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Adding colour and pizzaz to your garden in summer

Courtesy of Yates

Chives: a great herb, year-round

There's nothing like fresh home-grown herbs to add flavour, colour and pizazz to your cooking. Chives are a great perennial herb to have on hand throughout the year. During the warmer months they add a mild onion flavour to salads, bruschetta and dips, and during the cooler months they're delicious in dishes like sundried tomato and chive potato mash, quiche, pasta and pumpkin & chive soup. They also add a dash of bright green and their pretty purple bee-attracting flowers are also edible.

Chives can be sown from spring through to autumn in cool and temperate areas and will grow into a 20-30cm tall clump of fine, dark green leaves. The seed can be sown 5mm deep, directly where the plants are to grow, in a sunny or partly-shaded garden bed or pot. Seed takes up to 21 days to germinate, so be patient and keep the soil or potting mix moist.

To promote lots of fragrant and tasty chive foliage, feed regularly with Yates Thrive Vegie & Herb Liquid Plant Food, which is rich in nitrogen to promote leafy green growth. You can start harvesting individual leaves after around eight weeks. Continuous picking will help promote fresh new growth.

Design tip: chives can be grown as a decorative (and edible) garden border.

Silverbeet

Silverbeet, sometimes known as chard, contains lots of vitamins and minerals, is a good source of fibre and is low in calories. Like spinach, silverbeet is a versatile vege and can be used in pasta dishes, soups, salads, savoury muffins, pastries and quiches as well as on pizzas and lightly sauteed with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Silverbeet stalks can also be added to a gratin, braised or used in stir-fries, so there's no waste with this healthy leafy green!

To grow your own silverbeet it's as simple as sowing seed 12mm deep, directly where the plants are to grow, or sow seeds in a tray of seed-raising mix and transplant seedlings into their final home when they're around 6-8cm high. Seeds take 10-14 days to germinate.

Silverbeet does best in a full-sun spot in the vege garden. Give each plant around 30cm of space to grow and you can start harvesting leaves around 11-12 weeks after sowing.

One of the many benefits of loose leafy veges like silverbeet is that you can harvest individual leaves and stalks as you need them.

To keep your silverbeet productive and flourishing, pick the leaves regularly and feed each week with a product like Yates Thrive Fish Blood & Bone — a natural source of organic nutrients boosted with fast-acting fertilisers to promote healthy soil and lush silverbeet growth.

Pest watch: silverbeet can be attacked by caterpillars and aphids. Protect plants with Yates Nature's Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray. It contains pyrethrin, which is a natural extract from the pyrethrum daisy and vegetable oil and is approved for use in organic gardening by BioGro NZ. Spray silverbeet plants each week, including the undersides of foliage where pests often hide, while caterpillars and aphids, or their damage, are noticed.

Organic mite control

Mites, sometimes called two-spotted mites or red spider mites (Tetranychus urticae), are tiny sap-sucking pests that are only around 0.5mm long, so they're hard to spot with the naked eye. Often the first noticeable symptoms are leaves becoming yellow, bronzed and mottled and then as the colonies expand rapidly, they create masses of fine spidery webbing.

Mites love hot, dry conditions so are very common during summer, where the life cycle from egg to adult can take as little as five days. Female mites can lay up to 300 eggs!

Plants susceptible to mites include: indoor plants; orchids; hydrangeas and roses; tomatoes, beans and other veges; citrus and other fruit trees; azaleas and camellias.

As mites dislike humidity, infestations can be reduced by regularly misting foliage with water. Plants can also be sprayed with Yates Nature's Way Natrasoap Vegie Insect Spray, an insecticidal soap made from natural vegetable oils. It's a fast-acting broad-spectrum insecticide that's effective against soft-bodied pests like mites. It can be used on a wide range of plants — including herbs, fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants — and is certified for use in organic gardening. It disrupts the pest's cuticle layer, a barrier that normally protects them from damage and water loss. It also works via contact action, so good coverage of the pests themselves (on both sides of foliage) is important.

Grow a butterfly garden

It's wonderful to watch butterflies fluttering around the garden and great for kids to understand the lifecycle of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

Butterflies love visiting flowers that are rich in sugary nectar and are particularly fond of brightly-coloured flowers. It's a great idea to grow plants in your garden that flower at different times of the year and include a range of flowering plants to attract a wider variety of butterflies. Butterflies can also help pollinate flowers and some vegetables and fruit and nut trees, so they're fantastic garden helpers too.

Butterfly-attracting plants can be grown in a sunny garden and also in pots on balconies and patios, and both the flowers and the butterflies will put a smile on your face!

An easy way to grow a patch of flowers that butterflies will love is to sow a packet of Yates Butterfly Field Beneficial Insect Mix seed. This mix contains a vibrant blend of nectar-rich flowers to attract and provide food for butterflies and also food for caterpillars.

Here are the simple steps to create a butterfly garden with Yates Butterfly Field seed mix:

1. Choose a bare sunny spot in the garden and dig some Yates Thrive Natural Blood & Bone into the soil.

2. Scatter the seed thinly over the soil and rake lightly into the surface. Firm down, water gently and keep moist throughout the germination period.

3. Tiny seedlings will emerge in 10-21 days.

4. Water the flower patch regularly and feed with liquid fertiliser like Yates Thrive Roses & Flowers Liquid Plant Food to help the plants grow and encourage lots of colourful flowers.

5. You'll start to see the first flowers after around 10 weeks, though results will vary depending on the climate and time of year.

Other flowering plants that butterflies love include sunflowers, lavender, pentas and daisies. So grow some butterfly-attracting flowers at your place and enjoy watching these beautiful insects when they visit your garden.

Summer stunners

Dahlias are one of the ultimate summer floral statements, with showy flowers in beautiful colours that are a wonderful treat after spring flowers have faded.

Dahlias are often planted as tubers during spring but if you didn't get around to planting some, there's no need to miss out on this spectacular flower — with potted dahlias being available in garden centres during summer.

The Dahlinova series of dahlias will flower from spring until autumn and come in a spectacular range of colours and bi-colours. Dahlinova dahlias create a stunning display in garden beds and pots, where they're perfect for brightening up a patio or veranda. They like a warm, sunny spot and these dahlias have outstanding rain and temperature tolerance. To keep them looking their best, keep the soil or potting mix moist and remove spent flowers to promote repeat flowering. They'll also appreciate a regular feed with a high potassium plant food like Yates Thrive Roses & Flowers Liquid Plant Food, which will encourage healthy leaf growth and lots of gorgeous flowers.

Keeping your lawn healthy over summer

Whether it's preparing your lawn for summer or helping it recover from backyard games and parties, here are some summer lawn care tips:

* Give the lawn a good feed — a lovely green lawn is very inviting, so to encourage deep green growth apply a lawn food like Yates Dynamic Lifter Lawn Food. It has organic nutrients to help green up the lawn and concentrated organic matter to help promote long-term soil health.

* Aeration — if your lawn has been well and truly “loved” over summer and been trampled by lots of happy feet (and paws) then it will benefit from being aerated. Aeration will help loosen up hard and compacted soil underneath the lawn, make it easier for water and air to penetrate down into the roots and makes it physically easier for grass roots to grow. Aerating the lawn is as easy as pushing a garden fork down through the grass and around 10cm deep into the soil, then gently lever the fork back and forth a little to open up the holes the fork tines have made. Do this multiple times over the lawn. For large lawns, mechanical aerators or corers can be hired.

* Watering — give the lawn several deep waterings each week, rather than more frequent light waterings. This encourages roots to grow deeper into the soil and helps the lawn to be more tolerant of dry conditions. It's also best to water in the morning, which allows the lawn foliage to dry off during the day. A damp lawn overnight can promote diseases. Note: Those on city water supply in Gisborne are now restricted to sprinkler use from 6am-8am.

* Weed control — control common broadleaf weeds like thistles and dandelions with an easy-to-apply hose-on herbicide like Yates Weed'n Feed. You can also dilute concentrate Yates Weed'n Feed in a sprayer or watering can. These products are also boosted with nutrients to promote lush green growth, a strong root system and a healthy lawn.

HANDY BLOOMS: The purple flower heads of chives look attractive in the garden, attract bees, and can be used as a garnish or for adding colour to a salad. NZ Herald file picture