It’s planting season!
Grass (and weeds) are growing fast - that's a sign that the next few weeks, through until June, are a great window of planting opportunity. Warm, moist soil means new plants can establish strong root systems over winter, without you needing to water much, and be ready for summer's dry spells.
Plant now: Most perennials and evergreens, including natives. Deciduous fruit trees can wait until mid-winter, when they are dormant, and anything frost-tender can wait until spring.
How to plant:
- Dig a hole larger than the root ball, fill with water and let it drain.
- If your soil is sandy, put a bit of wet newspaper in the bottom of the hole.
- If the plant is dry, totally submerge it in a bucket of water until bubbles stop rising.
- Loosen roots if needed.
- Add a handful of sheep pellets if you have them, or some compost, to the bottom of the hole and backfill with soil, pressing firmly with hands or feet.
- Water to settle the soil, and mulch thickly to retain that moisture.
Cover up: As we humans reach for extra layers of clothing and bedding, spare a thought for your soil. A protective layer prevents damage from winter wind and rain. This could be mulch, a compost heap, seaweed or a cover crop… Remember, if you don’t cover up your soil, Mother Nature will do it for you - with weeds! Find out more about soil building here
In the edible garden:
Sow: Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill. Sow green crops like lupin in any spare ground.
There’s a small window left for sowing carrots and beetroot. Also sow lettuce, miner’s lettuce, coriander and broad beans.
Broad beans: Anzac Day is the traditional time to sow broad beans (according to my grandfather). These cold-season plants are pretty bombproof and make a great beginner’s crop from seed. They also enrich the soil by `fixing’ nitrogen from the air. Plant 5cm deep, 15cm apart, in rows 30cm apart.
Plant: Fennel, garlic, beetroot, celery, winter greens such as bok choy, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress and silver beet.
Snow peas and Asian greens such as mizuna and bok choi are more cold tolerant than their relatives, fat-pod peas or cabbages.
Garlic: Can be planted throughout May or June (the earlier you plant it, the earlier your harvest and the sooner you can use beds for other summer crops).
Prepare beds by weeding well, adding compost and a dusting of lime and potash or wood ash. The more you put in to the soil, the better your crop will be.
Strawberries: Plant now for early crops. Take out your oldest plants and replace with new 'runners'.
Plants for dry places:
Drought-tolerant poppies, statice, lychnis, alstroemeria and pelargoniums
Gazania, aeonium `Schwartzkopf', `Dark delight’ flax and natuve euphoria
Saffron is an autumn-flowering bulb that's also a spice.
We asked Kāpiti nursery people for their top drought-resistant plants:
Bulbs: Like camels, these store water for dry periods. Choose well and you can have flowers from winter (erlicheer, jonquils) through summer (gladioli, lilies) and into autumn (nerines, amaryllis).
Trees: Proteas, leucodendron, bottlebrush, ngaio.
Smaller plants (also good for pots): Succulents: sedum, aloe; lavender, grasses, rosemary, Pimelia, Xeronema, Chinocloa (mini toetoe).
Dune conditions: try natives like muehlenbeckia, spinifex, Coprosma repens (taupata), Coprosma acerosa, Coprosma rhamnoides, manuka, flax. Check out the booklet `A Guide to Growing Native Plants in Kāpiti’
Dry shade: These can be the trickiest areas. Try rengarenga, Astelia, Carex trifida (Muttonbird sedge), Kawakawa.
Windy, exposed areas: Ngaio, harakeke/flax, taupata, silver-leaved Brachyglottis greyii, Pachystegia (Marlborough daisy), Xeronema.
Flowers: Anigozanthus (Kangaroo paw); Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s ear ); Lavender; Iris species; Gypsophila; Sedum; Alstroemeria; Gazania, Osteospermum, Verbena bonariensis, Grevillea, Wallflowers.
Annuals: many will self-sow. Alyssum, Lychnis, hollyhocks, Echium, Calendula, Coreopsis, poppies of all kinds.
Roses: Rugosa (eg Roseraie de l’Hay, Blanc Double de Coubert) and Gallica roses originate in dry sandy conditions, and are fragrant and tough.
Herbs: Many herbs, especially those originating around the Mediterranean, are well suited to dry conditions; in fact over-rich soil shortens their lives. Try rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, chives, oregano, lemon verbena, lemon balm, bay, pineapple sage.