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The April Garden – Sue McDougall

April is a favourite time of the year, the leaves are starting to colour and a little moisture around ensures plants are sprouting fresh, new growth.  Ambitious projects in glossy gardening magazines suddenly seem achievable and it’s the perfect time to get stuck into a project over the school holidays or Easter break.

For gardeners who have begun the journey of  growing vegies for the first time this year, plan to have the first crop of winter vegies in the ground well before the end of the month. The soil temperatures are still warm so take advantage of this to develop large strong plants before the cool weather increases production. Better Pets and Gardens is stocked with all the varieties of seeds to plant now. Seeds are great value, for a few dollars, one packet has the potential to feed the whole neighbourhood.

When we think of Hibiscus plants we tend to think that their time to shine is throughout summer, when in fact autumn is the best flowering time for these hardy plants. Hibiscus grow very successfully in a range of climates and are drought hardy, neat, easy to maintain and add much needed colour to the garden at this time of the year. They will benefit from an application of organic complete fertiliser this month and next. Organic fertilisers are important as they will improve the fertility of the soil as well as supply nutrients to plants. Avoid pruning plants throughout autumn, even if they look a little straggly because any new growth can be damaged by cold throughout winter. Always prune hibiscus as the weather warms up in early spring. Up to a third off the foliage can be removed and as the plants starts to shoot away remove the growing tips to encourage a bushy shape.

After one of the hottest and driest summers on record it’s understandable the lawn is looking a little worse for wear. In Western Australia we expect a lot from our lawns and rely on them to look good, often with minimal care and water. Luckily, the varieties of lawns grown in WA are warm season grasses and perform brilliantly in the heat.  Getting the lawn looking fantastic before winter is the key to having a great looking lawn (and a head start on the neighbours) in spring.

Steps to take now:

  • Aerate the lawn with a fork or corer, this is particularly important in areas that are driven on regularly or see heavy traffic.
  • Apply a quality wetting agent and then activate it by watering it in after application. After watering, dig a spade’s depth and width out and check to see how deep the water has penetrated. If the soil is still dry past the root zone, the wetting agent may need more watering in or another application.
  • Topdress the lawn very lightly with an organic lawn topper or soil improver. This will very quickly move through to the soil and start to feed the soil.
  • Apply a controlled release fertiliser for lawns, preferably organic based.
  • Measure how much water is being applied to the lawn by placing straight-sided containers out in random places and measure the depth of water captured. A standard drink for a lawn is 10mm.
  • Modify the watering regime, if needed, to deliver 10mm of water over the whole lawn. This may mean retrofitting the lawn sprinklers to more water efficient types.


Insect_ladybird_hotel_house_web 2EASTER PROJECT – LADYBIRD HOUSE
Beneficial insects are your best friend in the garden. These hard working creatures go about their business every day devouring the nasty pests in the garden. Ladybirds would be the most well-known beneficial insect that resides in our garden. They will devour hundreds of aphids in their lifetime and are the first line of defence in aphid control in the back yard.

Creating a home for them to shelter and breed will benefit the health of the garden.

Ladybirds will nest in any small cracks, holes or crevices so making a ladybird house is really easy.

  1. Cut bamboo stakes into 20cm lengths and drill a hole down the centre if needed.
  2. Lay 10-15 pieces side by side and wire or glue together. Keep adding to the pile as needed, securing it firmly. Create a square, rectangular or peaked shape.
  3. Then attach a piece of wood to the top and bottom, a small chain for hanging and a hook.
  4. Place in a protected part of the garden, shaded from afternoon sun, with a shallow water source close by.


Web_factsheet_SUE Sue McDougall loves gardening! She grew up in the West Australian Wheatbelt, studied horticulture and owned a garden centre in Mundaring so her knowledge of our unique gardening environment spans the entire state!  Sue can be heard on 6PR’s “Talking Garden” on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

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