Posts in Garden Tips
7 Ground Cover Plants to Suit Your Garden

No one is born with a pair of gardening gloves and a watering can in their hands. Love for gardening blossoms over time - often with the help of green-fingered family members who like to encourage a new passion to prosper.

Whether you’re a passionate gardener or one who likes to dabble when the fancy takes them, you’ll all share one thing in common: a dislike for pesky weeds. It seems like as soon as you get rid of one lot, a new type takes over. There’s only so much herbicide you’ll want to subject your other plants to.

The Benefits of Ground Cover Plants

That’s why more and more gardeners see the value in ground cover plants. Ground cover plants for your garden not only take up all that spare space that weeds usually steal, but can bring about a whole host of other benefits.

They prevent weed seed germination, perennial weeds, and even protect your soil from water loss and erosion. Ground cover plants are also a form of insulation, a living mulch, and an attractive habitat for insects that wish to call your garden home.

Whether you require ground cover plants for clay soil in New Zealand or something a little less demanding, you’re sure to find something to suit. Below, you can learn all about creeping, carpeting, edging, and fringing ground covers for your garden that will surely give weeds their marching orders.

1. Scleranthus Biflorus - New Zealand Cushion Bush

If you can’t pronounce the scientific name for this ground cover plant, then its more common name of NZ cushion bush will do. You won’t need to embarrass yourself when you’re asking for it at your local garden store. New Zealand cushion bush is a moss-like ground cover plant that thrives in all manner of environments.

Give it stones, gravel, or succulent mix, and it’ll live to tell the tale. While it looks soft, plush, and tempting to pat - refrain. Any damage to this ground cover plant can result in partial death, which can ruin the overall look of it as it takes over your bare space.

Scleranthus Biflorus.jpg
Pimelea Prostrata.jpg

2. Pimelea Prostrata - New Zealand Daphne

If you’re looking for ground cover plants for clay soil in NZ, then New Zealand Daphne will come to the rescue. It’s a ground cover plant that originates from coastal dunes, so it’s used to a hard life. It’s also beautiful and produces stunning flowers with a mild scent of honey. However, if you have grazing stock on or near your property, this ground cover plant may not be for you. It’s poisonous for grazing animals. 

3. Soleirolia Soleirolii - Baby’s Tears

If you’re trying to put a stop to pesky weeds taking over your paving stones and pathways, then let Baby’s Tears be of assistance. This ground cover plant for your garden is a master of pathway protection, nestling up to the edges of it to form a barrier against weed invasion.

Baby’s Tears thrives in shady and moist conditions, but without frost. It becomes a stunning carpet-like cover that’s both effective and attractive.

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4. Coprosma (Taiko) - Prostrate Mingimingi

If you want to make sure your ground covers for your garden are both attractive and useful, then Coprosma may be for you. When you first buy it, it may not be immediately obvious that it’s going to make the best ground cover. However, once it takes off, there’s no stopping it. It forms a thick rug over your chosen garden area that looks neat and tidy with regular trimming.

5. Liriope Muscari - Lilyturf

If your goal with ground cover for your garden is to help with fringing and edging, then Lilyturf can help. This beautiful plant has gorgeous and long leaves and vibrant purple flowers that look picture-perfect in spring.

However, Lilyturf does have its drawbacks. Slugs and snails love it. What’s more, if frost doesn’t kill it back over winter, then you have to remove dead foliage by hand. Otherwise, there are plenty of reasons why this bushy and vibrant plant could be a firm favourite in your garden.

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6. Dwarf Agapanthus (Tinkerbell)

Dwarf Agapanthus, also known as Tinkerbell, is a short yet beautiful ground cover plant that can add much life and vibrancy to your garden. It grows in clumps, doesn’t spread without permission, and you can propagate it to build up surrounding areas. Unlike roadside agapanthus, its dwarf cousin is not one to misbehave and can also be useful for stabilising banks that are prone to erosion.

7. Trachelospermum Jasminoides - Star Jasmine

Even though this ground cover plant will take at least two years to mature, it will be worth it when it does. It can climb, form shapes on wires, and provide dense coverage when and where you need it the most. It gets a gold star for versatility. However, it’s not suitable for areas with heavy frost.

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It’s Time to Plant

You won’t need much convincing that ground cover plants are a saving grace. Instead of all that back-breaking work to remove weeds, you can rely on ground cover plants to give weeds their marching orders. If you need a helping hand in choosing the right ground cover plants for your garden, then there are plenty of experts who can help. Otherwise, happy planting!

 

 

Dead leaves smothering your lawn this Autumn?
Raking leaves on green grass

If you’ve been to your local park lately, you may have noticed something different – and I’m not talking about rubbish bins full of empties left behind by cricket fans. It’s the influx of greenkeepers and lawn mowing council staff trying to do something about the state of the grass after a crazy summer of droughts and cyclones.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that your lawn at home isn’t in much better shape. When out lawn mowing and gardening, Crewcut contractors up and down the country have encountered lawns that are madly overgrown in some areas and sun burned yellow in others.

 

So, what can you do to rectify the ravages of summer, protect your lawn from Autumn weather and get your lawn in tip top condition ahead of winter?

 

Crewcut’s operations manager Pauli Horgan says that as the days get shorter and wetter, it’s a good idea to keep grass long so that it can soak up some rays, and to do your lawn a favour by letting air in to dry it out. He says a trap for young players is to cut off long summer lawn in one fell swoop at the end of the season. 

“Cutting off the long blades will leave the earth exposed and open to root burn when the ground gets cold.” 

This makes sense – imagine if you were enjoying a late summer nap outside when someone simultaneously turned off the sun and stole your clothes. It would be a horrible shock to the system.

 

Two hands holding a clump of freshly mown grass

Exfoliate

Get yourself a stiff rake and go over any dry patches, to weed out the dead grass. Grass needs mowing less over Autumn because of the weakening sun but it does need to convert all the energy it does get into growth – there’s none to spare for dead weight. Pauli advises grooming and caring for the lawn to ready it for winter hibernation. Depending on where in the country you live, you will have to watch out for sogginess, frost and suffocation. The last applies to lawns nationwide, so don’t put that rake away even if you’re not doing any lawn mowing.

 

He says that Autumn leaves aren’t just a pain and an eyesore, they can kill: 

“You need to keep all leaves removed or your lawn is being smothered, the fallen leaves are choking the grass growth.” 

So even if your lawn mowing schedule drops back to two or three weekly, keeping on top of garden clearing is just as important to the health and appearance of your lawn. Blowing and raking leaves off the lawn also removes dead grass and gives your lawn maximum exposure to the sun. (And who doesn’t love having some fun with the leaf blower? Just make sure you herd the leaves into a green bag). 
 

Aerate

From Northland to Southland, no part of the country is now immune to extreme weather and its likely many of you will have a bog at your back door at some stage over the next few months. Aeration is the practice of jabbing short narrow holes into the soil that provide channels for the air, fertiliser, rain and water to get through. This applies to water that might otherwise run off and not be absorbed into the ground, particularly if you have clay soil, advises Pauli. Rather than have your daughter’s rugby team go hell for leather on your turf, call your local Crewcut team. They are less busy with lawn mowing over the cooler months and happy to help with any gardening advice.

 

Further reading for Autumn gardening:
- All about Autumn pruning
- Autumn gardening tips
- There's more to hedges than trimming

 

Nourish

The lawn is going to need feeding ahead of the barren winter months and Pauli is a big proponent of including fertilising in his Autumn lawn mowing regime. The solution he advocates is a simple yet sustainable one. 

“Mulching clippings into the soil is ideal at this time of year to enrich the earth. Make sure you use a mulching lawn mower, not just a catcher mower with the catcher removed – this will just leave clumps that will smother and kill the grass.”

 

Purify

A new unauthorised biography of Prince Charles claims he has four gardeners who “lie flat, face down, on a trailer pulled by a slow-moving Land Rover” to hand pluck weeds, because of our future king's hatred of pesticides. If you too dislike pesticides but are on a lower budget, your lawn will love to be rid of energy sapping, eyesore weeds that you could pull yourself or call in a Crewcut gardener. 

It’s quite likely that you’ll also need to do some patching. Ensure you get the correct seed by taking a photograph of your lawn to the garden shop and asking an expert. Do not plant just before heavy rain (wash away) and do sprinkle top soil over the top and water daily for the first two or three weeks.

 

So, while serious lawn mowing takes a back seat from now until Spring, lawn maintenance is more important now than ever. After all, it’s when one’s vulnerable that one needs TLC and your lawn will need to be in its best possible health to face a hostile Winter and emerge strong again in Spring. Try not to forget about your lawn during those cold dark weeks ahead when you see it less and less, because it is suffering out there! Ultimately, grass is a plant and like any other it needs love and attention.

 


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Garden TipsADMIN
Autumn Gardening Tips

The onset of cooler temperatures is the opening of a starting gate for gardeners champing at the bit indoors, clutching their forks and trowels. Previously limited to moonlit watering, they let loose attacking the weeds and bugs and carry everywhere their lists of tasks and plans.

At this time of year there is plenty of vegetable gardening to do, but not much in the way of instant reward. Most Autumn gardening involves either cleaning up after the last harvest of summer or tending winter seedlings that won’t deliver for the table for weeks or months. In between is a great deal of weeding and lugging about of compost. You can get a lot of fun from planning your winter garden, sketching it out on paper, trying new varieties of vegetable and deciding which to sow in the greenhouse and which to plant straight from seedlings bought from the garden centre. 

A greenhouse can be just a two-shelf number with a plastic cover from the hardware shop. Growing your own seeds is very satisfying – just remember that one seed sometimes means one vegetable (broccoli) and sometimes one plant (beans) and sow accordingly! Seedlings also make great gifts.

Greenhouse with saplings growing inside
  • Remember to wear gloves and a mask when opening bags of bought potting mix, because of risk of legionnaire’s disease. Airborne bacteria from the soil can cause lung infection.
  • Stock up on neem oil, a natural solution to battling most bugs that love your vegetables.
  • Downy mildew is a fungus that develops on the underside of the large leaves of cauliflower, broccoli and many other vegetables. It loves humidity – and loves Auckland! Most gardening suppliers have a product to combat it, you might even be able to find gardeners in Auckland to help you out.

Prepare the soil

On a sunny day, go through your garden and pull out all dead vegetable plants and any that have gone to seed or bolted. Weed your beds and add compost. Practise green gardening by recycling - stakes and ties pass seasonally between tomatoes and beans, and 1.5l transparent plastic bottles (with labels and ends removed) encourage both celery and leeks to grow strong and tall. If you plan to give up vegetable gardening until salad days return (not unwise given how cheap winter vegetables are), then it’s tempting not to weed it at all. Cover the garden in newspaper (weigh it down) to choke weed growth and unveil at the end of winter.

Much of vegetable gardening success comes down to composting and Autumn is the best time to get a new system started so it has time to decompose before it’s needed in early Spring. Once your household gets into the groove, composting becomes a way of life, plus it saves on rubbish collection fees. The best bin is the type with drawers at the bottom for easy access to the good stuff while you keep loading the goodies in the top. Keep the mix wet with the odd feeding from the hose and of course, throw in those grass clippings. If your garden is low on soil, then an all-purpose garden mix (and compost if you’re short) will bring the garden back to life again.

Auckland Council is encouraging Aucklanders to reduce food waste and is offering free workshops, online tutorials and discounts on worm farms, compost bins and bokashi systems – find out more here. There’s even a food scraps/compost matching service, kind of Tinder for fertiliser?

While you’re in the vegetable garden, check on the health of your herbs. Basil won’t be happy about the cooler weather, so bring him inside. Likewise, any houseplants that have been holidaying in the sun – peace lilies should come back in now and any tropical pot plants.

Field of yellow and red tulips

Bulbalicious

Not all autumn gardening is dull! Here at Crewcut, we love bulbs because they’re hardy, self-sufficient and they set off a lawn to perfection. It’s wonderful after a grim winter to suddenly see the first merry daffodil faces, followed by beautiful tulips, elegant irises and cruisy colourful freesias. Planning this display is masses of fun and helps take the edge off the upcoming cold season. Some bulbs are high maintenance, so if time-consuming gardening maintenance isn’t your thing, best avoid hyacinths.

Try framing the sunny end of your lawn with masses of daffodils or clumps of tulips, set little crocuses in and around a rockery or along a path. Many freesias have a beautiful smell (check the pack) so plant near the house or in a patio pot. Garden centres are always well-stocked with bulbs, or order online from a nursery for more variety. New Zealand has several excellent, reliable bulb nurseries.

Remember – when the flowering is over, wait until the leaves have died before disturbing the plant. The leaves are still collecting energy from the sun and storing it in the bulb for next year’s growth. Depending on the type of bulb, you can dig it up for storing in a dry place, or in some cases (daffodils, crocuses, freesias) leave bulbs in the ground to naturalise (wait for the leaves to brown before snipping off).

  • Summer bulbs aren’t planted until spring – these include dahlias, begonias and gladioli.
  • The pointy end is the stem and the messy, rough side is the root system. Plant pointy side up.

Gardening Maintenance tips

  • Check fastenings on plants and trees such as beans and climbing roses. Make sure ties aren’t too tight or in a position that will hinder new lateral growth.
  • Newly planted saplings, including hedges, will need support against strong winter winds so choose a stake size accordingly.
  • If your deck or front steps are mossy, get them water blasted so they don’t become a slippery health hazard over winter. Do this now rather than waiting to do it in the cold and rain.
  • Clear your section of junk (broken kids’ Christmas presents) and take it to the local recycling centre (tip). Spending all winter watching it rust on the lawn is just depressing on several levels.
  • An exceptionally long, hot, wet summer has resulted in triffid-like tendrils all over the place and we’ve been inundated by SOS calls from hedge owners. There’s a lot of pruning that you can do with your secateurs to keep things tidy and in check. Look out for upcoming articles here for pruning advice.

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How to stop your dog destroying the garden
Spaniel dog on the grass running towards owner

Nothing brings a tear to your eye quicker than seeing your freshly planted garden trampled, or your neatly mowed lawns sporting fresh new holes. While your garden and lawns may have been your pride and joy, your dog evidently wasn’t happy with them and felt they needed some minor alterations.

 

If you’re inclined to disagree, it’s time to take action. While a stern word and a sit-down chat aren’t going to stop that troublesome behaviour, some of these tips below might.

 

 

Supervise Their Yard Visits

Rather than leave your furry friend to their own devices in your backyard, why not take the time to go with them? The less time they spend on their own, the less likely they are to resort to destructive behaviour that requires a significant clean-up job. While dogs love being outside, they do have relatively short attention spans. Therefore, that fluffy tennis ball begins to look far less appealing than your gorgeous flower bed that’s lacking a bit of trampling courtesy of Rover.

 

Take the time to play tug of war, throw a frisbee, play a game of fetch, anything that both stimulates your dog and stops it from adding new and unappreciated focal points in your yard.

 

Utilise Fencing

To protect your prized peonies from your destructive dog, it might be worth investing in fencing that acts as a deterrent. While the fencing doesn’t have to be six feet high, serving as a barricade, it can be a way in which to show your dog their intrusion into this area is not appreciated. Whether you had a gardener complete the work or you did it yourself, any method of protection is going to save you both money and time in the long run.

 

Distract Them

Dog waiting for treat on its nose

Dogs require constant distraction, and you’ll soon learn what happens when you don’t. That’s when holes are dug in your freshly seeded lawns, and when garden beds become flattened. While you can hire experts to fix the problem, isn’t it best to avoid it in the first place?  To distract a dog from causing havoc in your yard, be sure to exercise them every day.

 

In most cases, a brisk stroll around the block won’t do. Trips to the dog park, ball games, and beach adventures are all valid ways in which to tucker out your pup and stop that destructive behaviour. After all, it’s not a naughty dog that sets out to trample the tulips; it’s a bored one.

 

Try Home Remedies

If emotions are running high because your previously immaculate lawn is looking like a battlefield, it’s time to try absolutely everything. If exercise, distraction, and fencing are not enough to stop your pup, then maybe home remedies are. Dogs are not fond of the smell of white vinegar. Therefore, you can use this dislike to your advantage. In your dog’s “hot zones” – the areas in which they tend to flex their destructive muscles, spray the area with vinegar.

 

Alternatively, cayenne pepper is equally as beneficial if your pup tends to dig in the same spots over and over again. A smattering of cayenne pepper from your spice rack can often be enough to have them opting for “tamer” hobbies such as chew toys.

 

Create Their Own Space

While there’s no denying that man’s best friend loves to roll around in the grass and enjoy the fresh air, they might not have enough stimulation in that space to keep them entertained for hours on end. So, instead, they make their own fun at the expensive of your beautiful gardens and lawns. 

If you find that stress, anxiety, or separation is not the cause of your dog’s destructive behaviour, but boredom is, then creating their own area in the backyard can help to at least partly solve the problem. Offer plenty of toys to play with and chew, or even tunnels to run through if they’re agile and active pups.

To create a space just for them, you may like to take it one step further and attach them to a proximity lead. This lead system is a stake installed in the ground with a wire that’s available in various lengths. While your dog can still run around and enjoy themselves, they may be just that little bit too restricted to gain access to your gardens. Just remember that dogs are social creatures and alone time should be kept to a minimum.

 

Your dog doesn’t set out to be naughty, even if it seems that way. However, even being compassionate to your dog’s anxiety, stress, or boredom doesn’t fix your now trampled lettuces. If you’re getting ready to contact the experts to recreate your garden or mow your lawns, then there’s no time like the present to begin altering that destructive behaviour.

 


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Save mega bucks & grow your own avocados
Plate with avocado on toast with eggs, tomato an basil leaves.

Avocados are very “on-trend” at the moment. They go beautifully with eggs on toast, on a bagel with olive oil and feta, or even just cut in half and eaten with a spoon! In fact, thumbing through the pages of any current magazine will just about bring up a new recipe for how to enjoy them every which way. However, given the price of them – anywhere between $4-7 each, you may just be looking to mortgage your house to satisfy that avo craving. Therefore, what’s the harm in trying to grow a tree? It could save you a fortune while uncovering a hidden green thumb.

 

Many of our franchisees also enjoy running avocado orchards when they’re not gardening, tree trimming, or behind the mower. It can be a rewarding process, so why not read our how-to guide and grow a tree for yourself?

 

The backstory of the Avocado

The avocado has its roots back in south-central Mexico where it began life in 7,000 BC. However, in recent years, it was discovered that Incan mummies in Peru dating back to 750 BC were buried with what appeared to be avocado seeds.

 

As early as 500 BC, avocados were cultivated in Mexico, but they were known as Persea Americana. Eventually, they became known as aquacate which, in English, became avocado. Avocados are now a staple of many South American diets, but they also feature heavily in the west as well. People consume them for breakfast, in guacamole, and even in desserts such as cheesecake or mousse.

 

Here in New Zealand, not every part of the country is blessed with the ability to grow them. They grow beautifully in Northland, Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, and some people have even had success gardening them in Golden Bay and Nelson as well. However, those in the deep south will have less luck due to the colder conditions.

 

A large avocado on an avocado tree

Can I grow them?

Even if you love gardening and are quite good at it, you may still struggle to grow an avocado tree – depending on your conditions and where you live. You need to have protection from the wind, as well as a warm and sunny spot in your yard. What’s more, you must have at least two metres of free-draining soil due to the sensitive roots.

You can grow avocado trees in coastal locations due to their salt tolerance, but even the slightest hint of frost will have them withering up and dying. A light frost will burn young growth, while temperatures as low as -3 degrees will kill young trees.

The slow way

Growing an avocado tree from seed can give you a sense of pride, even if you’re waiting 15 years to enjoy the fruits of your labour. The next time you get out a personal loan and buy an avocado, keep the seed. Here’s what to do with it.

  1. Wash it and pierce it with three evenly-placed toothpicks.
  2. Fill a glass with water and put the avocado on top with the bottom half in the water and the top half dry. The toothpicks will keep it in place.
  3. Place the glass in a warm area but not in direct sunlight.
  4. Wait. Roots and a stem will begin to grow and when they are 6-7 inches long, cut them back to three inches.
  5. When the stems have leaves again, and the roots are thick, plant them in fertile soil with half of the seed exposed.
  6. Water it but don’t drown it. Keep it in partial sunlight.
  7. When the stem grows to around 12 inches, cut it to half the height to encourage new shoots.
  8. Once the sapling has outgrown its pot, get your gardening gloves out and plant it outside in good sunlight. You don’t need to plant this shallow-rooted plant too deeply.

To literally enjoy the fruits of your labour, you are in for between five and 13 years of waiting. After maturing at around five years old, you may see as much as 200 to 300 avocados per year.

 
Avocado saplings 
 

The fast way

If you don’t want to wait over a decade to enjoy an avocado and salmon bagel, then you can opt for a faster method. Instead of growing the tree from seed, you can buy a pre-grown tree from a reputable garden product supplier. Then, instead of having to painstakingly fight to keep it alive, you merely have to carry out tree trimming to keep it in tip-top shape. It might take a few years for it to produce fruit, but it’s better than risking a 15-year wait.

 

How to carry out tree trimming of your Avocado tree

Not everyone is a gardening expert, and that’s okay. There are plenty around who can help you out when you require it. If you want your avocado tree to produce fruit and thrive for many years to come, then it’s crucial to stay on top of your tree trimming requirements – generally in Spring.

 

If you believe you can tackle the task on your own, here’s how to keep your avo tree in tip-top shape.

  1. Remove damaged, dead, or diseased parts.
  2. Remove crossing branches or any part of the tree that may cause it not to grow as it should.
  3. Shorten long branches.

 

Tip: Never remove more than 20 percent of the tree at any one time. If you haven’t carried out tree trimming on your avocado tree in some time, it may take several years for you to bring it back to its former self.

 

It’s clear to see that to get that coveted avocado, you need to be willing to put in the hard yards. Otherwise, you may end up like the several thousand New Zealanders who put on a brave face as they buy a $7 avocado from the supermarket.

 


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Mulching Tips
Small garden plants sitting under bark mulch

Learning how to mulch can provide no end of benefit to the avid gardener. Not only does the mulching process help to stop frostbite and retain moisture, but it can be so beneficial for plant growth while preventing weed growth at the same time.

 

If you’re tired of spending all your precious free time on weekends on your knees pulling out weeds, then while not learn how to mulch? We’ve included various options as well as the benefits of mulching below. Once you try out these methods, you will be surprised at how well your garden thrives as a result.

 

Grass Clippings

If you are always out and about mowing your lawns, then you will no doubt have plenty of lawn clippings available. Rather than pay to take these to a waste disposal facility or pile them in the corner of the yard, why not use them to your advantage? Grass clippings, believe it or not, are perfect for mulching. Just spread them over your garden beds to help with suppressing the growth of weeds. The best part is, they’re free.

 

Given the water content, however, you will find they decompose reasonably quickly. If you have a considerable amount of lawn clippings, this may not be a problem for you.

 

Newspaper

When you have finished catching up on the daily news in your local newspaper, you will find there are many benefits of mulching with it as well. Rather than throw it in the bin, you can layer the sheets around your favourite plants and help to keep the weeds away and your plants moist. For best effect, layer between four and eight sheets around your plants then wet them. Keeping them moist can help to stop them blowing away in the wind as well.

 

Bark

When you’re learning how to mulch, or you’re getting gardening help from an expert; you will soon realise that bark is one of the most effective mulching products around. You can use it with your shrubs, encompassing garden beds, and even around trees. The reason why there are so many benefits of mulching with bark is that it’s long-lasting. Unlike lawn clippings and newspaper, it lasts a long time, meaning you can spend less time maintaining your garden and more time admiring it.

 

However, if you like to dabble in transplanting, moving plants, and creating space for new plants, bark may not be the best mulching product for you. It doesn’t play nice with soil, making it exceptionally difficult to remove without interrupting the dirt.

 

Shredded Leaves

Most yards will have one or two trees that drop leaves in autumn and winter. While they are perfect for blocking your gutters and messing your entrance ways, they actually have a positive purpose – mulching. By collecting these leaves, you solve two problems – your plants get crucial nutrients, and your yard benefits from a clean-up.

 

You can use shredded leaves anywhere for mulching, and they even encourage earthworms to work their magic as well. As a result, they help both your plants and your soil – while being free for the average homeowner.

 

Straw and Hay

Straw and hay, when you use it correctly and know how to mulch correctly, can be exceptionally beneficial for your garden. However, you do need to be careful and make sure you purchase weed-free hay. Otherwise, you’re creating more problems than you’re solving. Weed-free hay can keep your weeds at bay, retain that all-important moisture in your soil, and add organic matter as well.

 

When you add straw or hay for mulching, be sure not to pile it around roots, stems, or tree trunks. Piles of hay is an open invitation for slugs and rodents to come out and play.

 

Plastic

In a world that’s actively trying to promote less plastic use, it may seem odd that it can be beneficial for your garden – particularly as it doesn’t break down. However, if you have any old black plastic sheets lying in your back shed, you may as well re-use it rather than throw it into landfill.

 

When you spread black plastic sheets tightly over a flat soil area, the sun’s heat transmits with it and creates a hive of activity within your soil. The soil warms up and then prevents weeds from growing, retains much-needed moisture, and even helps vining crops from succumbing to rot and dirtiness.

If you have infrared plastic at home, then even better. This type of plastic can also help to produce better fruit crop yields.

 

However, there is a right and wrong way to plastic use. You need to spread it out tightly over the top of your flat soil base, poke holes in it, then plant seeds in those holes. It may be hard to water those plants – especially in their early days, so you may also like to install drip hoses to help keep it moist while they grow.

 

Plastic is beneficial for garden beds, but you shouldn’t use it for mulching under shrubs. It can, in a word, choke the plants as they begin to grow roots closer to the surface. In essence, there are no benefits of mulching with plastic for more mature plants.

 

Mulching in Winter

There is a common misconception that mulching during winter is not necessary because the sun isn’t out to heat up the soil for the best effect. However, mulching protects your plants from frostbite, so mulching in winter is a good idea. It stops the roots from freezing while preparing it for a hit of growth in the spring months.

 

If you know mulching is essential, but you’re not sure how to approach it, you will find there are plenty of garden and lawn experts you can contact in your local area who are only too willing to help. There are also many benefits of mulching, so there’s no time like the present to arm yourself with newspaper, bark, plastic, leaves, or straw and hay and start the process today.


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Keeping Cats Out Of Your Garden
Small cat hiding in the garden bushes

There’s no denying that cats are some of our favourite pets to own. While they’re very independent animals, most New Zealanders seem to think they’re worth keeping around. After all, if they weren’t, 44 percent of New Zealand households wouldn’t have at least one.

 

However, for all their companionship benefits, there’s one bugbear many people have. Why must they use our gardens as their litter box?

The truth is, cats have to use the toilet somewhere. Unfortunately, that tends to be the nearest and most attractive looking garden – and it’s typically not the cat owner’s, either. Therefore, many homeowners tend to find that the entire neighbourhood’s cats consider their property as a public restroom.

 

For many, it’s a frustrating and endless experience. Imagine having your garden looking neat and tidy, only to pull up a cat poo along with your carrots? While it seems like you’re facing an uphill battle with troublesome Toms, it’s not a battle you can’t win. Here are a few of the many ways in which you can keep cats out of your garden.

 

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

It’s a well-known fact that most cats hate water. Therefore, choosing to install motion-activated sprinklers after just investing time and money in a garden clean-up is a good idea. Now that you’ve rid your property of all signs of cats, you’ll want to keep it that way.

 

As soon as a cat comes near your sprinklers, they will get the shock of their life when they’re sprayed with water. Most importantly, however, they’ll remember the experience and will be unlikely to return.

 

Chicken Wire

Whether you’ve contacted the experts to help with your new vegetable garden, or it was a labour of your own love, you’ll be wanting to keep it as the picture of perfection. However, between the birds and the cats, it can sometimes feel like an impossible task. It doesn’t have to be, not if you invest in chicken wire fencing.

 

Not only will installing chicken wire over your vegetable garden protect it from birds, but it will stop cats from using it as a restroom as well. They can’t dig in the dirt to cover their business, nor will they like the texture on their feet.

 

Pine Cones

One of the primary ways in which you can discourage cats from entering your garden is by ensuring the experience is not a pleasurable one. You can achieve this in many humane ways. Cats have sensitive feet, so if they stand on something that doesn’t feel pleasant, they won’t be in a hurry to relive that experience. Therefore, if you happen to have access to pine cones, take advantage of them. If you spread pinecones around the common toileting areas of visiting cats, they will be less likely to find your gardens that appealing.

 

Citrus and Coffee Grounds

Just as you don’t like the scent of cat urine and poo, cats don’t like the smell of your everyday citrus fruits and coffee grounds. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to take advantage of their hate for this odour.

Collect all your coffee grounds from your morning brew and purchase citrus fruit. As soon as cats smell these odours, they’ll take off in search of greener pastures – hopefully, their own backyard.

However, it’s crucial to know that you should not place citrus and coffee grounds on your plants, as these can have a detrimental effect. Instead, surround your garden beds with them.

 

Lavender

Lavender is a lovely plant that many people prefer not to own because it can grow like a weed. However, in the spirit of keeping cats out of your yard, lavender is going to be a welcome addition to your garden. Not only can you enjoy the scent as you traverse your garden paths, but cats will turn their nose up at it. Lavender, eucalyptus and similar strong-smelling herbs and flowers are something cats do not like at all.

 

Therefore, if you were to plant them in your garden – especially near toileting hot spots, there’s every reason to believe you can benefit from fewer feline friends making themselves at home.

 

Cayenne

If you’re at your wit's end and have tried almost everything, then it might be in your best interests to give cayenne a try. While it’s not an effective method that deters all cats, it has been known to work on the majority. And, if you can get rid of at least a few cats from your garden, then it’s going to be beneficial in the long run.

 

Cats don’t like cayenne pepper because it features capsaicin. Capsaicin is the component of pepper that makes it hot – not only to humans but cats as well. If cats were to step on something coated in cayenne or taste something featuring it, they would be less than impressed.

 

To use cayenne to keep cats out of your yard, buy flaked cayenne and sprinkle it around your garden. When it rains, you will need to repeat the process. Otherwise, you can combine dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and flour together as a reliable cat repellent for use around your home.

 

Many of us adore cats. However, generally speaking, they are less desirable when they’re defecating amongst your potatoes. Get in touch with the experts for garden clean-up help, then try any of these cat repelling methods to get rid of them for good.


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The NOT so marvellous mushroom

Are you battling with Mushrooms or Fungi in your garden with all the wet weather?

Two large mushrooms in backyard

If you’re noticing mushrooms popping up on your lawn and roadsides you are not alone. It means that autumn is in full swing, the prime time for fungal growth. Fungi grow quickly in wet weather that occurs right after a dry spell, so New Zealand should be covered in them this Autumn. 
 

There are over 7,500 types of fungi identified in New Zealand, and more to be discovered. They can be found in moist soil, wood and compost. They grow plentifully on dead tree trunks or branches in low lying forestry. One of the most distinct mushrooms are the Werewerekōkako, which even features on our $50 note, a bright blue fungi. 
 

However not all mushrooms are for foodies, these unique plants can often be unsafe to eat which can be a bit of a worry if you you have curious pets or children. Mushrooms can also be an eyesore on your pristine lawn, but how do you stop them growing?
 

Mushroom removal

Fungal disease on your lawns increases when the grass is stressed. This could be from droughts, poor drainage, low soil fertility and low cutting. If you have tried pulling out or mowing over your mushrooms, but still they keep coming back, try this old method.

 

Epsom salts are all you need! The Epsom salts will balance the pH of your soil to help get rid of them. 

 

Method

  1. Grab a 5 litre watering can and fill with water.
  2. Put 60g of Epsom salts and stir in.
  3. Pour over the affected area.

 

Epsom salt is safe to use and won’t burn your grass. It is a great fertiliser as it contains magnesium which helps plants absorb nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur which are the main ingredients to a green lush lawn! You can expect a few to pop up in your garden over the winter period - so remembering this handy tip will keep them at bay.


 

Can I eat the mushrooms in my backyard?

Mushrooms are an excellent source of B vitamins and minerals such as selenium and zinc, plus protein,  some species are recognised for their benefits to health and disease prevention. With so many types of mushrooms out there, we don't recommend picking anything you aren't sure is safe to eat.
 

Field mushrooms are commonly found in NZ bush and are safe to eat. However the differences between a deadly and edible mushroom can be so minor, it is not safe to eat anything that hasn’t been identified by a professional. 
 

Rules for fungi eating:

  • Never eat unidentified fungi - some can be deadly, and it is better to be safe that sorry.
  • Eat new mushrooms in moderation, try a small amount and wait a few hours, keep some of the fungi aside to determine what they are in case you get some ill effects after consuming.
  • Don’t mix fungi together - unless you have eaten them before.
  • Cooking, heating and salting do not destroy poisons inside the mushrooms. Doing this will not ensure any safety for unidentified mushrooms.
     

Common NZ Mushrooms

-       Wood ear mushroom, virtually stemless and frill-less these mushrooms are often found on tree trunks in clusters. Still used today commonly in Chinese dishes, these mushrooms are crispy, but fairly flavourless and take on flavour within the dish.
 

-       Puffballs, you have most likely seen these mushroom varieties at one time or another. These species are pure white on the inside which later turns to spores and air. Spores are released with the help of an animal, or human who can’t resist smushing or kicking it, and are spread around with wind. Many puffballs are safe to eat, as long as the inside is white. Some giant puffballs found in NZ have grown to extreme sizes and they are often mistaken for sheep!

 

Puffballs were traditionally eaten by Maori and also used for medicinal purposes. The spores could heal burns, was used to stop bleeding as well as an anesthetic. 


 

Poisonous mushrooms

·       The death cap, a known mushroom to the world that can be fatal if ingested. Often mistaken as other edible fungi this mushroom can cause effects in a few hours. The symptoms are similar to food poisoning, over the course of a few days. Toxins in the mushroom act on the liver and kidneys, after a few days it will become clear that a liver transplant will be needed, but the end result can often be death. Luckily there have been no such extreme cases in NZ.
 

·       The Fly Agaric is the mushroom of fairytales, bright red with white spots, from the toadstool family. These toadstools are pretty and bright, but not to be played with as they are poisonous. If too much is ingested it can lead to liver failure, so our best suggestion is to take a quick photo of these then remove them before your dog gets any ideas!

 

Grow Your own

If you have an interest in mushrooms, and don’t want to pay big bucks at the supermarket, you can easily grow your own. Mushrooms don’t require much attention as they don’t even photosynthesize. Have a look at what kinds you can buy that will thrive in New Zealand. 
 

You can purchase a mushroom growing kit, or investigate yourself and spread spores from an existing species. Mushrooms prefer dark, cool, moist, and humid growing environments. Easily grown indoors in a spot under a sink, a garage or basement. You can also grow them outside in logs but it may take longer to germinate than indoor controlled conditions. Mushrooms grow quickly and you can be eating them within 4-6 weeks, they are a great produce choice for winter especially if you are an impatient gardener hanging out for Springtime. 


 

Before going mushrooming and seeking out this free food we recommended that you consult someone who knows them, and use the mushroom eating guide listed above! Otherwise get onto growing your own and you will be making creamy mushrooms galore in just over a months time. 


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Watering your garden the right way
Small dog holding watering hose on lawn

When your yard or garden is not looking at its best, or you’re trying to keep it looking as good as it currently does, you might think water is the answer. While it can be, it’s not just a case of spraying the hose onto your gardens and lawns and hoping the result is a lush, stunning paradise. There is almost an art form to lawn care and watering the lawn, which is why you need to do your research before running rampant with a hose.

 

Whether you’re using a watering can, a hose, a sprinkler or a drip irrigation system, you will be surprised to know there is a right and wrong approach. Learn about watering the lawn effectively below to ensure it looks its best for longer.

Garden Hose

If you’re carrying out lawn care with a garden hose, or are using it for watering the lawn, you will soon learn there are as many positives as there are negatives in this approach. Without a special nozzle or spray function, you run the risk of flooding your lawn or garden - especially if there is a significant volume of water hitting the ground at one time.

 

When you use a garden hose for lawn care, pay attention to the flow. Make sure it’s a light drizzle rather than a flash flood that can do more harm than good. What’s more, when you’re watering the lawn with a garden hose, you need to stop as soon as the soil stops absorbing the water. If you’re not quite sure whether it has had enough, use a screwdriver and dig it into the ground. The moisture, to be sufficient, needs to be between 150 and 250mm into the soil. If it’s not, keep watering until it is.

 

Not sure if a garden hose is the best option for your lawn? Contact an expert or consider these pros and cons.

 

Pro - Cover a larger area and be in control

Con - Doesn’t always reach where you need it to be

Tip: Buy a special nozzle for your hose if you don’t have one. A spray function is far better than an uncontrolled flood of water.

 

Watering Can

For smaller sections, watering the lawn with a watering can is the most effective way to carry out lawn care. A watering can may also be more convenient if your garden hose doesn’t reach an area of your yard that’s in dire need of moisture. However, if you’re yet to buy a watering can to carry out the task, then you may want to pay attention to both the options available to you and the size and scale of the task at hand.

 

While you wouldn’t use a watering can for large yards, you will find they’re more than suitable for small patches, and smaller garden beds as well. The average watering can, one that you may discover ticks all the boxes is a round version with a wider mouth, a handle, and a long spout. To use it, you fill the water compartment, point the spout at the area you want to water, then keep the water flowing until the soil stops absorbing it. However, be sure to choose one with a shower-like nozzle. The water is then able to disperse evenly over the ground, rather than in a big puddle.

 

If you only have a small section, a smaller watering can may also be effective. Smaller watering cans tend to be suitable for garden beds, borders, and hanging plants.

 

However, sometimes people use watering cans out of necessity - such as when you don’t have an external tap for fitting a garden hose. If lawn care is becoming a challenge and a watering can isn’t cutting it, you may find that expert help is necessary to ensure your lawn is looking spectacular at all times.

 

Pros - Suitable for small areas and offers more control

Cons - Takes more time and effort

Tip: Make sure your watering can has a nozzle, so you get even water distribution

 

Sprinkler Systems

If you lead a busy lifestyle, but you’re also houseproud, then a sprinkler system may be a beneficial option for your lawn care. However, you need to be wary of your water use. If you live in a particularly dry region where water bans are often in effect, then it might not be the best solution for you. Sprinkler systems, while easy to set up and maintain, do use a lot of water which is not only wasteful but dangerous when you’re trying to create the perfect lawn.

 

Where possible, set your sprinkler on a timer system. This not only helps to use less water but can prevent drowning new plants that need a little more care than others. However, while they do use a lot of water, sprinkler systems are exceptionally convenient. You can, in essence, “set and forget”, which gives you more time to take care of other chores rather than worrying if your lawn is getting enough moisture.

 

Pros - They cover a larger area but with minimal effort

Cons - Can be wasteful with water and dangerous for new growth

Tip: Invest in a high-quality sprinkler system with a timer unit to reduce water wastage.

 

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is a suitable lawn care option for those with small yards and individual plants. They are water efficient systems, don’t have as much water run-off as other systems, and don’t evaporate as quickly as well. If you’re looking for a convenient method of watering your lawn when it’s not large enough to warrant a sprinkler system, you’ll find that a drip irrigation system can tick all the boxes.

 

However, maintenance can be a little tricky. You need to make sure you check for clogs and blockages, flush the irrigation lines twice-annually, and you also need to adjust the water amount for each plant.

 

Pros - Water efficient

Cons - Challenging to set up and get right

Tip: If you’re on a limited supply of water such as rainwater, a drip irrigation system can make sure you use it wisely.

 

It might seem like any water your yard gets is going to be beneficial, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Lawn care takes some trial and error before you see the results you’re looking for. If your lawn is a little worse for wear, why not get in touch with lawn care experts to set it on the right track?

 


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