Tending the garden as summer approaches

Gooseberry bushes planted this year should be summer-pruned soon to build a well-shaped bush and...
Gooseberry bushes planted this year should be summer-pruned soon to build a well-shaped bush and allow sun and air to penetrate to the centres of the bushes. Photo: Linda Robertson.
What to do in your garden this week.


Not a true spinach, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa) is invaluable for gardens that dry out in late summer. Allow 60cm between each plant and sow in groups of two or three seeds, thinning later. This plant prefers a hot, dry, sunny situation. Growth is rapid and, when plants begin to spread, the growing tips should be nipped out so lots of leafy shoot tips will grow. Cut these frequently and always cook before eating.

Celery can be planted during the next three or four weeks. The old method of digging a trench and filling it with compost or manure mixed with soil before planting has much to recommend it, but celery will grow well in any good soil.

Keep the plants well watered to prevent them running to seed. Outdoor cucumbers need rich, moist soil. Raised beds are best if the soil is heavy. This does not need to be sophisticated. Make a flat-topped heap, starting with a couple of sacks of horse manure to a depth of 15cm to 20cm, then well-rotted lawn clippings or compost and a layer of soil. A heap about 30cm high is sufficient. Sow seeds in groups of three at 60cm intervals along the middle of the bed.

Covering with a mini-cloche — a plastic soft-drink bottle with the top removed is ideal — will speed germination and shelter seedlings from cold winds. Once they are growing, remove the covers and control growth of side shoots by cutting them off, one leaf beyond a fruit. Cucumber plants need regular watering. After rain, feed fruiting plants with weak liquid manure.

Gardens benefit from regular hoeing, especially as ground starts to dry after heavy rain at this time of year. Stirring soil thoroughly allows air and sun to enter and keeps weeds down. It also reduces the amount of water required, as the loose soil acts as mulch, reducing evaporation of moisture in the soil.


Roses appreciate heavy manuring. This can be done by mulching, watering with liquid manure or topdressing with commercial rose fertilisers. Make liquid manure from sheep droppings or cowpats by half-filling a bucket with raw manure, topping up with water and leaving for a couple of weeks.

Dilute to the colour of weak tea before applying to the base of the plant after rain or a good soaking with the hose.

Chrysanthemums can have their centres pinched out, encouraging them to send out three or four strong side shoots for good flowers in autumn.

Half-hardy annuals, such as asters, French marigolds and zinnias, can be planted out now, ideally in rich soil.

Fuchsias will benefit from a topdressing of compost or old animal manure applied in early summer to keep the soil in good condition and retain moisture.

Gladioli should be growing strongly now. Stake the plants if strong winds are expected.


Gooseberry bushes put in this year should be summer-pruned soon, to build a well-shaped bush and allow sun and air to penetrate to the centres of the bushes. Shoots growing into the centre or crossing other, stronger ones should be removed close to the branch from which they have sprung. Mulch gooseberries with compost or stable manure and keep the bushes well watered.

Raspberry canes may have young sucker growths around their base. It is a good sign, showing the plants are strong and virile, and bodes well for next summer’s fruit. The new shoots are next year’s fruiting canes and should be thinned and allowed to grow to 1m or more.

Plums, apples, pears, peaches and nectarines on heavily laden trees should be thinned. Unless this is done thoroughly, the crop will be plentiful but small-sized and often misshapen because of the pressure from neighbouring fruit. Remove the centre (king) fruit first.

Thinning is important to maintain balance in double and triple-grafted fruit trees. If one leg looks weaker, be brave: remove all the tiny fruit so energy goes into strengthening the weak leg, rather than into fruit production.

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