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Gardening gifts keep on giving

Christmas gift
 

With Christmas quickly looming, one's mind turns to sorting out what tokens and gifts we will give to family and friends.

Most readers of these columns are gardeners or budding gardeners so we tend to look for suitable gifts that would bring us pleasure and hopefully the same for the recipient.

For a long time I have firmly believed that it is the thought and effort that goes into a gift that makes it memorable.

For instance if you pop down to your local garden centre and pick out a nice container, a feature plant such as a bush rose, a couple of punnets of cascading lobelia or similar and a bag of compost, then you have the makings of a gift that you have thought about and made a nice effort to achieve.

When you get your goodies home you simply place some of the compost into the container to the right height for planting the specimen plant, ensuring that there will be a gap of about two centimetres between the top of the mix and the rim of the container. (This allows ease of watering.)

You can add about a handful of clean top soil to the mix at the base of the container which brings to the mix the soil bacteria.

After removing the specimen plant from its pot or bag check to see if the roots have spiralled around the bottom of the old container. The more roots there are, the longer it has been growing in the old pot.

If there is a mass of roots then with a pair of secateurs cut a 2cm slash into the bottom roots in the four cardinal points. This allows for quicker root establishment.

If the plant has been for a long time in the old pot it will have a massive root system and be what we call pot bound. If this is the case then you take a cross-cut saw and cut off the bottom one quarter of the roots, to remove all those spiral roots.

You can place a few sheep manure pellets on top of the compost and soil mix before placing the plant in the container.

Sit the plant on the bottom mix and fill the space between the plant's mix and the side of the container with more compost. It is in this area of backfill that you will plant your lobelia seedlings.

The reason that I have not suggested using potting mix or shrub and tub mix is because they are inferior to using a good friable compost and a bit of soil mix. Potting mixes are great for indoor plants where the extra expense is justified, they are also good for seed raising and cutting propagation.

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For container plants outdoors you want a growing medium that has some guts and a friable compost has animal manure and green waste combined with bark fines or similar. Potting mix is only bark fines or peat moss with some slow release fertiliser added; it dries out too quickly, can be difficult to re-water and lacks goodness that outdoor healthy plants need.

Once you have your gift all potted up, place it in a sheltered spot where it only has early morning sun or late afternoon sun.

Water to keep moist but do not over water. If you wish to give the plant a real boost so it is looking its best before you give it at Christmas, then once a week water some Matrix Reloaded into the mix.

This is a super powerful plant food that is often used for hydroponic growing and as a plant food for pots or gardens. It makes a noticeable difference.

Use at 10ml per litre of water, which you stand for 30 minutes, and apply every seven to 14 days when plants are actively growing.

A gardener once told me she purchased a small tree for her young grandson as a gift a few years ago. He was told that it was his tree and he helped in the planting of it in her garden.

Every time he visits he runs down to see how his tree is and tells all that it is his tree.

What a great idea for a young person, and this could be extended by giving and planting a fruit tree so not only does the child get to watch the progress of their tree but they will, in years to come, enjoy the fruits as well.

Gardening gift vouchers are an acceptable gift for novice and seasoned gardeners. They give the receiver two lots of pleasure; The initial receiving of the voucher and then the pleasure of shopping for a garden product or specimen.

- The Southland Times

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