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April Gardening – Sue McDougall

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. The days become shorter and the nights are cooler and more time can be spent in the garden. It is also nature’s natural planting time. The soil is still warm and the days are perfect for getting plants established. If you have a major planting or revamp project in the back of your mind to complete, there is no time like the present.

Soil in garden beds can become water repellent at this time of the year. Particularly where there is a peat/bark based mulch and water has been applied sparingly. Treat the soil with a wetting agent just before it is going to rain and take advantage of the free water! If they haven’t been treated now, many water repellent soils will still be dry at the end of winter.

Sasanqua camellia buds are just opening. With their dark green foliage contrasting against hundreds of flowers along the stem they are very attractive at this time of the year. They’re perfect for brightening up a patio or courtyard area. Sasanqua camellias are hardier than other varieties and will tolerate full sun but only if their root system is kept cool and well watered. They make perfect hedges or specimen plants in large pots.

Deciduous trees and shrubs are starting to show their autumn colour and make a spectacular show in the garden. It always seems no time at all after they drop their leaves that they are in full leaf again so the image of bare sticks for a long time is not deserved. Deciduous plants are perfect for allowing the winter sun to stream through but then block out the scorching sun in the summer.

The first of the citrus trees are ready to pick in a few weeks and the fruit fly are waiting as keenly as yourself and will often beat you to it.

Pears, apples and figs are also fruiting at this time of the year and are a favourite on the fruit fly menu. In reality if you want some fruit free from larvae, trees need to be sprayed and/or baited now. If spraying, read all precautions on the label and take note of the withholding time. Withholding time means the time that needs to lapse before the fruit can be consumed.

Persimmons and quinces are ripening at the moment and if you can beat the birds they are two small very ornamental trees that deserve a position in any garden. Not only do they have the added bonus of the fruit, the quince tree has lovely arching branches and soft pink flowers in spring followed by gorgeous soft light green foliage and large apple-shaped hairy fruit. The persimmon produces bright orange fruit as the leaves are colouring to a bright burgundy making it a gorgeous sight to see.

It’s a great time of the year to establish a herb garden. Large bowls in restricted space work just as well as planting in the soil. A good school holiday project, children get lots of fun out of planting something they can eat. Garden centres are packed with hundreds of varieties of herbs. Give it a go, select premium potting mix if planting in pots, add water storing granules to the soil and place in a sunny position. Herbs love sun to thrive. In a few weeks they are ready to start harvesting and I guarantee the flavour of your cooking will improve with the use of fresh herbs.


Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state.  You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.


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