Columnists

4 top trees to plant in Winter
Winter is the season of hibernation for some plants. It might be the same for some people but for the real gardener, hibernation provides the opportunity to do great things in the garden.
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Beyond the shortest day
Winter - chilly mornings, long shadows, wet lawns, and little time to work in the garden except the weekends - if the weather is kind. But there is so much that needs doing. Every weekend I have a list as long as my arm.
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Camellia time
Spring is hard to ignore now that it's September. After what was in my area, a fairly wet and cold August the sun now shines higher and the lighter mornings make it easier to rise (just wait until daylight saving kicks in!).
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Out with the old
All gardens eventually need rejuvenating and gardening with a clean slate is much more fun. For the native border of 9 years it was time for a change.
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What is lurking in your garden?
It may seem during winter that we need not be concerned about pests and diseases - there is nothing happening to catch our attention. But winter can be a great ally in the battle against summer pests and you can improve your chances of winning the battle by -
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Winter's touch
A southerly weather system, fresh snow on the hills, an incoming high, and a cessation in wind flow, are all the perfect ingredients for frost
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Chemistry in the garden
Roses may be red - but my hydrangea is blue! What was washed out insipid lilac pink flowers last year are now brilliant blue.
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Sprinter, a new season!
The seasons have come full circle and spring is here again; well that's what the calendar says. Not so sure about the weather. The cool temperatures sure do challenge any gardener but there are always some plants that are hardy enough to cope.
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A stitch in time
December 21 is the longest day of the year, and the extra light and warmth encourages the garden to put on an exuberant burst of growth which needs maintenance to sustain it through the (hopefully) hot months ahead. If your Christmas plans are busy, here are three tasks to do now.
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Battling against bugs
Summer's warm humid conditions are great for plants but also for their foes, both diseases and pests in all their forms.
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December ramble
In the lead up to Christmas, big gardening projects get put on hold but it's always rewarding to wander the garden and check the results of the previous months' work.
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Growing for the summer harvest
I envy gardeners living in warmer climes with ideal growing conditions who have broad beans to pick in October and tomatoes in November. My vege gardening is very much a battle with the wind and cooler temperatures. But I am winning the battle with the soil.
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Off with their heads!
February can be such a busy month, just when it would be nice to relax and enjoy some summer weather - there is so much picking, plucking and pruning required to keep the garden looking and producing at its best.
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Summer munchers
The holiday weather in the south of the North Island wasn't very nice for beach going or really anything much outside, so apart from a few days with family my days were largely spent at home and hence in the garden.
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The importance of water
Since Christmas there has been precious little rain, just a few showers here and there but hardly enough to dampen the dust and certainly not enough to replenish the lawn or garden
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Autumn clean-up
Winter is approaching and there is still so much to do and enjoy in the garden. I love winter because it is the time when you have the best opportunity to change the 'architecture' of your garden, with sought after trees and shrubs that are often only available during these winter months.
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Autumn makeover
Autumn is a great time for doing a garden makeover. The soil is still warm after the summer sun but also moist from the morning dew and more regular rain. The lingering sun and mild temperatures provide perfect growing conditions
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Berries for colour
My garden is small yet in most spots functional. It copes with poor soil, wind and occasional salt spray. NZ natives are my plants of choice but you couldn't exactly call them "floral" so when I need a flower fix, I have to look elsewhere.
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Is a warm winter a blessing or a curse?
"May is like a gate way month that eases us into the cold weather." Sarah O'Neil ponders the warm Autumn weather and what it means for the garden.
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The centre of the seasons
Sarah O'Neil laments the passing of summer and the threat of winter but still with an eye to getting the most from the last summer crops.
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Golden days of autumn
In amongst the drama being played out in the residue of a dying summer, autumn also holds its own kind of hope. Sarah O'Neil celebrates in the delight of autumn gardening
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Summer's end
As the summer begins its decent towards the end of the season, the garden seems to amplify its demands.
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Holidaying in the garden
Sarah O'Neil took a break away from the usual beach bound holiday and stayed home to tend and enjoy the garden instead
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Remember to enjoy the garden
Sometimes we can become too busy doing things that we fail to see what we have done. Sarah O'Neil takes a step back to observe her acheivements
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Gardening is such thirsty work
It is getting warmer in the garden as we approach summer and this means there is a higher chance of drying out. Sarah O'Neil covers the basics of good watering
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Comparison is the thief of joy
Sarah O'Neil applies her own learned experience to her garden knowing that when it is time to plant, her plants will be ready to grow their best
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Ease your way into spring
Spring is a cruel season. It gives us just enough sunny days in a row that we not only forget how cold cold can be but makes it impossible to imagine that winter like weather could possibly return
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Patience is a virtue
There is only one thing standing between us and spring, August! How inconvenient. The weather seems warmer, we haven't had a frost in a few weeks
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The Winter days
Winter days don't leave much daylight for late afternoon, early evening potting about in the way summer does. This shaves many hours off the available gardening time each week.
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We'll be ok should there be vampires
June is a fabulous month. Despite it being the first month of winter when the weather really does show its wintery colours, it also hosts the shortest day
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Winter is knocking on the door
It isn't going to get any warmer from now on. There isn't much left to sow and plant, aside from the onion and garlic to go in on the shortest day next month
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Great Autumn clean up
With the end of daylight savings and the clocks behind us, it is getting dark what seems like a lot earlier than by an hour. The desire to just leave the garden as it is and stay indoors and eat pumpkin soup is quite strong. But there is still loads to be done in the garden
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Hanging on to the heat
Summer may have left us, but there are still crops to harvest. I have worked hard in my garden for the last eight months to store up treasures for the cold winter months ahead. Many of the vegetables have provided a rich fare for our meals throughout the warmer months.
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Just a bit tired
It seems like an age ago that we were wrapped up in the excitement of seed sowing for the new season. And were indeed wrapped up ourselves, warmly. There was such great hope and promise held in store.
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In the middle
The sun beats down and it is so tempting to have a bit of a moan about how hot is all is. I am harvesting good things every day, although I have way too many gherkins and zucchinis to know what to do with
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Harvesting through the holidays
After such a horrible spring, my garden is just beginning to liven up and a quick tour around the patch has revealed a bountiful harvest there for the picking. But it will have to wait until tomorrow because I am busy, with yet another pre-Christmas affair.
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Calm and order reigns in the veggie garden
This as been a tumultuous spring, cursed with wind, rain, hail and freezing cold. It seemed like winter just didn't want to let go. But with summer a few short weeks away - then surely it has to improve, there are seasons for a reason. Winter is cold and summer is hot.
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The scent of Summer
I have begun hardening off some of the hardier plants, the brassicas and the salad ingredients. They are getting too big for their pots and to be honest I need the space.
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A watched seed
I have sown the vast majority of my seeds in the warmth of my greenhouse. Most but not all. Experience has taught me caution.
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Must I wait
August is such a funny month, the weather taunts us like a temptress, letting us feel the warmth on our faces, and causing beanies to be flung aside in the promise of all the good things to come in spring. And then she snaps her fingers and it is cold again. Bitterly cold. Freezing air straight off snow covered mountains whip right through to the bone.
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Sorting out the seeds
How many seed packets is too many? I have 142 - but this only includes the ones I could find. There are bound to be a few packets tucked away in unlikely places, left there as I came inside from a seed sowing session in the garden last sprin
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It's all downhill to Summer
June isn't always the most favourite month in anyone's calendar. Unless of course you are an avid skier. It is the first month of winter. Although it is generally a kind month as we still bask in the afterglow of autumn, and so apart from the occasional wet spell or frosty morning, it isn't too bad.
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My trees just aren't big enough!
I had an ulterior motive when we selected trees for landscaping around our place. I laid down a strong argument that deciduous are much better than evergreens as they provide seasonal interest, and just think of how beautiful they'd be in the autumn.
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Glamour and glory
The thing about April is there are holidays scattered throughout and it is a perfect time to turn your attentions to the garden. The garden centres are full of loads of really cool things to help us with what needs doing in the garden.
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New beginnings
There is no denying it - summer is behind us. We are well and truly into autumn and the garden is beginning to show signs that it is exhausted from a season of working hard to produce such a bountiful harvest, to fill my larder and my freezer. It is with great reluctance that I have to admit we are on our slow descent into the cooler months.
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Here comes the harvest
I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I need to have a stern discussion with my future self and discourage myself from getting carried away with the excitement of all the varieties of tomatoes available next spring.
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The post-holiday aftermath
As I sat in the car on the long slow journey back from the beach, I am not rested or relaxed. I am anxious. How did my garden fare while I was away.
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Getting ready for Christmas
Ok - whose idea was it to put the festive season smack bang in the middle of my growing season? I have spent months and months coaxing tiny seedlings into life, and cosseting them as they grow big enough to go out in the garden where they now reside.
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Busy days in the garden
How quickly the garden can change with just a few days of sunshine, no wind and dry skies. In the past few days my garden has shed its winter floral displays and taken on a summer look.
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The hungry gap
After the frenzied activities of the last three or four months, with all the digging and the weeding and preparing the ground, waiting for the ground to dry out so it was good enough to dig and weed. Then the sowing and nurturing tiny seeds and worrying and fretting over them;
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A new garden from old
Sometimes you have to take a hard look at the older plants in your garden.
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Spring is the best season of all
Spring is the best season of all. It is like the biggest fresh start and I am determined this season will be even better than last year, although I can quite happily say I have now mastered growing in a drought, and I learnt from the year before what it was like to garden in a soggy summer, so surely we are in for an ideal summer this year?
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Understanding compost
Compost is ideally a mixture of decayed green matter, which has finished the heat-generating phase of the decomposition cycle and is close to the material we know as humus.
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Garden soil, potting mix & dirt
Confused? It is quite understandable that you may feel some confusion around the differences and the variations of what has often been inappropriately labelled as plain and simple dirt.
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Spring is in the air
The weather is noticeably different; there is warmth about it that wasn't there before. The cold snaps are getting further apart and the rain - well it's still just rain and those spring showers are holding me back from what I really want to do. I want to garden.
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24-May-2017