Kapiti Observer : May 12th 2011
38 THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2011 our green gardener Insulating your home and garden from the wind As were hunting out woolly slippers and draught-proofing windows, its time also to think about shelter in the garden. Just as the most effective winter clothing involves layering - merinos, scarf, waterproofing the best garden shelter also builds up in several layers. An undefended gap between trees, like a chink between trousers and top, can make life uncomfortable all winter. Provide good shelter on the other hand and as well as protecting your garden, you could even cut power bills; its another layer of insulation around the house. A well protected garden also creates an settled microclimate - creating less stressed plants that need less water to maintain health. Each garden has unique wind patterns created by trees and buildings. In our garden for instance, northerly winds hit from the west, around the side of the garage, while the southerly hits from the east after funnelling down Transmission Gully. Creating layers of shelter means using combinations of trees, hedges, screens and shrubs to give protection where its most needed, such as a sitting terrace or vegetable garden. For veges, make a knee-high hedge of lavender, rugosa roses, sage, and other useful herbs and insect-attracting plants. For a sitting area, trellis or screens can support beans, sweet peas or grapes. Sometimes an open, windy position comes along with fantastic sun and views that you dont want to plant out. Here, use one or two taller trees like ti kouka to lift the wind and frame a view, supported by plants that grow to about 2m so you wont endlessly have to keep topping or pruning. Im all in favour of hedges that dont need clipping, like tall flaxes (these also feed birds.) Give support at planting time as root rock (plants wobbling in the wind) can be fatal. Heavy rocks or bricks on the roots provide stable anchorage. Mulch well and let the autumn rains water in your plants. Fast growing shelter: Ngaio, ti kouka or cabbage tree, taupata, ahirako, pittosporum spp. Low shelter (2m or less): Koromiko, korokio, harakeke or flax, feijoa, lavender. Tips for May: Sow: Its getting too cold for most seeds, but you can sow broad beans, and onions in trays. Plant: Lettuce, fennel, land cress and Chinese greens in warm spots. Garlic in a sunny, well drained bed with lime and compost added to the soil. ‚ Leaves on the lawn? Run over them with the mower to get a great mix of shredded leaves and grass clippings in the catcher. Perfect for composting; where pure grass clippings go slimy, the leaves add air along with carbon, needed for the breakdown process. ‚ Plant broad beans, if you havent already. These can germinate in low temperatures. As well as a spring crop of beans, their stalks are great for the soil simply cut them down and youve got ready-made beanstraw mulch into which to plant next summers hungry plants like tomatoes, zucchini or corn. ‚ Mulch citrus and feijoas with good compost. After fruit has dropped is also your chance to trim feijoas. Pruning isnt essential but a light yearly trim helps keep fruit within pickable reach. photo by David Hughes Would the chimes stay still in your garden? Hannah Zwartz 2216588BO Time to plant green manure to be ready for spring Nutritious: Crops such as mustard plant grown over the winter months then dug in are a great way to add nutrients to the soil. CONTINUED Page 39 If gardening throughout winter doesn't appeal, preparing the ground for a flurry of spring action might be a better option. Adding a layer of organic mulch to your garden is the easiest solution -- it will break down of its own accord, boost soil health and improve structure. Or you can plant a green manure crop. Green manure is a cover crop grown primarily to add nutrients and organic matter to your soil. The crops are typically grown over winter as beds become available (once you've dug up your summer/ autumn veges, for example) then dug into the soil at the end of winter in time for the new growing season. Leguminous crops, like alfalfa, clover and lupins, are ideal because they add large quantities of nitrogen to the soil along with organic matter. Compare a planting of legumes to a layer of compost: compost returns to your soil around 98 per cent of the nitrogen you started with (remember that continuous cultivation depletes your soil of nutrients), whereas a green manure crop replenishes what's been lost, and adds considerably more nitrogen. Leguminous crops should be cut when young, before they become woody and before flowering. That's because at this stage, the nitrogen content is at its highest. Buckwheat and mustard are also good green manure crops, although these two are generally grown in spring and summer. Clay soils Clay soils can be greatly improved by adding compost, aged manure and leaf mould. A mulch applied now will act as insulation over the winter months. Adding a good sprinkling of gypsum (calcium sulphate) to clay soils can help break them up, but it's a good idea to run a soil test before adding gypsum. Your garden soil may contain adequate calcium, and too much calcium can interfere with the uptake of other nutrients. Compost and leaves (gather your autumn leaves now) work just as well. Adding lime If your soil is acidic, add lime to raise the soil pH. Certain vegetables (beans, brassicas, celery, onions and peas) grow better in soil that has been limed -- although it's not the lime itself they like, but an alkaline soil. There are two types of lime you can buy: ground limestone (or just plain lime) and dolomite lime. Ground limestone contains calcium in the form of calcium carbonate, and dolomite lime contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. If your soil is already high in magnesium (again, a test is required), use plain lime. Autumn through to early winter is the best time to apply lime since water is required for lime to react with the soil, and a change in pH can take several weeks -- and New Zealand generally gets a lot of rain over winter. Coffee grounds Coffee grounds can, surprisingly, dish out a useful amount of nutrients to the soil. They are high in nitrogen, which promotes good leaf growth, so they are great for leafy crops and fast growing vegetables. They also contain a few trace minerals and phosphorous and potassium.
May 16th 2011