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.
- 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.
- 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