15 Jan 2019

Pushing daisies: how to revive your dying plants

From Karyn Hay and Friends, 2:45 pm on 15 January 2019

Gardening guru Lynda Hallian joined Karyn Hay to share some ideas for how to rejuvenate those gardens which might have been a bit neglected during the silly season.

She is sanguine about plants dying during the holiday season.

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Photo: 123RF

“As you get older you realise your life should always come ahead of your garden!”

She says with trees and shrubs planted in the ground, start as you mean to go on.

“When you plant things, you’ve got to force them to fend for themselves, because if you’re out there watering all the time everything grows shallow roots, so it doesn’t dig deep for moisture and then it makes it much more susceptible to drought stress.”

She says research from an Auckland garden design company showed 30 percent of plants in gardens with an irrigation system, die if the irrigation system fails.   

“You’ve got to tough love them to look after themselves … if you’re forever out there watering it makes them much more susceptible to drought - don’t be too nice to your plants.”

Although she says for the first two years, while the trees are getting established, they need some extra love and water.

If you’ve got plants in pots and they’re in full sun, you’ve probably cooked them she says.

“BBC Gardeners World once did a study and found it got up to the heat of a pizza oven inside an unglazed terracotta pot, really hot and roots just can’t stand that.

“You can’t water them enough you would have to be watering them 1 or 2 times a day or sit them on a saucer that’s sitting on water all the time just in summer.”

Also potting mix once it’s completely dry becomes hydrophobic.

“You can’t re-wet, it actually repels water, you put water on and it runs off.”

For inside plants she recommends submerging the whole pot in water.

Lynda Hallinan

Lynda Hallinan Photo: Supplied

“If you have been away and your plants are drooping or wilting the key thing is to get the whole pot into a bucket of water.

“You might have a 10-litre bucket put the whole plant in it stays under the water until all of the bubbles start coming out, it might be half an hour that you’re giving it a swim then set it aside keep it out of direct sun. If you do that every couple of days, they perk up quite quickly.”

If any foliage had dies prune it, she says. And don’t try to fertilise water stressed plants.

“They can’t take up that fertiliser, if they are already stressed.”

A stressed vege garden

“With beans or tomatoes, lettuces or courgettes they can overdo it and have too much fruit on if you haven’t picked it.

“Any fruiting plants that are neglected they go into an emergency survival mode I need to keep my species going so I need to set my seed as fast as I can.”

She says if you see cucumbers going yellow, it’s trying to make seeds and is beyond help now.

“They’ve checked out already, you can’t bring them back.

“Just pick the fruit off and cut your losses. If your lettuces are looking rubbish … buy them, your tomatoes are shrivelled, go to the farmers market get shot of the lot of them and start again with your autumn crops.”

What to sow now?

“You can still sow dwarf and climbing beans, it’s not too late provided we still get a reasonable autumn you’ll still get good crops.”

She says herbs can be sown now too.

“Things like beetroot and carrot and leeks, caulis and broccoli all those things you want for autumn and winter get those in now and provided you water them daily for the first few weeks as they establish then you’ll be laughing”

She also recommends sowing direct.

“If you are putting a vegetable garden in, instead of planting seedlings and buying punnets from the garden centre just buy a packet of seeds and sow them direct because they grow much better that way as their roots are never disturbed.

“Provided you give them a wee bit of water while they’re germinating, you’ll get plants that are much more drought resistant rather transplanting little seedlings that have been cosseted in green houses.”

  • Garden Q&A: Lynda Hallinan answers more of your gardening questions