Too wet to mow the lawn? Tackle these jobs instead.
Quick jobs to do between downpours
This month, putting on my gardening gloves and boots seems to be as effective as hanging up the washing for inducing a rain shower! But it’s amazing how much can be done between downpours. Check the rain radar and tackle these quick jobs when you can.
- Keep brassica seedlings, spring onions and garlic weed free. The weeds compete for sunlight and nutrients and provide shelter for slugs and snails.
- Thin beetroot. If you’re really gentle you can replant the thinnings, but it’s easier to eat them in a salad or stir-fry.
- Mound up the soil around leeks to blanch the bases but don’t overdo it or gritty soil gets embedded between the layers.
- Sweep the paths clear of slippery fallen leaves.
- Pop in a punnet of spinach seedlings, a six-pack of mixed brassicas or a short row of radishes.
- Give seedlings a liquid feed of seaweed fertilizer or worm wee.
- Turn plant saucers upside down and raise containers on pot feet so your plants don’t sit in permanent puddles.
* It’s winter and your houseplants are feeling the cold, too
* What to do in the vege garden this June
* Put your garden clippings to good use
NZ Gardener magazine DIY expert Jacob Leaf shows how to make this retro seed box from an old pallet.
Rainy day gardening
If it’s just too dreamy to contemplate going outdoors, here are some indoor gardening activities.
- Sort your seed stash. Cruise online catalogues (Kings Seeds, Egmont Seeds, Owairaka Seeds, Setha’s Seeds, Garden Post and Wildflower World) for your spring wish list. Make Jacob Leaf’s vintage-style box to keep them safe and sound.
- Clean old plant labels ready for seed sowing. Make some crafty new ones or follow these tips for labels that last.
- Rescue the glut. Remember that heap of tomatoes that you hid in the bottom of the freezer because you couldn’t face bottling them on the hottest day of summer? Now’s the time to turn them into sauce, soup, or pasta toppings. Ditto the chillies, apples, and plums. Fire up the slow cooker. Make a batch of curried kūmara soup or turn your dried beans into baked beans.
- Window planning. Take a long critical look out each window. What could be improved? A boring border, gaps in the hedge, looming trees blocking the sun, an unwelcome view of the neighbours? With a bit of luck, whatever you need can be purchased online, so window planning can become window shopping.
Mint sauce, new potatoes & mojitos
All the above need a healthy crop of mint and now’s the time to revive your plants, so there’ll be lush fresh leaves ready to pick when the new potatoes and spring lamb are on the menu.
Mint is best grown in pots as it is very invasive. It needs moisture too – put the container near the hose where the mint will get a drink every time you turn the tap on.
Mint can live for ages in a pot with only a trim now and then to remove rusty leaves. When the pot gets overcrowded or weedy – or the leaves get smaller and smaller – it’s time to replant.
Turf out the old plant, replace potting mix and replant sections of stem (pictured) each attached to a clump of roots. Cuttings sprouts easily in water too. If you keep a jar of mint cuttings on the kitchen windowsill you won’t need to trek to the herb patch on wet nights.
Never put surplus mint roots in the compost heap – every bit will grow!
Good riddance to rats
The long hot summer provided ideal conditions for rats to multiply. Now the weather’s chilly they’re moving indoors or sheltering in firewood stacks and compost bins.
Avoid close encounters with whiskery invaders by banging loudly on the compost bin before you open the lid. Turning the compost regularly discourages rats from setting up home there and so does adding plenty of brown matter (dry leaves, cardboard, wood shavings and egg cartons) on top of the green matter (weeds, vege peelings, etc). The combination will rot down more quickly without getting smelly. Rat proof your compost bin by lining the sides and bottom with chicken wire or galvanized steel mesh.
Stop rats climbing fruit and nut trees by placing a broad strip of smooth, unclimbable metal sheeting around the trunk. Check a couple of times a year to ensure the metal sheeting does not strangle the trunk as it grows.
Make sure your stored potatoes, kūmara, pumpkins, onions, garlic, fruit, bulbs and seeds are in rat-proof containers.
Tidy up rubbish that could contain rat nests. Set traps baited with peanut butter, fat, chocolate and bacon or lay poison baits. A refillable bait station keeps poison bait secure, free of moisture and out of reach of children and pets.
Gardening by the moon
On June 17 tidy up and do odd jobs. Clean, sharpen and repair your tools. On June 18 and 19 plant garlic below the soil surface and shallots sitting on the top, pressed in for stability. Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be planted now. From June 20-24 cultivate the soil if it’s not too wet. Deal to weeds.
Gardening by the maramataka
Naumai ki te ngahuru pōtiki (late autumn). We are at the tail end of the harvest season. Long-term annual crops need to be off field by now and the process applied to their storage complete. As we head to Matariki, ensure remaining tasks in the māra are completed and then we can look to rest during the short days as we head to the hōtoke or cold period.
Be mindful that more northern regions have a milder climate so their rest period is shorter but based on day length rather than temperature. The new moon falls on the 1st of the month and full moon on the 16th. But we end the Pākeha calendar month on another new moon (on the 30th) which means we have a month dedicated to, and influenced by, this phase (Whiro) and for which we should be recognizing the influence of the moon on our energy levels . Rest following the harvest work. Dr. Nick Roskruge