April is a favourite time of the year for gardeners; the deciduous plants are starting to show fabulous autumn colour and the cooler days are enjoyed by all. Bulbs are in the fridge waiting to be planted and the winter vegies are in the ground.
The first planting of seed potatoes have now started to sprout and need to be covered again to ensure the development of strong stems. Potatoes develop on stems, so the more of the stem length covered, the larger the crop.
If creating a compost pile is proving to be a challenge, why not practice in-bed composting in the vegie garden area? This fool proof way of composting is easy and the result is rich, fertile soil for the next crop. To do this, simply wait until a crop has finished then pull it out and lay it directly on the soil. Spread sheep manure over the top and cover with a layer of mulch. Keep the bed damp to start it composting and it will be ready for planting with the next crop in a few short weeks.
Spread blood and bone around citrus trees and roses. If you live in an area where rabbits are eating the plants in the garden, pure blood and bone has been known to deter them. Rabbits are very destructive and make short work of a leafy green crop plus they will ringbark a citrus tree in a matter of seconds.
Pure blood and bone will not burn plants and is a wonderful soil conditioner. It is safe to use on Australian plants and will provide soil conditioning properties and nutrients to ensure plants develop a strong healthy root system.
To encourage beautiful autumn blooms on the roses, apply wetting agent followed by a complete rose fertiliser and water in well. Reapply mulch in areas where the soil is not covered. The preferred mulch to use on roses is one that will compost and feed the soil as it breaks down.
Spend time revamping garden areas throughout this month and remove those plants that haven’t coped very well with summer conditions. Autumn is nature’s natural planting time and plants put in the ground this month will establish themselves very quickly while soil temperatures are still warm.
April school holidays are a perfect opportunity to encourage kids to create their own garden bed or potted plants. Succulents are a brilliant choice for kids. Call into your local Better Pets and Gardens store for cacti and succulent potting mix. Use pots of varying sizes then beg, borrow or steal pieces of succulents from friends and family. Push them into the soil mix and water in well. These plants are ideally suited to kids because, if they forget to water them for a few weeks, the plants will not die.
Kids love the idea of their own garden and climbing peas are an easy to grow vegetable for kids starting out. Either create a small frame or run wires across a garden bed to give the peas a climbing frame. Plant into well improved soil that has had a little dolomite lime added and press seeds in just under the soil surface. There are a wide range of climbing and dwarf peas at Better Pets and Gardens that are ready to plant now.
Early rains in autumn germinate thousands of weed seeds because the soil is still warm. Control germinated weed seedlings when they are very small; the smaller they are the easier weeds are to control. Call into your local store for help with choosing the correct weed killer. Fortunately there are now pet and kid friendly weed controls available that are very effective on small seedlings.
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.