New World Little Gardens


Air circulation

Good air circulation is important for a healthy garden. When air flow is limited, the garden can remain damp for long periods. Dampness is the perfect condition for many fungal infections like powdery mildew, as well as a big draw for many pests, such as slugs. Air needs to be able to flow through the plants.

If the leaves of your plants are not swaying with a slight breeze, your garden is not getting good air circulation.


A plant that flowers and produces seed in one season and does not survive the winter.


Are small, soft-bodied insects which are usually 2–4 mm long. They often cluster on young shoots and flower buds or underneath older leaves. There are many different species of aphids, varying in colour from green to yellow and black.

Aphids excrete a substance called honeydew, which provides a growing environment for sooty mould fungus. Aphids can also transmit virus diseases such as broad bean wilt. It’s important to remove these pests as soon as you notice them on your plants, because small colonies multiply rapidly in warm weather, and large infestations can develop in a number of days. Check your plants a couple of times a week at the beginning of warm weather, so that aphids can be controlled when populations are relatively small.

Symptoms include buds failing to open, and twisted and distorted leaves.

Aphids can be removed either by blasting them off with water, or using predatory bugs such as ladybirds and parasitic wasps. The tiny wasp lays eggs inside the aphid giving it a hard light brown shell-like appearance. The ladybird larva, which looks like tiny bird droppings, is a voracious eater of aphids. Both of these predators will reduce aphid numbers rapidly.

Bokashi composting

An anaerobic process that relies on inoculated bran to ferment kitchen waste, including meat and dairy, into a safe soil builder and nutrient-rich tea for your plants.

Bolt to seed

To flower and produce seed prematurely, usually as the result of excessive heat and sun exposure.

Clay soil

Soil that contains a lot of fine particles, which means it is heavy to dig through and becomes sticky when wet. Clay soil often means poor drainage.


Plants that climb fences, walls or trellis.


A mix of decaying, organic materials (such as kitchen scraps) that has broken down into a soil-like material that is high in organic matter and is then used for soil amending, fertilising and mulching.

If you understand soil basicstested your soil and found out you need to fix your soil, you might want to make your own compost to add nutrients to your soil and help your Little Garden grow.

Cutting down self seeders

To stop self-seeding plants from becoming invasive and taking over your garden, you can cut them down after flowering, so they don’t self-seed throughout your garden next year.

Dappled shade

Areas where there is a mix of sun and shade.


Removing faded or dead (spent) flowers from plants.

Deadheading is an important task to keep up with in the garden throughout the growing season. As flowers shed their petals and begin to form seed heads, energy is focused into the development of the seeds, rather than the flowers.

Regular deadheading channels the energy into producing flowers, resulting in healthier plants and continued bloom. Snapping or cutting dead flower heads can enhance the flowering performance of many perennials. As plants fade out of bloom, pinch or cut off the flower stem below the spent flower and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves. Repeat with all the dead flowers on the plant.

Downey mildew

Is a group of fungal infections that affect a wide range of plants.

Symptoms include dark patches on top of the leaves, often with corresponding furry or downy growth on the undersides. These tufty growths may be purplish in colour.

If you notice this, remove affected leaves and spray the plant weekly with a milk and baking soda spray. Or, when applying a fungicide, take special care to contact the undersides of leaves.

Downy mildew occurs in humid conditions and affects lettucepumpkinscucumber and watermelons.

Reduce the risk of fungal infections developing by growing plants in open positions with good air circulation. Avoid watering over leaves. 

Established plant

When a plant is developed and has spread out a root system, so it can support itself by absorbing the nutrients it needs from the soil, it is considered established.

The period of establishment depends on the size of the plant. The smaller it is, the faster it will become established.

basil plant, for example, will be established within 2 months of planting, while a tree may take years to become established.


To add nutrition to your plants using either commercial or homemade plant foods or compost.

You can also make your own fertiliser.

Free-draining soil

Water is able to drain freely through it.

Full sun

Full sun is 6 or more hours of sun a day.

Fungal infections

Can affect plants in areas with poor air circulation and humid conditions, particularly in late summer and autumn.

Infections can include Downy Mildew or Powdery Mildew. The first symptom of a fungal infection is a white or grey film or spots appearing on the plants leaves.

If you see anything like that, remove the affected leaves and spray the plant weekly with a milk and baking soda spray.

Good soil

This is a subjective term because some plants require more specific soils than others.

Some like more alkaline, some like more acidic. Some prefer coastal limestone-based soils, others prefer more clay-based soils.

As a general rule, soil is considered ‘good’ when it has particular levels of sand, clay, organic matter and silt. This ‘good’ soil has a name and that is loam. There are slight variations in what is considered loam (there is light and heavy loam, for example) but they are just small differences in the overall make-up. For the purposes of this, ‘good soil’ is a medium loam, so smack bang in the middle of heavy and light loams.

Roughly speaking, a medium loam has the following ingredients:

  • 10% Coarse sand (BIG sand particles)
  • 45% Fine sand (SMALL sand particles)
  • 20% Silt
  • 15% Clay, and
  • 10% Organic matter & moisture.

These percentages are just estimates, but they give you an idea of what it takes to make your soil good.

Green manure

Made of plant matter, used to improve and protect soil.

A green manure crop can be cut and then plowed into the soil or simply left in the ground for an extended period prior to preparing the garden for planting.

Green manure crops include grass mixtures and legume plants. 

Green shield bug / stink bug / vegetable bug

Bright green in colour and about 1.5 cm long in adulthood, but more rounded and black and white or black and red in younger stages.

It attacks beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sweetcorn, vine crops, grapes, flowers and other ornamentals and is mostly active in hot weather. The bug sucks the sap of stalks and leaves and the juices from fruit. If disturbed, the bug will emit an unpleasant chemical with a strong odour and can stain fingers and clothes.

Symptoms include wilting shoots from sap loss, fruit distortion and shrivelling for tomatoes, hard corky growth.

Harden off

To gradually acclimatise plants that are growing in a protective environment to cooler conditions outdoors, typically by leaving plants outside during the day and bringing them inside at night.

Heavy feeders

Greedy plants that need a lot of nutrients.

Such plants include sweetcorncucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes.

Insect mesh

Protective netting that creates an impenetrable barrier to garden pests and insects while letting through vital sunlight and water.

Insect mesh can be made from an old net curtain.


A type of pesticide that is used to prevent, destroy, repel or control insects only.


A shoot or branch that grows between the main stem and a side stem.

Liquid feed

Also know as liquid fertiliser - liquid feed is a liquid plant food that contains nutrients to encourage healthy plant growth or target a specific need or deficiency.

Plant roots absorb liquid quickly so the nutrients in liquid fertilisers are almost immediately available to the plant, making liquid fertiliser a good choice when you want to give a plant a quick boost.


An organic or inorganic matter applied around plants to help retain moisture in the soil, decrease weeds, reduce erosion and improve soil structure by adding organic matter (if an organic matter is used). 

Materials used for mulch include well-rotted manure, compost, polythene sheets or gravel.


Commercial fertilizers use an N-P-K ratio, which is the ratio of Nitrogen to Phosphorous to Potassium. These are the main nutrients plants require. Nitrogen helps plant foliage to grow strong. 

Phosphorous helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Potassium (Potash) is important for overall plant health.

Orange aphids

Are the most common aphids in New Zealand and can seriously affect the health of your Swan plants.

They have soft, pear-shaped bodies and long, thin legs. They feed on the sap of phloem vessels in your plants. As they feed, aphids often transmit plant viruses to their food plants.

Manual control of aphids (by squashing them) is possible if they haven’t gotten out of hand. If the aphid infestation is heavy try hosing them off with the garden hose, or spraying them with homemade garlic bug spray, but be careful to not spray the monarch butterflies or their caterpillars.

Partial sun

4 to 6 hours of sun a day.


Plants that live for multiple growing seasons and return again each spring. 


Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest.

Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungal infections, or micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses.

You can also make your own pest protection.


The measure of how acidic or basic your soil is. 

A pH of 7 is considered neutral, acidic soils have a pH less than 7 and basic soils have a pH greater than 7. 

Most plants prefer a pH between 6 and 7. 

Pinching / nipping off

Removing laterals or the growing points of a young plant to encourage side-shoots to form. This encourages a bushy habit and more flowering stems.


The plant’s reproductive process.

It involves transferring pollen (tiny grains of the plant’s genetic material) between plants. This transfer can be carried out by the wind, insects and animals or by hand.

Poor soil

Contains low nutrients, high salts and is not rich in organic matter.

Some plants do thrive in poor soil, such as Nasturtiums and Purple Tansy. But generally, if you grow plants in poor soil, then the yield is generally very low as it lacks nutrients. 

Poor soil is either too heavy (clay soil which holds nutrients and water but doesn’t drain well, and can be hard for the plant roots to push through), or too light (sandy soil which drains very well, but means water and nutrients can just wash away).

Generally, poor soils can be improved by adding more organic matter, such as compost.

If you think your soil is too poor to grow your Little Garden, you can build raised garden beds, or try growing your plants in pots.  Find out how to test your soil.

Potting mix

Soil specially formulated for container growing, as it maintains a good balance between holding moisture and draining well. They can be specifically formulated for specific plant types.

Powdery mildew

Is a fungus which spreads a white or ash-grey film over the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves of plants (usually the older leaves).

It favours high humidity and dry conditions; water splash and air currents spread the spores. Powdery mildew is a common disease of sweet peaspumpkinscucumberwatermelons and vine crops like tomatoes

Symptoms include the appearance of a whitish film on leaves and buds. New growth is distorted and older leaves become blackened. Flower buds may fail to open.

If you notice this, remove affected leaves and spray the plant weekly with a milk and baking soda spray.


Psyllids are tiny sap-sucking insects that spread the bacterial disease Psyllid Yellows, which can attack tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums and tamarillos.

Symptoms include new growth may have dimpling or pock marks on leaves. Leaves can be distorted and terminal shoots die back. Leaf defoliation of some types of psyllid attack may occur. Sooty mould grows on the crystal like honeydew that the psyllids produce. Leaves may be discoloured.

To keep psyllids at bay, attract ladybugs and hoverflies to your garden.

If you suspect a psyllid attack in your garden, remove and destroy any affected leaves. Insect mesh can be helpful to prevent the psyllids from jumping around plants.

Sandy soil

Sandy soil has large particles, drains quickly and doesn't hold on to nutrients well.

Seed-raising mix

A specially formulated mix with a fast acting fertiliser to encourage fast seed germination.

It’s used for germinating seedlings before they’re moved into the garden.


A plant that produces seeds which can be collected or allowed to fall to the ground and replant themselves in the same location.

These seeds germinate during the autumn and lie dormant during the winter months. They begin to sprout and grow at the start of the growing season. At the end of the season new seeds are produced and begin the cycle over again. 

Setting fruit

When the plant is starting to form fruit. This indicates that pollination has occurred and crops are on the way.

Slug bait

Is designed to attract slugs and snails and once ingested it causes them to die.

It can be either liquid, dust, granular, or pelleted organic material.

Always look for products that are deemed as safe to use around animals and birds.

Soil drainage

The process of removing water from the top of the soil and distributing it down into the soil.

Good drainage is vital for a healthy garden, because waterlogged soils can harm root growth and leave plants vulnerable to fungal infections.

If your soil doesn’t drain well (for example, after rainfall puddles of water take a long time to evaporate), you can improve drainage by adding compost. This acts as a sponge, holding water in the soil where the plants can reach it.

In clay soils compost opens the porous structure, allowing water to drain through.

Thin / thinning

To remove a number of buds, flowers, seedlings or shoots to improve the growth and quality of those remaining.

Thinning seedlings

Removing all but the strongest seedlings to allow plants lots of room to grow, and good access to moisture, nutrients and light. These are the key requirements for healthy plant growth.

Not all plants handle thinning the same way. Those with fragile roots, like beans and cucurbits (watermelonspumpkincourgettecucumbers), should be thinned as soon as possible, before their roots have a chance to become intertwined with one another, or else the remaining seedlings may suffer from root disturbance. Gently pull out the unwanted seedlings, leaving the healthiest in place.

Root crops are more sensitive to thinning and should be pulled out with extra care, or even cut at the soil line. Depending on the plants and their mature size, spacing may vary. While most people prefer a finger width between and around seedlings, you can’t go wrong with using two finger widths. It’s always better to be safe.


The upper layer of soil.

Trace elements

Nutrients like copper, iron and zinc that plants need in very small amounts for proper growth and development. 

Most commercial fertilisers will include beneficial trace elements.

True leaves

Miniature versions of the plant’s adult leaves.

As a seedling grows it forms baby leaves (called cotyledons) – these supply nutrients to the baby plant, but will eventually fall off and be replaced by true leaves.

To identify true leaves you need to know what the plant’s adult leaves look like.

White cabbage butterfly

Is white with distinct black spots on the wings and is around 40mm across. They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. The caterpillars hatch from the eggs, then feed on the leaves or fruit. So it’s the caterpillar of the cabbage white butterfly which does the damage. They start eating the outer leaves before moving to the inner heart of the cabbage. It’s a good idea to try and either pick off the caterpillars or spray them when they are still on the outside of the leaf, before they tunnel into the heart. 

Symptoms include large holes in outer leaves, and bluey-green bits on the inside of the leaf, or in the heart of the cabbage. This is called “Frass” and is actually the caterpillar poop!

If you spot Cabbage White Butterflies around your garden, protect your plants with insect mesh (like an old net curtain) to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs on your plants.

Your questions answered

Are you looking for some expert advice to get your Little Garden growing? Send us your question and we’ll put it to our Little Garden community and gardening expert to answer - questions are normally responded to within a couple of days. Or, feel free to browse around and view our existing questions and answers.  For all school related queries, please email  

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