May Garden Calendar – Getting Ready for Winter

May is the month that sorts the gardeners out, and the month that heralds the completion of one of nature’s cycles; a time when autumn leaves crunch underfoot. Don’t burn off the leaves-this leads to major air pollution problems around city areas. Instead, use the leaves as surface mulch on garden beds, or compost them for later use. An easy method is to bung them all into a large garbage bag, and plonk them out of the way for a few months.

JOBS TO DO NOW

  • If you love orchids, consider the miniature cymbidium orchids, which are the same as ordinary orchids but have smaller leaves and more petite flowers. All can be planted in partly shaded rockeries in orchid compost (never in straight soil). Orchids will be sending out their flower spikes now, so sprinkle some snail bait around. When using these, spread them out thinly and never in heaps as this may attract dogs; snail baits are poisonous to dogs and cats, so always scatter them sparingly and keep the packet locked out of your pets’ (and kids’) reach.
  • Set the lawn mower up a notch to let the grass thicken for winter.
  • Garden shrubs and trees can be moved from now until August, when bud burst occurs. Dig up as much of the roots as possible and water in with a solution of plant hormone growth stimulant (kelp) such as Plant Hormone after planting.
  • Cut back chrysanthemums and lift dahlia bulbs.
  • As the vegies finish and die off for winter, dig in plenty of manure and leave fallow or plant a green manure crop to improve the soil. Try ‘Clever Clover’, which is available from the CSIRO in Canberra.

INDOOR PLANTS

  • As winter approaches, ease off with the watering of indoor plants. Plants like to be kept a little drier in winter, as excess water chills their roots. Leave repotting and fertilising until spring, and keep plants away from heaters or airconditioning vents.
  • Small (match head-sized), fluffy white blobs on plants indicates the presence of mealy bug. There is no effective longterm treatment for this pest and it is best to quickly get rid of affected plants before the pest spreads.


TIME TO PLANT

  • It is really too late to plant tropical things like bougainvillea and frangipani unless you live in the tropics, but you can still sneak in winter-flowering jewels such as luculia, flowering quinces, camellias, hardenbergia and many grevilleas, as well as some violas, pansies, alyssum, Livingstone daisies, lobelia, English daisies, calendulas, dianthus, anemones, primulus, ranunculus, poppies, stocks, sweet peas, snapdragons, larkspurs, cornflowers, foxgloves and cinerarias.
  • In the vegetable garden plant cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radish and broad beans (not in tropical areas).

Reference:  Donald Burke

April Garden Calander – What to Plant and Jobs to do in April

This is the best time of year to plant trees and shrubs and to remove any straggly bushes and replace them with hardier varieties. Now that the weather is cooler, redesign your garden-put in a barbecue area or a sandpit for the kids. Citrus are the best home fruit by far, and with winter coming up are a useful source of Vitamin C to repel colds and flu. To improve drainage, remember that surface drains always work best; try to shed surface water by cunningly placed contours. In very dry areas such as Perth and inland zones. contours which collect water around the bases of trees and shrubs are a good idea (in any case, flat garden areas can often look dull and boring).

JOBS TO DO NOW

  • Create a serene, meadow-like effect in your backyard by planting some bulbs now. Plant jonquils (although it is getting a little bit late for these), freesias, hyacinths, daffodils and in cooler areas tulips, all of which are available now.
  • This is usually a bad time for insect pests but, before you start indiscriminately spraying chemicals, stop and think. Some spraying of serious infestations is common sense, but ask your nurseryperson for ‘safe’ chemicals such as pyrethrum and dipel. Where possible, control insects by nonchemical means such as hosing them off, squashing them or ignoring them. Winter grass is starting to germinate now. Learn to live with it if you can-it is nice and green, not prickly, and makes good budgie and canary food. Spray with Endothal if you must, but check that this is okay for your particular type of grass.

INDOOR PLANTS

  • Cyclamen are the classiest of all indoor flowering plants. However, some are sold in lightweight, almost pure peat potting mixes which cause the plant to collapse prematurely indoors. Only buy cyclamen in nice, gritty, heavy potting mixes. Cyclamen like cool nights and can be put outside at this time.
  • Cut off straggly looking maidenhair ferns at ground level, fertilise with Nitrosol and leave them outside in a shady area for a few weeks. After this they will look lush, green and stunning.

TIME TO PLANT

  • If you haven’t already, start planting your spring display of flowering annuals: violas, pansies, alyssum, Livingstone daisies, lobelia, English daisies, calendulas, dianthus, anemones, prirnulas, ranunculus, poppies, stocks, sweet peas, snapdragons, larkspurs, cornflowers, foxgloves and cinerarias (in the shade).
  • You are also running out of time to get your spring bulbs in. Try some in pots. Hyacinths will grow in a jar on your windowsill.
  • Vegetables to plant now include onions, cabbage, peas, snow peas, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, spinach and radishes.

Reference: Donald Burke

March Garden Calendar

March is the most popular month in Australia for marriages and births. So what about a garden wedding? Most brides have stephanotis in their posies, so you can try growing your own; they have pure white trumpet flowers and a romantic, connubial perfume.

JOBS TO DO NOW
• Most bulbs are on sale now. Plant jonquils immediately, but delay planting the other bulbs until next month.
• Start planning your spring display of annuals, pinching out growth tips and fertilising.
• Lots of weeds will be about, especially onion weed and oxalis. Some gardeners claim that these two weeds can be removed by hand, but this is not true; they will need several treatments of Roundup or Zero. These chemicals are most effective when plants are growing rapidly, so don’t bother to use them in winter. In lawn areas, let the grass and onion weed grow for a few weeks and the onion weed will stand up clear of the grass; it can then be carefully treated with a Zero Weeding Wand. Be careful not to put any Zero on the grass itself, and don’t walk on the Zero as your feet will transfer it to the grass.
• Prune straggly geraniums and fuchsias. If you like, use the prunings for cuttings-you could end up with new plants for free.

LAWNS
• This is your last chance to resurrect any crook bits in the lawn. A light fertilising with a Complete Lawn Food will cheer up the lawn and help it through the rigours of winter.
• In shady areas, oversow the lawn with Shady Lawn Seed or, better still, replace the lawn with low-maintenance ground covers such as native violets, ivy, gazanias, prostrate conifers or low growing natives, build a garden bed or rockery, or pave with bricks. Dichondra is a great lawn alternative for shaded spots.
• Compacted lawn areas or rock-hard soil should be aerated with a garden fork or power aerator (available from equipment hire shops).

TIME TO PLANT
• Strawberries can be planted now. If yours are a few years old, replace them with new virus-free plants and see if you can beat the kids, starlings and magpies to the fruit.
• Plant snapdragon seedlings now, and they will be in flower in time for the kids to play with in the May holidays. When you squeeze the flowers they open up like a lion’s mouth and can keep the children thoroughly amused for minutes!
• Plant bulbs now for flowers from late winter into spring. The hardiest bulbs are jonquils and freesias. In cooler areas you can enjoy daffodils, tulips and grape hyacinths.
• Nothing beats sweet peas or poppies as cut flowers, so plant some in amongst the stocks, violas and pansies. You can try the carpeting form of sweet pea known as Snoopea-unlike other sweet peas, Snoopea has no tendrils and does not climb; it just covers the ground in a kaleidoscope of fragrant red, blue, pink, and white blooms.
• Vegetables to be planted now include Brussels sprouts, beetroot, Chinese cabbage, peas, snow peas, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, silver beet, carrots, parsley and radishes.

Reference: Don Burke

Garden Calander – February

In February in many coastal areas of Australia, summer humidity sets in and everything rots out from under you. This is also the month of the year when the worst lawn problems appear. In some areas the dreaded armyworm marches across entire neighbourhoods; symptoms include the browning off of huge lawn areas almost overnight. On closer inspection. small, greyish caterpillars can be found in tunnels just below the soil surface. Often, flocks of galahs or even starlings are blamed for the damage, but in fact these birds help by eating the armyworms.

JOBS TO DO NOW
• In coastal areas, powdery mildew Will be on the increase. This causes a talc like coating on leaves and, later, dieback of roses, crepe myrtles, cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, grapes, fuchsias and anything else that happens to be lying around. To control this problem, spray with Benlate(not organic). Organic option would be milk.

• This is the last month (in non-tropical areas) to plant warm climate plants such as hibiscus, bougainvillea and frangipani. Later planting may causeQueensland Fruit Fly problems.

• Watch out for fruit fly in central and northern areas; to control, spray with Lebaycid or Chemspray Fruit Fly Kit. Organic option is netting or fruit fly lure.

• Take a look at your native shrubs-if they have finished flowering and look a little scruffy, prune lightly all over. This helps them to live longer, look better and flower more.

LAWNS
• To control severe infestations of armyworms, spray with Carbaryl(Organic use neem)-and keep the galahs away for a few days. Fungal diseases in lawns, which appear as small, often dead patches, can be sprayed with Daconil or Mancozeb(Use organic fungicide). Don’t overwater, as this helps diseases to spread. Black beetles rarely do much damage, but in severe cases and as a last resort use any of the lawn beetle chemicals that are available.

CITRUSAfrican Violet
• Fertilise citrus trees. Citrus will bravely fruit until they exhaust themselves and the surrounding soil, leading to die-back, collar rot etc, so get some chook manure or citrus food. Apply the manure as a surface mulch 1cm (0.5”) thick to the width of the branches (but keep it back 10cm/4″ from the trunk) and water in well with a sprinkler. A light application of trace elements, particularly in sandy soil areas, will help to make the fruit taste sweeter and the tree itself to resist disease and insect attack.

• Keep weeds and lawns away from the trunks of citrus trees. As well as competing for food and water, grass and weeds can hide problems such as collar rot, which affect the citrus trunk at ground level.

INDOOR PLANTS
• This is a good time to fertilise. For year round feeding use nine-month Osmocote, Nutricote or Selley’s spikes, and for a quick boost use Nitrosol or Fish Emulsion. Always water well when you apply fertiliser.

• Either don’t bother to feed African violets or use African violet food only, and don’t overwater.

TIME TO PLANT
• Wok enthusiasts can plant snow peas, sugar snap peas and Chinese cabbage, all of which are really worthwhile. Purists who need lots of exercise might consider growing potatoes. This is also the time for beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and tomatoes (in warmer areas).

• Flowering annuals to plant include violas, pansies, cinerarias and primulas.

Reference: Mr Don Burke

How to Make Seedling Pots from Newspaper

The lovely Willi Galloway from eHow shows us how to create newspaper seedling pots from old newspapers. Try to only use black and white newspaper as they don’t have the chemicals which are found in coloured newspaper. Always use a good quality compost (preferable organically certified) when potting up your seeds or seedlings for the best results.

Assessing your garden

There are few places on earth where plants will not grow. Evolution has enabled them to come to terms with extremes of
temperature and soil , rainfall and exposure. As a result, there are very few places where at least some plant species are not at home, while for most soils and situations there can be an embarrassment of riches.
For gardeners, the lesson must be to ‘swim with the tide’, choosing plants that are attuned to the conditions they can provide. Of course, there is plenty that can be done about poor soil , excessive exposure and so on. Nevertheless,
why try to grow moisture-loving plants in dry, sandy soil when there are so many others adapted to just such a habitat?

The first step is to assess exactly what your garden has to offer. This will provide a sensible basis for choosing plants and for putting worthwhile improvements in hand.

Sun and shade
Although a sunny garden would be most people’s choice, there are plenty of attractive shade-loving plants. The choice is widest for beds overshadowed by walls or buildings, yet open to the sky, but narrows when the area is in the perpetual shadow cast by a large tree.

Position and aspect
Gardens in hollows or valleys often get an undue share of frost. This will mean that you will have to begin planting somewhat later in spring, and some tender plants will need protection. Before planning your garden, also try to
assess which parts of the garden receive the most sun and which are exposed to any chill winds.

Exposure
This is a common problem on hillsides and by the sea . However, practical steps can be taken to reduce the effects of wind.

Soil
Practically an y soil can be improved by adding humus (manure or compost, for example) and fertilizer. Acid soils can be
sweetened with lime ; clay can be broken down over a few seasons. however, poor drainage is a difficult problem to overcome, especially if the plot is surrounded by other gardens.

Weeds
These simply indicate neglect, not a particular category of garden – in fact, lush weed growth usually indicates fertile soil. Nowadays, there are simple and effective ways of destroying weeds.

DESIGN DETAILS

In one sense, a garden is well designed if it pleases the person who has created it. There are no absolutes in aesthetics, only what satisfies the individual eye, and the making of a garden is an intensely personal matter. However, individual taste aside, today’s preference is for less formal planting, for gentle curves that lure the eye to a striking focal point, and for an absence of excessive detail and geometric precision. Even so, when it comes to practicalities, there are a few ground rules about design to consider.

Patios
Ideally, a patio should be alongside the house, but this is pointless if it will be in the shade for much of the day. Choose a spot that receives plenty of sun, even if it is set away from the house. Then lay a path that provides easy access.

Utility corner
The compost heap and garden shed are usually consigned to the farthest corner of the garden, necessitating long journeys to dispose of mowings or to collect tools . A more central site will sa ve you a lot of time and effort. A screen of climber-covered trellis can easily be used to disguise the unitilty corner if you prefer.

Greenhouse
Abundant light is essential, and shelter from cold winds is a bonus. If this means placing the greenhouse in a prominent position, consider the attractive hexagonal designs and also the multi-faceted domed structures.

Paths
Good drainage and ample width are both essential. Lay the path with its surface a little above ground level and preferably with a minimum width of 1m. A narrow path looks mean and is awkward when you are trying to manoeuvre an overladen barrow on it.

Steps
A gentle slope is more convenient than steps if you are pushing a mower. However, steps are unavoidable on a sharp gradient. Steps should be -designed so that the height of each is no more than about 15cm. For steps of this height, a tread depth of 30-38cm is suitable, but this can be increased if the height of the riser is reduced.

Fences and screens
It is a pity to enclose your garden with a tall barrier, unless this is essential for privacy. A low timber or wire fence is often adequate, or a low wall topped with a trellis . A flowering hedge makes an attractive but effective screen. If a taller fence is required, there are many choices, depending on whether you want privacy or wind control. The style of the fence or wall should harmonize with that of the house.

Reference: Outdoor Garden Manual
Knowing Your Garden

GARDENING CALENDAR – January

It ‘s usually too hot at this time of the year for much gardening-just bung some Zero or Roundup on the weeds and lower
yourself into the pool or banana lounge.  For an easy care summer garden, mulch all the garden beds.

JOBS TO DO NOW
• Deep watering once a week with a garden sprinkler is essential if the eather is hot and dry. Pay particular attention to trees, which are often forgotten in dry weather.
• Fertilise the garden, especially roses, hibiscus and leaf vegetables- use any complete fertiliser with trace elements,
well-matured cow pats.
• Lightly prune fuchsias and roses, trim off any dead flowers and generally tidy them up. Hydrangeas can also be lightly
pruned if they have finished flowering cut back old flowering heads to a plump set of buds but leave non-flowering stems alone .
• Get the lawn mower serviced.
• Continue treatments on all plants for scale insects where necessary.

INDOOR PLANTS
• Throw out all your old, sick or dying indoor plants and replace them with new ones. A good range of indoor plants
is available now; select one or two big plants rather than lots of tiny plant which look messy and require loads of maintenance.
• Give indoor plants an occasional stint outside in the rain, but be careful that they don’t sit in full sun as this will burn their leaves. Under a shade tree is a safe spot for them. Also, keep an eye on indoor plants that are outside as they are sitting targets for snails and slugs. Before you bring the pots back inside, check the rims thoroughly for snails that may be lurking around.

HOLIDAY HINTS
• Massive root damage can occur to trees and shrubs left unwatered at this time of year, so be sure to give the garden a
soaking with a sprinkler before you go on holidays.
• Indoor plants will survive unattended for weeks in self-watering pots such as or Water-well model.
• Indoor plants can be watered well then encolsed, pot and all, inside large, clear plastic bags and left in a cool, not too
brightly lit room.
• Pay on of your neighbour’s kids to come in to water all your plants, bring in the newspapers and feed the pets.  Give them careful instructions about special plants and also give them a good idea about how long the hose needs to water thoroughly.
• Install a watering system. It’s a good way to save water and makes the task pf looking after your garden a bit easier, especially when you go away.

TIME TO PLANT
• Try planting a small area of annuals in strategic place in the garden-one or perhaps two colours will suffice. Slightly yellowish, older seedlings from the nursery may establish faster and better than lush, green, younger ones. Choose from petunias, marigolds, salvia, ageratum, delphiniums and poppies.
• Plant some vegetables-beans, beetroot, brussels sprouts (not in the tropics), broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, carrots, radishes, silver beet, sweet corn, spring onions and zucchini.

From Burke’s Backyard