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In September, even non-gardeners feel the call of the backyard and with good reason- early spring is a great window of opportunity to get your gardens set up for summer; the trick is to find the sunny hours between the spring showers.

Next month is all about the vege patch but September, while it’s still cold, is time to pay some attention to the rest of the garden.

Keep one step ahead of the weeds: Weeds are programmed to grow faster and seed earlier than other plants (that’s what makes them weeds.) If you can’t get rid of every last one, at least save yourself work in future by stopping them from seeding. In vege beds, pull out any weeds that have taken hold over winter, and mulch with compost/straw/the green manure you planted last autumn (right?). You can start planting greens and cool-season crops now, but wait another month or so for soil to warm up for maincrop tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin and beans, unless you have a cloche.

In other beds, follow weeding with a thick layer of mulch (arborists chip is my favourite) to keep weeds away and retain water over summer. If mulch is not in the budget use what you can scrounge – leaves, chopped up prunings, seaweed – but make sure it’s weed-free or you will add to your weeding chores.

Rengarenga (Arthropodium cirrhatum) are a brilliant ground cover in shady spaces.

Divide and rule: It’s a great time of year to divide and multiply perennials (including herbs) and grasses. If you have something that’s doing well, one clump can be split into three to create more ground cover.

  • In my garden rengarenga do well in dry, shady corners, keeping weeds away and shading the soil beneath, and one clump given to me years ago has been split to become dozens.
  • Be careful when replanting clumps of grasses not to bury them too deeply- a sure way to kill them as the crowns (the growing tip) will rot out.

Whether splitting old plants or planting new ones, aim to finish perennial plantings soon and get herbs, flowers and shrubs into the ground while the rain can still water them in. Remember to mulch them!

Citrus: Now is a good time to plant these (remember they need sun and shelter). Prune out dead wood. Feed citrus if they are looking yellow – dissolve 100g Epsom salts in a watering can and water onto the root zone. Mulch out to the drip line (the edge of the leaves) with compost, seaweed and wood chip.

Composting: Ingredients are abundant and conditions are perfect for rotting.

Sow now: Indoors: early tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin, silverbeet, cabbage, leeks.

Outdoors: carrot, beetroot, radish, onion, Salad greens (lettuce, rocket, coriander mizuna, mustard), broad beans (for summer harvest).

Flowers: nasturtium, calendula, alyssum, sweet pea, lupin, hollyhock, cosmos.

Plant: Citrus trees, greens of all kinds, spring and other onions, early potatoes and peas, dahlias, perennial flowers and herbs.


The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.

Community Visits and workshops are free. 

To contact the Greener Gardener, call the Council on 296 4700 or 0800 486 486 or see www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/greenservices

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