Weekend Gardener

  • Gardener’s notebook
  • Regional planting
  • Getting crafty this Easter
  • Plants: kangaroo paws
  • Bulbs to plant

  • The importance of garden rotation
  • Where to start with herbs
  • Storing summer’s crop
  • Square metre gardening
  • Veges: celery and celeriac

and more…

WIN! Tickets to see
The Invisible Woman

This film tells the story of Nelly (Felicity Jones), a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, who is haunted by her past. Her memories take us back in time to follow the story of her relationship with Charles Dickens (Fiennes) with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens’ passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and for Nelly a life of “invisibility”. Also starring Kristen Scott Thomas. Rated M: Sex scenes.

The Invisible Woman opens in theatres nationwide April 17, 2014.

Go in the draw to win a double pass.

Email giveaways@weekendgardener.co.nz (include name and address).

Entries close Friday April 11, 2014.

Eggs, flowers and foliage with Easter

Fionna Hill creates simple ideas for Easter gifts and decorations.

Where to start with herbs

Marilyn Wightman says organise a herb garden to suit your needs.
Gardener’s Notebook
Issue Preview

APART from regular mowing, lawns sometimes
get forgotten when so much
pre-winter work is on the “to do” list. Autumn is, though, a good
time to sow grass seed to revitalise sad-looking
areas or put down new lawns. Faster but more expensive is to lay turf and this can be done now
in warmer regions. For all lawns, aerate the ground – banging a garden fork into the soil is a simple way to do it – get rid of weeds and check for grass
grub infestations. These pests can be killed with granular products (prills), whose active ingredient is usually diazinon, an organophosphate that has
been around since the 1950s. It is now defined by the World Health Organisation as a “moderately hazardous” insecticide, so take care if using any product containing diazinon.


We tend to think of spring or early summer as the time for sowing flowers but hardy perennials like hollyhocks and delphiniums can be sown in autumn and will produce flowers next summer. Seed of lilies can be sown as soon as it is ripe but it can be months before the first tiny green leaves appear and three years to see the first flowers, a reward for the patient gardener. If you want to save your own seeds for spring sowing, it is important to harvest them on a warm, dry day. Store seeds in labelled paper bags for a couple of weeks then transfer to airtight containers, marked with the date and flower name.


Seakale (Crambe maritima) is a perennial brassica. Not to be
confused with tronchuda, or Portuguese seakale, which is just
another cabbage (Brassica oleracea), seakale has been grown in New Zealand for more than 110 years but has never been a mainstream vegetable or commercial crop. This is possibly because the stems are usually blanched as “poor man’s asparagus”, which requires a bit of effort. The flower buds can be harvested like broccoli and the young leaves used like spinach, and it will grow in any well-drained soil. Seakale seed can be difficult to track down, as Kings Seeds no longer offers it, but it is worth the effort as the plant grows easily from seed. Germination can be slow and erratic but taking off the corklike covering (pericarp) helps it along.

In cooler parts of the country, rowan or mountain ash (Sorbus
aucuparia) thrives, producing bright orange berries that
attract birds. Although bitter-tasting, the fruit makes an excellent jelly to go with meat, especially lamb. To 2kg of berries, add 1.5kg of cooking apples, not peeled but just washed and chopped. Cover with water and simmer until tender, then strain
overnight through a jelly bag. Discard the pulp and measure
the juice. Bring it to the boil in a large pan and for each 600ml of juice, add 450g of white sugar. Return to the boil and cook until a
drop on a cold plate wrinkles when pushed with a finger. Bottle in sterilised jars. As an alternative to apples, a pectin setting agent can be used. Because pink and white rowans have been developed from different Sorbus species, they are
not recommended for cooking.
Sow & Plant
In the vegetable garden, sow broad beans, winter lettuce,
daikon, peas, onions, kale, spinach and silverbeet. Plant
cabbage, broccoli, kale and perennial herbs, such as thyme
and mint. Flowers that be can be sown now include calendula, sweet peas, polyanthus and all primulas, stock, honesty (Lunaria),
dianthus and candytuft. Plant pansies and violas, perennial
wallflowers, primroses and polyanthus for winter colour
outdoors. Planting spring bulbs should be completed by the
end of April.
North Island
Zone 11
Jicama (Pachyrhizus tuberosus) is a sub-tropical vine from Mexico whose bulbous taproots are now widely
used in Asian food, thanks to the Spanish, who took it to the Philippines, from whence its cultivation spread throughout South East Asia. Sometimes called Mexican water chestnut, the young seeds can be eaten like lima
beans but are poisonous when they mature. Jicama is grown from seed that can be sown in autumn, but needs nine frost-free months to produce reasonable-sized roots.
Zone 10
As summer vegetables are
harvested, if a
new crop is to go in
soon, dig over the ground and feed it
with compost, sheep pellets or a general fertiliser. If the area is
not being used over winter, sow a green manure crop, such as alfalfa (pictured), lupins, oats or beans
and dig it into the plot in early spring.
Zone 9
To speed ripening of tomatoes, trim back the leaves so the fruit gets maximum sunshine. If your tomatoes are in pots, check whether they
are in the best position and, if not, consider whether it is possible to move them. If not, make a note of the sunniest spot and put containergrown tomatoes there next season.
Zone 8

Now is the time to take cuttings of favourite carnations and perennial dianthus. These old-timers, the best of which have rich, spicy perfume, tend to get a bit straggly if not
pruned after flowering and the trimmings root easily in pots of gravelly soil. Don’t let cuttings dry out or become waterlogged and
keep them in a sheltered place until wellrooted and ready to plant in the garden.

Zone 7 & 8

Kale is a great cool-weather
vegetable and ‘Red Russian’
(pictured) is one of the best, with a milder flavour than trendy blue-green ‘Cavolo Nero’. The colder the weather, the brighter the leaves of ‘Red Russian’. Sow it now and after
about a month the young leaves will be big enough to use in stir-fries and salads.

South Island
Zone 10
In frost-free places, the most dramatic of the hippeastrums (which Americans incorrectly call amaryllis, just to confuse us), can be grown outdoors. Forget the rule about planting bulbs in twice their depth of soil and – whether growing them outside or indoors in a pot – place hippeastrums so the neck of the bulb is above ground. Give them a monthly feed of liquid fertiliser and don’t let them dry out until flowering finishes and they become dormant.
Zone 9
Most decorative fuchsias are hybrids and these can be propagated from cuttings taken now and rooted in damp potting mix or gritty soil.
Wet feet are fatal, so good drainage is essential. Fuchsias are named for German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566) but he would never
have seen the plants, as they were first recorded 130 years after his death. Fuchsia fanciers agree
he missed a treat.
Zone 8
Although they are not often sown in autumn, peas can be put in now to stand over the winter so they will crop
earlier next season. Some gardeners recommend being more generous with seed if sowing in April but
more importantly, grow peas in well-drained soil to prevent the seed rotting and protect from birds, which will lift and gobble up seed as it
plumps up.
Zone 7
Many members of the brassica clan are best sown or planted in autumn for winter and spring use. Seed of green-skinned kohlrabi ‘Emerald’ can go in now and seems better suited to late sowing than the more familiar ‘Early Purple Vienna’
(pictured). Use the bulbs, which form above the soil surface, like turnips. Don’t let them grow too large – ping-pong ball size is ideal.