomatoes particularly yummy). If holes begin to appear in the leaves, either trace the culprits to the undersides (they merge with the foliage) and squash them or spray with Yates’ Pyrethrum. And don’t worry if your tomatoes are taking a while to ripen, like these above – Nature won’t be hurried but they will eventually turn red – and then you’ll wonder how you’re going to manage to eat them all.

Bean alert: water your bean crops daily to ensure a bumper crop – in fact most summer vegetables need regular moisture now, but beans can be particularly rewarding as they grow so fast.

Natural insect repellents:  Some herbs help deter unwanted insects at this time of the year – tansy will repel mosquitoes and fleas; chamomile and pyrethrum are general deterrents for insects; nasturtiums around the vegetable patch keep aphid and whitefly colonies down and pennyroyal , which is a great groundcover planted in moist soils, tends to repel flies.

Kowhai caterpillars are active: yes more greedy caterpillars – this time it’s our native kowhai moth caterpillar, difficult to see on branches on kowhai branches but munching leaves at this time of the year. Control is not always necessary, but foliage can take a while to re-grow. If you prefer spray with Kiwicare ‘No Caterpillars’ or dust with Derris Dust. Cabbage tree caterpillars can be controlled in the same way.

‘Gone troppo’: Canna lilies have the dual benefits of bright foliage and even brighter flowers, creating interest in the summer garden. Other tropical stars are hibiscus, brugmansias and the big leaves of banana palms, and taros (alocasias).

Getting the blues:  in the summer garden blue flowers are wonderfully cooling. Great blues include the tall spikes of delphiniums and mopheaded agapanthus. English lavenders, the blue Aster frikartii and Veronica ‘Oxford Blue’ are good value for long displays. And try this star in less sunny areas – dichroa (pictured above) is an evergreen form of the popular summer flower, the hydrangea.

The lawn in January: with the summer dry and heat still with us most lawns will be experiencing some degree of discomfort. If you have been maintaining good deep watering practices but your lawn is still yellowing off then you may have an insect infestation. Dig into the lawn to a depth of roughly 3 inches to see if there are any beetles or larvae present. Insects can be safely treated using Pyrifos G granular insecticide which comes in a convenient shaker pack. Pyrifos G simply needs to be well watered in after application and then children and pets are safe to go back on the lawn the next day.

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