How to maintain a garden in Spring in New Zealand?

Say goodbye to cold winter days and hello to the sun and warmth of spring gardening in New Zealand.

We’re so excited that spring is just around the corner! Longer, warmer days mean more time in the garden. Now is the perfect time to get in the garden! We can watch the garden awake from its winter slumber while also having the opportunity to sow and grow so many fabulous plants and lawns!

As your lawn responds to nature’s spring wake-up call, help prepare it for a year of healthy growth with the lawn care it needs to help it thrive. Meanwhile, by tackling a few simple chores, you’ll prepare your lawn to defend itself against this year’s wave of weeds, diseases and drought. Keeping your lawn green and healthy during the hot days of summer begins with properly caring for lawns in spring. It may not be a lot of fun, but spring lawn maintenance requires a few hours of spring lawn cleanup. Whilst it is tempting to get started on the first sunny day, but it’s critical to wait until the ground is dry, or you may compact the soil and damage the tender roots. After that, and once the lawn is dry, you can gently rake away dead grass, leaves, twigs and other debris.

When spring is in the air, you’ll see the first crocuses or daffodils return, marking the coming of the season and the beginning of spring gardening in New Zealand. That is to say, these signs should also signal to you that it is time to get your lawn ready for the growing season.

Spring and autumn are the best times to sow a lawn and here’s how you can start taking care of your lawns in spring:

Spring gardening in New Zealand

Watering

Don’t be tempted to water your lawn in early spring. Instead, wait until the grass shows signs of wilt, which may not happen until late spring or early summer – or maybe even later. However, Spring irrigation needs vary by region. For example, for mountain and arid desert areas, continue watering lawns as you have been through winter, increasing irrigation frequency as temperatures climb. Watering too early only encourages shallow root growth, which will be unable to withstand hot, dry summer weather and may result in a brown, dry lawn by picnic season. Importantly, when you finally start watering, first water deeply, then let the grass wilt slightly before watering again – about an inch of water per week is enough.

Fertilizing

Similarly, spring isn’t a good time for fertilizing the lawn because the tender, new growth is likely to be scorched when the weather turns hot in summer. First of all, apply spring fertilizer roughly three weeks after grass starts greening (that usually corresponds to the time following two or three mowings). Importantly, apply too early and you risk feeding weeds and creating fertilizer runoff and also trigger lush blade growth at a time when roots may not have started their spring growth spurt. If your lawn isn’t healthy, you can apply a light application of a balanced slow-released lawn fertilizer, but withhold heavier fertilization until autumn. The exception is if your lawn consists of St. Augustine or another warm season grass. If this is the case, fertilize as soon as the grass greens up and shows active growth in mid- to late spring.

Mowing

You can mow your lawn as soon as it needs it, but be sure the ground is dry so you don’t compact the soil. Firstly, start mowing when the ground is dry enough and grass is long enough to require cutting. Cut at the proper height for your type of grass and avoid mowing too low. For instance, grass cut too short allows sunlight to reach soil, encouraging weeds. Secondly, it also favors shallow root development, which makes the lawn more susceptible to drought stress. Most importantly, never scalp your lawn and don’t remove more than one-third the height of the grass at any mowing. If the grass is shaggy in spring, give it a light trim for the season’s first mowing, then get back on schedule and follow the one-third rule for the remainder of the season.

Aerating

Vital for a truly healthy lawn, aeration is the solution for compacted soil. How often you should aerate your lawn depends on soil type and how you use your lawn. Late spring to early summer is the right time to aerate warm-season grasses. If your lawn needs aeration – which involves poking small holes in the lawn so water, nutrients and air can reach the roots – mid-spring is a good time. Otherwise, wait until fall to remove thatch.

Pests and diseases

Brown patches of dead grass in lawns are a sign of grass grub. These appear in February and March when the larvae are feeding close to the surface. Furthermore, the porina moth caterpillar can cause damage to lawns in autumn and winter. Control both of these with the appropriate insecticides, applied in spring and autumn. Moreover, brown patch and red thread are fungal diseases that affect lawns. Firstly, spray with a suitable fungus and mildew spray. Secondly, fertilize the lawn in spring and autumn, more often if you use a lawn irrigation system and avoid mowing the lawn too closely. De-thatching (removal of dead material from the lawn) is beneficial.  Catching the grass clippings is a good way to prevent thatch from building up, it also allows watering and fertilizing of your lawn to be more effective.

As well as being a great place for family fun and relaxation, lawns create a feeling of space and enhance plants in the garden. Above all, Spring can be a very dry season, depending on where you are gardening in New Zealand, and for those who are living in the arid zones, inattention at this time of the year could lead to catastrophe.

Your plants in Spring…

As we welcome warmer longer days and finally some rain, nature literally springs into life. In addition to this, sap is flowing, buds have burst and seedlings leap into growth – all this activity needs fuel to keep it going. Moreover, Spring is feeding time for almost everything: vegetable gardens, fruit trees, lawns, hedges, trees and shrubs, indoor plants, outdoor containers, roses and perennials.

What do the plants in your garden need?

The NPK on a fertilizer pack represents the three ‘major nutrients’ that plants need the most of. Nitrogen (N) is important for leaf growth and converting sunlight into plant energy. For example, phosphorous (P) is critical for cell formation particularly in root growth and seedling growth, as well as flowering and fruiting. Another example, potassium (K) plays an important role in a plant’s strength, water uptake and disease resistance, and also the quality of flowers, fruits and seeds.

Trace elements (aka ‘minor nutrients’), which include iron, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, boron, and many others, are just as essential to plant growth but used in smaller quantities. Most Importantly, plants grow best when they receive all the nutrients they need in the right balance.

What kind of plant food is best?

In nature, plants get all their nutritional needs from their environment – from rock minerals held within soil particles built up over millions of years and a continuous supply of decomposing animal and plant matter. However, in a garden, we remove nutrients every time we harvest so we need to give back what we take away to keep our plants in peak productive health.

Regardless of what we feed our soil, how well it holds and releases nutrients to plant roots depends on the type of soil we are lucky enough to have and most importantly how we manage it. Furthermore, a healthy soil contains billions of beneficial fungi, bacteria and other soil microbes busily binding soil particles together and transporting nutrients to plant roots. Compost, mulch and bulky manures sustain a soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients, while encouraging earthworms and beneficial microorganisms.

If added in enough bulk, compost and well-rotted animal manures can meet all plant nutritional needs in a healthy garden, especially when supplemented by homemade fertilisers like comfrey tea, worm tea and fish fertiliser. Importantly, this is easiest when there is a good local supply of free or low-cost material. Using a range of different manures can provide a balanced diet, even though the exact nutritional make up of any one organic manure is hard to pin down.

In conclusion, different plants have different nutrient requirements and luckily for the bewildered home gardener, this is reflected in the wide range of specifically targeted plant foods we have available to us.

Vegetables and Fruits Gardening tips

The very changeable Spring weather of the last month will hopefully change to the more settled warmer weather that we expect this month. Importantly, we are now in the month where we do most of our Spring gardening in New Zealand. In the vegetable garden it is time to plant and sowing of all the warmer loving plants. Firstly, many of the earlier planted crops will begin to grow faster and be ready for harvesting. Secondly, weeding and watering will be needed as the temperatures increase and the days are longer. Thirdly, fruit trees will be getting to the end of their flowering so the time for treatment for codling moth, caterpillars and aphids will be here. Similarly, soft fruits will be starting to ripen so will need to be covered to protect them from the birds.

With the weather getting warmer, spring is the perfect time to start planting flowers, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. However, what you can grow also depends on the soil conditions and climate where you live. Importantly, with a climate as diverse as New Zealand‘s, it’s important to know which plants are best suited to your region so that you get the best results in your garden.

Spring fruits, vegetables and herbs

Which fruits, vegetables and herbs you can plant and successfully grow in spring will depend on the climate in your region.

Warm areas

Areas that are frost-free or only have occasional frosts.

Fruits and vegetables: 

Passionfruit

  • Paw paw 
  • Avocado
  • Banana 
  • Citrus
  • Macadamia 
  • Rocket 
  • Silverbeet 
  • Spring onion
  • Lettuce 
  • Zucchini 
  • Pumpkin 
  • Leek 
  • Capsicum 
  • Cucumber 
  • Eggplant 
  • Tomatoes 

Herbs:

  • Parsley 
  • Sweet basil
  • Dill 
  • Coriander
  • Mint 
  • Marjoram
  • Catnip 
  • Thyme

 

Cool to cold areas

Areas where there are low temperatures for long periods of time. This includes parts of the South Island.

Fruits and vegetables: 

  • Strawberries 
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Parsnip
  • Radishes 
  • Spinach 
  • Sweet corn 
  • Beetroot 
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas 
  • Silverbeet
  • Lettuce
  • Swedes 
  • Turnips
  • Cucumber

Herbs: 

  • Basil 
  • Chives 
  • Coriander 
  • Dill 
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley 
  • Sage 
  • Thyme 

Temperate zones

Fruit and vegetables:

Where there are occasional winter frosts, this includes much of the South Island.

  • Blueberries
  • Passionfruit 
  • Paw paw 
  • Bananas 
  • Citrus 
  • Olives
  • Spring onion
  • Artichoke 
  • Celery 
  • Silverbeet 
  • Lettuces 
  • Leeks 
  • Climbing beans 
  • Sweet corn 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Carrots 
  • Radishes

Herbs: 

  • Chives 
  • Parsley 
  • Catnip
  • Sage 
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme 
  • Marjoram

Start your lawn maintenance and spring garden today!!