Home Beauty recipe Watering cans, too many zucchini, wasp alert: this week the work of the garden

Watering cans, too many zucchini, wasp alert: this week the work of the garden

Pot crops dry out very quickly in hot weather.


Pot crops dry out very quickly in hot weather.

Make watering your planters easier

Every spring, I fill every container I can find with vegetable and flower plants. In January, I make the resolution never to start again as watering is such a chore.

Here are my tips to make the job a little easier.

  1. Large pots do not dry out as quickly as small ones. They also maintain a more consistent temperature, reducing the risk of root baking.
  2. High-quality potting soil, stuff with water-holding crystals, slow-release fertilizer, and wetting agent are worth it. Read the fertilizer specs on the bag and write it down in your 2022 New Zealand Gardener’s Garden Diary to top up when it’s no longer effective.
  3. Group pots with the same watering requirements. Plants generally need the same sun and shelter requirements; In addition, it avoids dragging the pipe.
  4. Mulch reduces moisture loss for pots just as it does in the garden. Choose the right mulch for the location and type of pot. Pea straw or bark chips can be messy if birds throw them around your tidy yard or balcony. Mulches are one solution. They are biodegradable and made from recycled wool or paper and some are infused with nutrients. Coir liners designed for hanging baskets will also work, as will custom-cut non-synthetic recycled carpet underlays. Make sure the soil is moist before mulching. Carpets aren’t particularly pretty, so add a decorative layer of gravel, stones, or glass pebbles.
  5. If a pot becomes too dry, the soil becomes hydrophobic and repels water. It simply passes through the pot and is not retained where the roots can get to it. Rehydrate the small, easy-to-lift jars by placing them in a large bucket of water until there are no bubbles on the surface. For large pots, be prepared to water several times at about 10 minute intervals, a little at a time, until the soil is saturated.
  6. Wetting agents are surfactants. They coat soil particles at the molecular level so that water can be absorbed rather than storing water as gel crystals do. SaturAid Granular Soil Humidifier is non-toxic so can be used around vegetables. Soapy water has the same effect, as do homemade concoctions containing agar-agar.
  7. Every gardening manual recommends never letting pots sit in saucers of water. I have found in practice that small pots are best left in 2-5cm of water in a shallow tray for several days to a week rather than left to dry out completely. This is especially useful for trays and trays of small seedlings that won’t survive on their own if you go away for the weekend.
  8. Olla pots are a convenient way to bring water to root level. Learn more about them here.

* How to grow carrots
* How do gardeners water their gardens without using sprinklers?
* Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Green Beans, and more ideas for leftover beans
* How to grow zucchini

Courgettes: 'Cocazelle' (front) and 'Black Beauty', 'Campari' tomatoes and 'Blue Lake Runner' beans.


Courgettes: ‘Cocazelle’ (front) and ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Campari’ tomatoes and ‘Blue Lake Runner’ beans.

Check zucchini plants daily

Finger-sized baby fruits turn into monstrous marrows in the blink of an eye. I have grown three plants this year. Two ‘Cocazelle’ and a ‘Black Beauty’. The ‘Cocazelle’ have less fruit but they are tasty and can be roasted and grilled on the barbecue as well as in any other zucchini recipe. Plants were also slower to succumb to powdery mildew.

I grew all three plants vertically by tying them to a climbing frame in hopes that better air circulation would reduce powdery mildew, but in humid Auckland this was just a fantasy without hope.

I don’t usually bother to spray – plants with mold dusted pellicles still manage to produce crops. By the time the plants succumb to a nasty, large-scale infection, I’m tired of eating zucchini and ready to pull the plants up in favor of fall and winter vegetables.

Zucchini pickle flavored with dill seeds from the vegetable garden.


Zucchini pickle flavored with dill seeds from the vegetable garden.

Everyone Who Grows Zucchini Needs Glut-Buster Recipes

This pickle is a favorite. It is delicious with cheese and crackers. Use small zucchini for nice little circular slices in the finished pickle. Don’t overdo the soaking and standing time as the vegetables lose their crunch.

Ray Garnet’s easy zucchini pickle


  • 1 kg of small courgettes
  • 2 medium onions
  • ¼ cup common salt
  • 2¼ cups white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of any of the following seeds: dill, caraway, mustard or celery

Method: Wash and cut the courgettes and cut them finely. Chop the onions and put them with the zucchini in a large glass or porcelain bowl and cover with water. Add the salt, stir and leave to stand for an hour. Then rinse and drain. Meanwhile, bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil. Pour over the drained vegetables, stir and leave the mixture to stand for another hour. Then bring to a boil for just three minutes before packing them into hot sterilized jars. Close immediately or store in the refrigerator to enjoy immediately.

More zucchini recipes:

Got an overabundance of zucchini? Here are some ideas for putting it to good use…

Late Season Zucchini Recipes by Sam Mannering

Recipe: Zucchini and Feta Flatbreads from Sam Mannering

Monarch caterpillars make delicious snacks for wasps.


Monarch caterpillars make delicious snacks for wasps.

Are your monarch caterpillars disappearing?

They were probably ripped off by a paper wasp in search of protein-rich food for its larvae. To be fair, they also target white butterfly caterpillars that nibble on crucifers, but I’ve been stung too many times to show pity.

Paper wasps are those with a slender waist and long, hanging back legs. You’ll often see them hanging around wooden fences and decks where they scrape the cellulose fibers from the surface of any bare wood as building material for their papier-mâché nests.

A queen wasp hibernates during the winter and emerges in the spring in search of a place to start a nest. Favorite places are on wooden garden seats and tables, under eaves, in hedges, on tree branches and trellises – places that gardeners are very likely to touch with a careless hand.

Paper wasp nest.


Paper wasp nest.

Nests begin with about six hexagonal cells in a circle on a disc attached to a support by a short rod. Each cell contains an egg which hatches into a larva. The queen feeds the larvae of caterpillars and other insects until they become worker wasps ready to take over nest building and feeding duties. The queen continues to lay eggs and the nest expands as new cells are added.

Mid-summer is the peak period for population growth. Seek out and destroy nests now so there are fewer pests around to feast on your grapes and other ripe fruit in the fall. Follow the flying wasps in the evening to find each nest. At night, when all the wasps are home and less active, spray the nest with household insect repellent or sprinkle Kiwicare No Wasps.

I’m not coordinated enough (or brave enough) to try this alternative pesticide-free method: cut the nest so that it falls into a bag placed below. Quickly seal the bag and place it in the freezer for humane extermination.

Don’t bother destroying the nests in late fall. They will be pretty much empty because all the larvae will have hatched into adult females and males. Groups of males twirl around in a sunny spot to attract the attention of females. Once mated, the females seek out a safe place to hibernate and the whole cycle continues.

Gardening under the moon

Plant root crops on January 28. Sow radishes and spring onions for a steady supply. From January 29 to February 2, plan your to-do lists and prepare the ground for the fertile period that begins February 3. Plant food crops, except those that grow underground, as well as alyssum, blueberries and wallflowers to feed pollinators throughout fall and winter.

Gardening by maramataka

Mihi atu mō te tau hou. Welcome to the new year and the raumati (summer) season, almost mid-summer to be exact, the driest time for most of us. The flowering of pōhutukawa and rātā are the ancestors of this summer period known as matiti muramura by some. Maintenance tasks must take place regardless of the moon. As this is the driest period, we should watch our māra for signs of stress, especially during the Tangaroa phase which appears from January 25 to 28, and react accordingly for ornamental and food plants, and the trees. The Tangaroa alignment also reminds us of the importance of wai (water) to our māra. Dr. Nick Roskruge