GARDEN TIPS FOR APRIL 2013
THESE ARE TIPS FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA
PLEASE NOTE THIS INFORMATION IS FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIAN CONDITIONS, but some of this information could be used for other areas where the climate, soils etc., are very much the same.
If you are not sure, check with your local Garden Centre or Nursery.
********************************************** SEED OF THE MONTH
April's the peak month for planting spring bulbs. Plant Anemones 'points' down, and Ranunculus with their 'claws' down. These are the only two you need to remember because all other bulbs are planted with their points facing upwards. And don't forget to rescue the Tulips and Hyacinths that have been chilling in the bottom of the fridge. Get all bulbs growing as quickly as possible by adding a Bulb Food at planting time.
Each autumn, just when we're planning bulb planting for a spring display, Nerines surprise us by popping up in full flower. Known as spider lilies because of their many-tendrilled blooms,
Nerines are autumn-flowering South African bulbs that do very well in our climate.
Nerine bulbs can be planted in late winter. Choose a sunny spot with good drainage and always have the top of the bulb protruding out of the soil. Once they're settled, Nerines can be left undisturbed for years.
HYACINTHS These bulbs can also be grown indoors, planted in pots or you can purchase from Garden Centres special hyacinth vases. Place these containers in a dark place (such as a cupboard) until the bulb shoots have appeared. Then gradually bring them into the light so this will help the Hyacinths to develop strong stems.
JONQUILS give the appearance of mini daffodils and can be grown in a much wider range of climates. Their bulbs can be left undisturbed in the ground from year to year and they will keep on flowering faithfully.
ITS SWEET PEA SEASON
The colours and perfumes of sweet peas flowers growing in the garden always adds a warm welcome to any one. Children can also enjoy growing sweet peas. The large seed are easy for little ones to hold and place into the ground. These plants will give children a thrill when the foliage starts to produce flowers. Sweet peas are so very easy to grow.
First start by choosing a position which receives plenty of sunshine for most of the day.
Growing sweet peas on a fence that runs east-west is ideal, because the northern side will be permeated by the sun right through winter. Support for climbing sweet peas is critical so, if no fence is available, you'll need to construct a trellis, a tripod or some other upright structure.
One of the easiest ways to create a sweet pea support is by tying three tomato stakes into a teepee and wrapping the stakes with horizontal layers of string.
Sweet peas love some lime in the soil, so this means adding Garden Lime or Dolomite before planting. But where the soil is naturally alkaline do not add lime. Next, mix in some Thrive All Purpose plant food and some old compost or manure to increase the soil's humus levels.
The soil must be moist, so water the planting area adequately the day before planting and then sow the sweet pea seed directly where the plants will grow. Do not water the area again until after the seedlings have surfaced. Cover the seeds adequately with soil, this is because the seed will only germinate in the dark. To help the young seedlings towards their support, place twigs or fine sticks to direct them where they should go.
Keep a Fungus Gun on hand, because this newish systemic fungicide will control powdery mildew, a disease that often attacks sweet peas.
How do you make the choice between all the variety?
There are so many exciting collections of sweet peas to select from. Most are large-growing climbing varieties, but some are small growers that are suitable for pots.
'Original' is the small-flowered, purple and maroon sweet peas which were first discovered growing in Sicily in the 1600s. What the flowers lacks in colour, they make up for it with there stunning fragrance.
'Colorcade' is the traditional favourite, with its mix of early-blooming, brightly-coloured stems.
'Old Fashioned' is similar to 'Colorcade' but tend to flower later, so they performs best in areas with cool weather in spring.
Bijou Semi Dwarf (height 60cm) A low growing plant with brilliantly coloured blooms on long stems. Ideal for borders, containers and mass plantings.
'Cupid Dwarf' (height 30cm) and 'Potted Fragrance' semi-dwarf (height 60cm) are all low growers which can be planted into containers or in garden beds. They can be allowed to form a low ground cover or can be grown up a small tripod.
'Pixie Princess Dwarf' is a mixed colour variety that's the smallest of them all. The climbers only reach 22cm in height, so hey are the true baby of the sweet pea family. Ideal for pots and borders.
Take a look on the seed stands for special colour collections such as 'Renaissance' (pink and white bicolours), 'Brilliant Fragrance' (soft pink and cream and 'Blue Reflections') which explores all the blue/ purple options in the colour spectrum.
AUTUMN IS TIME TO FEED THE LAWN
If you're trying to green up your lawn after our long hot summer, the perfect fertiliser is Munns Golf Course Green Lawn Fertiliser. This product is organically advanced, contains a wetting agent which slows down the release of the fertiliser which means less mowing. It also contains essential trace elements.
Munns have been established for over 50 years and they believe their Golf Course Green Lawn Fertiliser is the best fertiliser on the market. Try it, you will be surprised in the results that will transpire to your lawn.
When the weather cools down, then it is the time to lower your mower cutting heights on cool season grasses, this will let the light and the warmth into the thatch.
Mowing height to 2.5 - 3cm is ideal.
Don't forget to fertiliser your lawn again at the end of May or early June as this will keep your lawn a luxurious green throughout those cold winter months. A healthy lawn - well maintained with a good fertilising program is a lawn that will require less water, less insecticides, less fungicides, less weedicides. So it makes good sense to fertilise your lawn every 3 months. Munns recommend alternating between Golf Course Green Lawn Fertiliser, Greenup Lawn Fertiliser and Maxi-Green Lawn Fertiliser at 3 month intervals.
IMPORTANT JOBS TO ATTEND TO
This is a good time to prune back long, lanky, woody growth on shrubs, such as Abelias and Abutilons. Cut back to create the bushes into a tidy shape by shortening the cane like growth.
Be careful not to cut back shrubs that flower in winter or early spring.
Now that the weather is cooling down it's an excellent time to pot up some of your hanging baskets. Most hanging baskets will grow far more happily during the cooler months. Try to choose a good-sized basket and a top quality (red 'ticks') potting mix. Yates Thrive Hanging Basket Mix has added water crystals and extra soil wetter to help baskets retain moisture.
Pansies, violas and lobelias are suitable flowers for hanging baskets that can be planted at this time of year. Strawberries and low-growing herbs can also be added so that baskets are useful, as well as being ornamental.
When leaves fall from deciduous ornamentals and fruit trees, give trees a spray with a Fungicide, such as Copper oxychloride or Mancozeb Plus.
Prepare bulb beds by digging in Blood and Bone and some bulb food. If soil is cool bulbs can be planted, but wait a bit longer in warmer areas.
Continue removing dead flowers from roses. This will help extend their blooming period.
Remove diseased and rotten fruit from fruit trees. If they are left on the trees they could carry disease through to the next season. Don't put infected fruit into the compost as will introduce fungus or insect eggs into your mix. It's safest to dispose of it in the bin.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THOSE PESTS
Cabbage butterflies – the white ones with dark spots on each wing - are flying about everywhere looking to lay their eggs on broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers, rocket and even some flowering plants. After the eggs hatch the green grubs start eating – and continue eating and eating and eating! Success is the answer to controlling these pests. It's a naturally-derived caterpillar control that gets inside the leaf so it won't wash off, even if it rains. It's much more effective and far pleasant to use than most of those old-fashioned cabbage dusts.
PREPARING FOR AUTUMN
As the days become shorter and cooler, most plant growth will begin to slow down. This is usually the sign that Autumn is either here or just around the corner. There are a lot of chores to do in preparation for the Winter.
CUT BACK any growth that is untidy or dead. Use a pair of scissors to trim damage parts of strappy-leafed plants. Feed everything by spreading around some organic pellets.
IMPROVING YOUR SOIL.
If the ground is hard, water repellent and of clay substance; here are three steps you can use to get the soil back into condition.
1. Work some gypsum into the soil to help improve its aeration and pliable.
2. Dig in some compost or manure aa well as some organic pellets.
3. Wetting agent (dry or liquid) to improve water penetration into the soil.
This is a good time of the year to take a close look at the plants in the garden. Now that the leaves are starting to thin out on most of the deciduous trees, shrubs and roses, it's a good time to see if there is any scale on the stems and branches.
Scale are sap sucking insects that can cause severe damage to many types of plants in the garden. They can be eradicated by spraying with a mixture of Malathion and White Spraying Oil.
Watch out for ant movement, as they are the main culprits for transferring disease around the garden. To control these pests, sprinkle Ban Ant or Lawn Grub, Lawn Beetle Grubs & Slater Killer around their holes and along their trails. This is one of the best times to attack these problems as there are not a lot of wet days to prevent you from spraying.
If you have not already emptied the compost bin, now is a good time. All those leaves that drop will need to be collected and placed into the compost. Don't forget to save some of the compost to place in layers between the leaves to start the process off again.
Now is the time to get your exercise out in the garden.
One old man told me many years ago, "Son, work hard in the garden and burn off the excess fat and tone up those muscles. Getting down to the earth is the best thing for your health."
Those seedling beds need to be turned over, digging the weeds and old flower plants under the ground. Run the lawnmower over the old seedlings and weeds first as this will turn them into mulch. Add some fertiliser, water well and then leave and let nature take its turn.
One of the best ways to save water is to buy yourself a Garden Mulcher. For all those shrubs and trees you pruned into shape and tidied, the rubbish left behind can be fed into a mulcher and then placed back on the ground around the plants. This will then help choke the weeds out as well as help stop the evaporation of moisture from the ground. This is one small way to help save money on our high water rates.
Now is the time to start planting your Autumn seedlings while the ground is still warm. First make sure the garden beds are dug deep and the soil is soft and pliable. Good rotten cow manure and garden compost mixed well into the soil will give the young plants an early boost when they are first planted.
One important point to remember is to make sure the ground is moist before planting takes place.
When planting young seedlings out into the garden, mix into the soil some Aussiecoate all purpose controlled release plant food or Nitrophoska slow release fertiliser. This is ideal for vegetables and flowers, giving the young plants a safe feed. Make sure that you follow the directions on the container, and if you are not sure, consult your Nursery Person for help before you start.
EDIBLE FLOWERS FROM THE GARDEN
Plant a border of pansies and behind them plant a border of broccoli. The deep green heads will give a good contrast against most colourful border plants. The best part is that they can be eaten instead of throwing them in the compost like other annuals. Broccoli is one of those vegetables that very few people see growing. It is like Pineapples, many children think they come in from a greengrocer or supermarket, not off plants! Broccoli will thrive in soil mixed with rich compost. Feed them with Phostrogen for the flower heads (that's the part you eat) so they develop fully.
With stable weather, Broccoli should be ready to cut in 10 to 14 weeks or sometimes even earlier. The heads can be frozen for later on if you have too many ready at once. Put them straight into the freezer after harvesting to keep them fresh and retain maximum goodness.
FLOWERS TO SOW IN APRIL
ALYSSUM is also called Sweet Alice because of the tiny, dainty bunches of flowers that smother the small mounds. Pure white Alyssum Carpet of Snow is the most popular, but Yates seed range also includes other mixes in pink, lavender (Lavender and Lace), purple and cream. Alyssum seed can be sown at almost any time of year but is a perfect choice for sprinkling over beds where bulbs have been planted. As the bulbs emerge their bases will be wreathed in clouds of tiny alyssum flowers. These will create a welcome distraction when the bulbs go through their ugly, dying-down phase.
CALENDULAS would have to be one of the favourites for winter planting. Calendula Pacific Beauty produces orange, yellow and apricot daisy flowers which are particularly showy during cold weather. Calendulas look good and are famed for their ability to discourage pests such as aphids and whitefly. For the food lovers calendula petals can be sprinkled into salads or added to stews for extra flavour and colour.
CORNFLOWERS, which produce an abundance of pretty spring flowers, can be sown this month, either directly into garden beds or into starter seed trays.
Would you like to grow something tall in the garden? Why not sow seeds of Foxglove Foxy and Delphinium Pacific Giants? Both these varieties can reach up to a metre or more and, because of their height, they need protection from strong winds. Delphiniums flower in shades of blue, while foxgloves favour pink and white shades. The combination of the two is delightful. In colder climates foxgloves may not produce flowers until their second spring, but they'll make up for this in the future by seeding themselves throughout the garden and reappearing in later years.
Foxglove Foxy have very fine seeds that should be sown close to the surface of the soil. If the seeds are buried too deeply, they’ll never emerge. I would suggest that you place a very fine layer of seed raising mix on top of the seed. Although foxgloves are technically biennials ( which means they flower in their second year ) modern varieties have been bred to flower much quicker. Cut off the main flower spike when they have finished, then smaller, flower-filled side shoots will develop.
VEGIES TO SOW IN APRIL
SUGARLOAF a conical, mild-flavoured cabbage that grows quickly and is ready for harvest in as little as 8 weeks.
EUREKA is a sweet-tasting variety with firm, light green leaves. These plants were bred in Australia for our conditions, disease-resisant Eureka has a tightly-packed, crisp head that can be sliced and eaten raw.
ROCKET grows easily and readily from seed. It's aptly named because the plants are ready for picking in just a few weeks, but its name also reminds us that it needs to be grown as quickly as possible. The key is good watering and fertilising. Feed weekly with Thrive Soluble Fertiliser, and pick often. Don't despair, however, if some rocket plants start to flower. The yellow blooms are said to distract cabbage
moths and butterflies and, of course, when plants develop seeds a new generation will sow themselves around the garden.
Dwarf peas grow easily from seed and this is a good time to sow them in temperate climates. In cold areas, delay sowing until late winter or early spring. It’s critical to time peas so that they flower when there’s little or no chance of frost.
YATES EARLICROP MASSEY is a quick grower that produces pods within twelve to fourteen weeks of sowing.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS
These crosses between snow peas and traditional pods are real delicious. Start planting them now and they'll climb up whatever support you supply them with. Start picking the pods when they're young and tender – just slightly swollen – and cook them for the barest minimum of time. When you taste them you'll understand why the name sugar snap is so appropriate.
I love the pods raw when they are taken straight from the fridge crisper.
Kohl Rabi This unusual member of the cabbage family is grown for its fat, swollen base. That's not to say that the leaves can't be eaten - they can, but they're far less important than the bulb-like stems that taste like sweet turnips. Sow Kohl Rabi Early Purple straight into a prepared garden bed and water every two weeks with Thrive Soluble Plant Food. Slice Kohl Rabi into salads, or chop it into chunks for adding to winter casseroles and soups.
SWEDES are believed to be a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. They have yellow flesh and when cooked. Ideal as an accompaniment in roasts, used in winter soups and stews.
Bulb-forming onions can be a bit tricky for beginners, but spring onions are very easy. Sow a few seeds every couple of weeks so that there are always some plants ready to be harvested.
LEEKS grow slowly and steadily through the cool months and with their creamy, mild onion flavour, they are well worth waiting for. One popular technique is to dig a trench about 20cm deep, stand the baby leek plants upright in the base, cover their roots and fill in the trench as they grow. This helps them develop that treasured white stem. If you don’t get around to planting them in a trench, you can ‘blanch’ your maturing leeks by wrapping the base of the stem in paper, or sliding an old milk carton over it. Begin harvesting leeks when their stems are about 2cm thick.
We can enjoy the sweet leeks we grow in our gardens through the cooler months. They’re slow, but worth waiting for. Start Yates Leek Welsh Wonder seeds in pots for later transplanting or, in warmer areas, sow direct into prepared beds. White-stemmed leeks are the most prized so, when transplanting, drop seedlings into 10cm deep trenches and fill in or, if planting at ground level, hill soil up around the base of the plants as they grow.