Mulch Now!!! The soil is nicely wet but still warm, as it cools down more slowly than the air. Seal in these lovely soil conditions with a good layer of mulch.
Mulch doesn’t just mean just wood-chip; it’s anything laid along the surface of the soil. It keeps away weeds (providing it’s laid thickly enough), it helps retain this moisture in the soil (meaning less watering over summer), and organic mulches (as opposed to pebbles) also break down to improve your soil, feeding soil life such as worms.
Weed an area before you mulch, paying special attention to perennial weeds like kikuyu or those that have seeds. Then spread on a good thick layer, and you won’t have to weed again for months. Once a garden has been thickly mulched – we’re talking a 10cm layer that fully blocks light reaching the soil surface – it should only need top-ups to any bare patches for the next few years. Re-apply when the mulch has broken down and is no longer suppressing weeds.
Cocoa husks make great-smelling mulch
Best Value Mulch: Grow your own - eg blue lupin – from a sprinkling of seed. Or use fallen leaves under trees or shrubs. Arborist chip is also cheap (even free from a friendly arborist!)
Best Nutrients: Seaweed or compost. Use these for high-need plants like fruit trees and roses.
Best for Veges: Straw is light and lets the rain through.
Best in a hot spot: Pebbles or rocks make long-lived mulch, in open areas away from falling leaves (otherwise they can become high-maintenance).
Best-Smelling: Cocoa husks are light but long-lasting, great around perennials.
Watch for: Don’t smother tussocks and grasses with mulch. Their growing tip is at ground level, so keep that clear. Soft things like lavenders and succulents can also rot if over-mulched – use a drier mulch such as pebbles around these.
Branches of tree Lucerne (tagasaste) may not be dense enough to keep out weeds but can be used as top-up over arborists chip mulch, as here at MOA community orchard, Jeep Rd.
A nice thick layer of arborists chip gives trees a good start while over time the comfrey will form a living mulch ground cover.
Now that we’re finally getting rain, the last thing on most people’s minds is irrigation. Winter however, is a good time to set up rain tanks. It’s a bit like the old adage of the Arkansas fiddler, who couldn’t fix his roof when it was raining, “and my roof never leaks when it doesn’t rain.”
Don’t leave it until midsummer to think about irrigation. Watering systems don’t have to be expensive, and you don’t need lots of technical skills and tools to rig them up. This summer, watch for low-tech irrigation displays in community and school gardens across the district.
First up is a rain barrels workshop Barrels of Fun! on Saturday 23 July, 1.30-3pm, at Matai Rd Community Garden, next to Kapiti Gallery in Raumati. This is part of the No8 Wire workshop series – formerly at the Sustainable Home and Garden Show – aimed at providing know-how for low-cost, DIY hacks to make your lifestyle more sustainable.
The rain barrels workshop will look at different ways of repurposing 200-litre blue barrels to use around the garden. You’ll see how to fit downpipe diverters and taps, how to build a stand and how to join barrels together create a garden-wide system. Barrels will be available on the day for you to take home:
- A single, closed top, food grade barrel is $40.00
- A tap with tank fitting is $20.
A biodigester is handy to have in the garden for those persistent perennial weeds you don’t want to let loose on the compost heap – oxalis, wandering willie, kikuyu etc. It’s a double-barreled contraption whereby the weeds heat up and break down in the top section, forming a liquid that drips into the bottom section, to be harvested as a nutritious plant food. To build a biodigester you need two 120 litre open top barrels @ $45.00 and a tap – total cost of materials $110. Special workshop price on the day is $100.00.
Make your own rain tank or biodigester at the Barrels of Fun workshop- part of No8 Wire Week
Workshop numbers are limited so book here
Other garden-themed No8 Wire Week workshops:
Saturday 16 July, 11:30am-1pm, Ōtaki College garden (undercover if wet)Learn composting, to put life into the soil and grow healthy food. With Bernadine Bloemgarten.
Saturday 23 July, 1:30-3pm, Māra kai (garden) at Kāpiti College maraeDaniel McClellan shows how to get your compost cranking.
HERBS FOR THE WINTER MONTHS
Sunday 17 July, 11.30am-1pm, Ōtaki College and Sunday 24th July, 11.30am-1pm, Kāpiti College.SandRa Timmins from Stoney Ground Herbs shows how to propagate herbs and use them for healthy living. We'll be drinking tea and making a tincture. $5
BUILD A SIMPLE RAISED BED
WINTER GARDENING: FRUIT TREE PRUNING AND KIDS’ CRAFT
Monday 18 July, 1-3pm, 99 Tilley Road, Paekākāriki. Adults can help build compost and see a tree pruning demonstration, while kids create garden craft.
Beekeeping, chickens, rat trapping, up-cycling, kombucha… for the full workshop list see kapiticoast.govt/no8wireweek or watch out for the printed programme!
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