Party time and free plants

Many thanks to readers who are sending in their great ideas for no or low-cost fun activities for children’s parties.

A reader from Gisborne writes, “Here are two ideas for birthday parties our children and grandchildren have enjoyed. Firstly, a ‘bad manners’ dinner, where bad table manners were ignored. It was very quiet to start with and then away they went – a very loud and messy dinner. The only rule was not to touch any other person’s food. The second was a back to front dinner with everyone wearing anything they liked inside out and back to front. The dinner started with dessert – a carton of ice cream in the middle of the table! We did one which combined back to front AND bad manners. It was a huge success.” A bad manners party sounds like a great idea – no practise or preparation would be required!

A reader has asked if there are ways to save money on landscaping costs. In particular they would like to know which plants are easy to propagate from cuttings. If you can help our reader, please drop us a note.

From experience, we can say that Yucca plants are easy. They are very fashionable and can be quite pricey to buy from garden centres. We had cause to trim one back that had become quite large and bushy. Here are a few tips. Start by removing the side leaves from the main stem then slice through with a sharp saw. It doesn’t seem to matter where cuts are made on the stem but make sure the cuttings are a reasonable length – say about 500mm. We left some of the top leaves on the top cutting, but if the plant is tall, you can cut other segments of the stem to propagate as well – just make sure you clearly mark which is the top and bottom of the cutting. Let the stem dry out for a couple of days, then plant it directly into a pot filled with potting mix. Give the plant a light watering and leave it in a reasonably sunny spot. Roots should form in about four weeks. It is ready for repotting or planting out once the roots are breaking out of the pot or bag. Yuccas are very hardy plants and we have planted some that are root bound without any problems. Once you have one of these plants it will not be long before you have more than you will ever need.

We also find Lomandra grass very easy to propagate by digging up established plants and splitting the root ball. We use a sharp spade to divide them, making sure each segment has a decent root system. We also give the plant a haircut, taking the leaves back to at least half of their length. This allows the plant to put more energy back into re-establishing its roots. Lomandra is popular for a good reason – it’s drought tolerant (being an Aussie) and provides excellent ground cover for suppressing weeds.

We think existing plants are a significant resource that is available to the frugal landscape gardener, especially when rampant growth needs to be cut back. We also think there is a great opportunity for green fingered propagators to turn unwanted plants into cash through online trading.

On the subject of gardening, winter is the time to prune grapes, kiwifruit vines, and raspberries.

Winter is also the time to plant fruit trees. Get cracking now so in a few years you will have free fresh fruit. Let us know if you have any favourite varieties of fruit tree, especially those that are easy care and pest free.

If you are preparing garden beds for spring planting, grow a green fertiliser crop like Lupin and mustard. Gardeners recommend using both together. For optimum results sow blue Lupin and mustard seed in a ratio of three parts to one part respectively. Dig the crop into the garden in the spring to enrich the soil for the growing season ahead.