Summer in the garden is really the time when we reap the rewards of the work we did in autumn and spring. Like the lovely long summer holidays, it’s when the garden gives back to us what we’ve put in, the return on an investment. With the backbreaking work out of the way, our garden though still needs some careful attendance to keep it bountiful through the months and years to come.
One of the best old timer tips for the vegetable is to plant a new punnet a week. At this time of year normally most gardeners have filled the beds to the brim but even so there is always something about to finish. Broad beans are the first to leave a gap in the garden and salads greens will often come to the end as well. As these gaps appear, by planting little and often you will help to stem the binge then glut we gardeners are often faced with at the end of summer’s season. When re planting it always pays to add compost to your beds. It doesn't take an experienced gardener to see the growth that is happening at this time of year is turning the organic matter in your soil into fresh organic food and this needs replacing as you cycle through the crops. Make sure you mulch new plantings too as soil left exposed to the hot summer sun will lessen in goodness in and have reduced water content.
While it’s important to keep planting in the vegetable garden, for trees and shrubs it’s best to wait until the temperatures drop and the rains return in autumn months. My rule is; the deeper the root the best left till autumn. The exception is bare earth. After a new renovation or other disruptions, there are advantages to having plants you want in the ground rather than leaving weeds to take hold. In this case or in any gardens that were planted in spring month, watering needs extra attention.
While watering is super important in any garden, too much can do as much harm as too little. Plants do best when their roots are encouraged to get deep down into the soil close to the natural water table and where the earth is cooler. This means long deep watering’s once a week will make stronger plants that frequent quick doses of water.
While irrigation systems can be a great way of making sure water is directed to the areas it is most needed you still need to keep an eye on them. So often an undetected spade through a pipe results in a puddle of water in one part of a garden and none at all in another. Weekly checks should avoid too much damage being done. You also need to keep an eye on summer storms and adjust the timings to our tempestuous weather. While inland gardens might be able to have more certainty about the weather that lies around the corner, for most of New Zealand we can never be too sure what the seas might send in, so it is worth keeping an eye on the horizon and adjusting our taps to the incoming tide!
In late summer too, as temperatures begin to peak across the country it is tempting to lay more water on the garden in response, but really we should not be forcing extra growth at this late stage of the season. Most plants are used to the seasonal shifts in water supply and as temperatures rise, a drop in the speed of growth means less water is needed. Continuing to load water into the garden at this stage can in fact increase the stress on plants especially on soil born issues. Like children, spoilt plants don't always end up with the most consistent temperaments so give your water bill a break!
Most importantly take the time to enjoy your garden at this time of year. A garden is a relationship and the state of it is a reflection of what you've invested so take the time to reflect and take on what changes you need to make, but also to celebrate what you've achieved since you started. Take some photos to so you can watch the changes still to come!
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.